Top 10 Facts Pet Owners Should Know About AAHA’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines

Vaccination is an easy way to protect your pup’s health and prevent diseases that can spread from dogs to humans. All dogs are at risk for contracting potentially fatal infectious diseases from other pets, backyard wildlife, or pests, but certain lifestyle factors can alter these risks and affect vaccine recommendations.

Over time, disease risks evolve, new research becomes available, and new vaccines are developed to address growing threats, so veterinary professionals need to periodically reassess vaccination protocols. Therefore, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) analyzes this new information and provides veterinarians with updated guidelines to ensure they treat pets with the latest and greatest in veterinary care.

In 2022, AAHA updated its canine vaccination guidelines to reflect current disease trends and the latest scientific research. Your AAHA-accredited veterinarian uses these guidelines to determine the most appropriate vaccines and schedule for your dog. Here are the top 10 facts pet owners should know about the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines.

#1: Rabies vaccines are required by law

Rabies is a fatal virus that can infect dogs, cats, wildlife, and humans. Because pets can transmit this deadly disease to people, all states require rabies vaccinations. Your veterinarian will always recommend that you keep your pet’s rabies vaccines up to date for your own, your pet’s, and the community’s benefit. If your pet’s rabies vaccination lapses and they bite someone, you may be forced to pay for a lengthy quarantine and possible additional fines.

#2: Core vaccines are recommended for all dogs

Core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs, regardless of age or lifestyle. Rabies is considered a core vaccine, as is a combination vaccine against several other viruses, including:

  • Distemper — Causes nervous system and respiratory issues that often result in death
  • Adenovirus — Causes respiratory infection and liver inflammation or failure
  • Parvovirus — Causes deadly gastrointestinal (GI) illness and immune system suppression
  • Parainfluenza — Causes respiratory infection

#3: Lifestyle vaccines may be “core for your dog”

Several vaccines are recommended for dogs based on their lifestyle, which may be equally as important as the core vaccinations required for all dogs. Your veterinarian will determine which vaccines are considered essential for your particular pup. AAHA’s Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator can help you determine the most important vaccines for your pet’s health.

#4: The leptospirosis vaccine warrants strong consideration

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease passed in infected animal urine. Vaccination was previously recommended only for dogs who frequented wooded areas or swam in ponds and lakes because the highest exposure was presumed to come from wildlife. However, disease prevalence is increasing as wildlife moves into suburban areas and rodents transmit the disease in cities. Leptospirosis seriously damages the kidneys and liver and is transmissible to humans, so vaccination should be strongly considered for all dogs who go outdoors.

#5: Booster schedules vary according to vaccine

Veterinarians no longer require annual boosters for all vaccines. Instead, the industry is moving to a three-year protocol whenever possible. Studies show that after the initial puppy series and one-year booster, parvovirus, distemper, and rabies immunity extends for at least three years. However, most lifestyle vaccines still require annual boosters for optimal protection.

#6: Vaccine reactions are uncommon

For most pets, vaccination risks are far lower than those posed by life-threatening diseases. However, reactions do occur occasionally. Most reactions are mild, causing facial swelling, hives, or GI issues, which is why you should watch your pet closely after they are vaccinated. Fortunately, serious allergic reactions are rare.

#7: Vaccines haven’t been linked to long-term harm

Long-term side effects haven’t been definitively linked to vaccinations. However, because vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system, your veterinarian may advise against vaccination if your pup is actively sick or has a history of serious autoimmune disorders.

#8: Vaccines should be handled by licensed veterinary professionals

Vaccines must be properly stored, handled, and administered to be effective. You may be able to order vaccines on the internet or purchase them at a local feed store, but you’ll have no guarantee of protection. We recommend that you allow only licensed veterinary professionals to administer vaccines to your dog.

#9: AAHA’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines are meticulously researched

An expert task force of veterinarians created AAHA’s vaccination guidelines, based on the most current research and collective profession-wide clinical experiences. Your veterinarian trusts and uses the AAHA guidelines because AAHA sets the standard of care for the veterinary industry.

#10: Your veterinarian is the best resource for vaccine questions

Ultimately, you and your trusted veterinarian collaborate on choosing whether to vaccinate your dog and the appropriate vaccines. Your veterinarian takes into account your preferences and your dog’s lifestyle and health history to determine which vaccines are recommended or required, and the optimal timing for those vaccines. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or bring up concerns about your pup’s care.

Pet owners rely on veterinarians to protect their pets from deadly diseases, and veterinarians rely on AAHA to stay up to date on new vaccine information and recommendations. If you have questions about your dog’s vaccines, contact your local AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital.



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