If you decide not to have your dog vaccinated, it’s important that you understand that they will be vulnerable to dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, diseases. Sadly, a lot of diseases can have severe consequences if a dog is not vaccinated against them, and for many there is no cure or specific treatment. If you’re unsure whether you should vaccinate your dog, it’s crucial that you are aware of the risks that being unvaccinated can pose to them and to others, so you can make an informed decision.
Why vaccinations for your dog matter
Vaccinations work to protect your dog by helping their immune system fight diseases more quickly and effectively. While you may not think your dog is at risk of contracting anything, many diseases spread via dog-to-dog contact in homes and parks, or via items that have been contaminated with virus particles or bacteria, such as dog bowls. Some diseases, such as canine parvovirus, can even live in the environment for up to nine months, putting other dogs at risk long after the infected dog has left the area. By vaccinating your dog, they will be in a much better position if they contract an illness, as their immune system will be primed to fight off the infection more effectively. Vaccinations can’t ever offer 100% protection and, in some cases, can cause mild side effects, but they can significantly lessen the severity of symptoms.
Diseases unvaccinated dogs are at risk of
In Australia, pet parents have the option to vaccinate their dogs against numerous common diseases. Three of the most common diseases: canine parvovirus, canine distemper, and canine adenovirus, are covered by core vaccines, and are considered essential for all dogs. Additional non-core vaccines (not considered essential for all) are also advised for some dogs based on their age, location, lifestyle, and exposure to other animals. If your dog is unvaccinated, they are at higher risk of catching these diseases or developing more severe symptoms.
Canine parvovirus is a common and contagious virus that targets the intestines, causing symptoms such as severe vomiting and diarrhoea. This is covered by a core vaccine given to puppies as routine, as well as to adult dogs as boosters. It’s very rare for a dog to contract parvo if they are vaccinated, but if they’re unvaccinated and do not receive quick veterinary attention, it can, sadly, often be fatal.
Canine cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease, caused by a number of bacterial infections and viruses. The main symptom is a dry hacking cough, and while most dogs will recover without treatment, it can persevere for several weeks or develop into more serious complications, particularly if your dog has underlying health issues. Canine cough can be easily spread amongst dogs via direct contact, such as licking or touching noses, through airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing, or from contaminated surfaces, such as bowls and toys. Vaccination is the best way to control and limit outbreaks.
Canine hepatitis, also known as canine adenovirus type-1, is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. In mild cases, symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite and coughing, however, in more severe cases, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and even death. Unfortunately, there is no specific medicine to treat hepatitis. Dogs that do recover from hepatitis can shed the virus in their urine for 6-9 months after, so vaccinating your dog is the best way to protect them.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs. The main clinical signs are discharge from the eyes and nose, coughing, and in severe cases, seizures. There is no specific cure or treatment for distemper, so veterinary care is aimed at reducing the intensity of symptoms. This means vaccination is the most effective way to protect your dog from this potentially fatal illness.
Risks to other dogs or pets
Vaccines don’t just protect the dog that has been vaccinated but can also prevent the spread of diseases among animal populations, and even to humans. So, if you don’t vaccinate your dog, you’re not only putting them at risk, but also others. For this reason, many kennels and dog boarding facilities make it compulsory for all dogs staying with them to be up to date with their vaccines, to avoid spreading anything among the pets. Fortunately, thanks to vaccination, many diseases have become much less common than they once were. This is because once a certain percentage of dogs are vaccinated against an infection, it's more difficult for it to spread through a population. If you’re still unsure about whether you want to get your dog vaccinated, the best thing to do is to speak to your vet for more information and advice on the subject. Meanwhile, for other tips on caring for your dog, visit the blog.
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