Dog Booster Shots: Everything You Need to Know

The internet is an amazing way to find out everything you need to know for just about anything! But sometimes, there can be conflicting information, and when you are trying to find facts on something controversial, such as dog booster shots, then it can be difficult to know who to trust.

That’s because there is an ongoing debate as to whether our dogs really need annual vaccination boosters. Some argue that they are an absolute necessity to keep our dogs safe and prevent life-threatening diseases from becoming an endemic. Others argue that annual boosters offer way more risk to our dogs than benefits. They believe that over-vaccination can be the cause of allergic reactions and chronic diseases.

So, in this guide, we are going to lay out all the information for you. We’ll look at what booster shots are for, how they work and their pros and cons. Then, you can make an informed decision on what is going to be right for your dog.

What Are Dog Booster Shots?

A booster shot is an extra dose of the vaccine given after your dog has had an earlier primary vaccination. Vaccines contain a weakened or inactive part of an organism known as an antigen. This is what then triggers an immune response within your dog’s body.

This weakened version does not cause the disease, but it prompts the immune system to react much as if the dog had become infected. Now your dog’s body can fight the organism that causes the disease if they are exposed to it in the future.

What Do Booster Shots Do?

The booster shot provides your dog with another exposure to the antigen to increase immunity. They are said to do this by reminding the memory cells within the immune system all about the antigen and the need to fight it.

The Pros of Dog Booster Shots

1. Enhances Protection

When the memory cells identify a problem and the dog has had booster shots, then the time taken to defeat the virus or disease is much shorter. This is because they produce higher numbers of antibodies than before.

2. Meets Legal Requirements

To ensure that you meet your legal requirements, there may be a requirement for your dog to be vaccinated and have booster shots. For example, in many states in the U.S., there is a legal requirement for your dog to be vaccinated against rabies and then receive boosters.

Do check with your veterinarian as to how often boosters are needed, as this can vary depending on the brand of vaccine being used.

3. You Help Develop Herd Vaccination

Some diseases could be eliminated entirely by vaccinating all animals in a specific location. This type of disease prevention is called herd vaccination because it protects the entire population, including the small number of animals who have not received the vaccination. Ensuring that your dog is up to date on their boosters reduces the risk for all dogs in the area.

The Cons of Dog Booster Shots

1. The Risk of Over-Vaccination

Dogs often retain protection from their core vaccines for several years after they are given. So, core vaccines are those that your dog had as a puppy or your rescue dog got at the shelter. In fact, veterinary immunologist Ronald D Schultz Ph.D. has shown that your dog’s immunity from those core vaccines can last up to 15 years, so that makes booster shots unnecessary.

2. The Risk of Vaccine Damage

Mild side effects are not unusual, and these can include your dog becoming lethargic and being sore around the vaccination site. However, there is also the risk of much more serious damage from the vaccine.

These include anaphylaxis, which is a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. This is caused by the immune system releasing a vast amount of histamine into your dog’s body in a reaction against the antigens in the vaccine.

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Do Dogs Need to Have Booster Shots?

Unfortunately for this question, there is no one right or wrong answer. You and your vet will need to consider several different factors, including:

Your Dog’s Age

If your dog is elderly and had a complete set of vaccines as a pup and then regular boosters, then it is likely they have adequate protection against diseases. However, do be aware that the immune system of your senior dog may not be as effective as it once was. So, that could mean that boosters are even more critical now that they are older.

Where You Live

Some areas of the country have a higher number of cases of infectious diseases. For example, Arizona, Texas and Nevada all have higher incidences of parvo than other U.S. states. That means that dogs in these areas need all the protection they can get to stay safe.

Your Dog’s Lifestyle

If your dog rarely leaves your home, then the risk of catching an infectious disease will be lower. But if your dog regularly goes to a park where there are other dogs, or you use boarding kennels when you are on vacation, then the risks are going to be much higher.

Antibody Titer Checks

Antibody titers might help you to decide whether boosters are needed. These blood tests measure the number of antibodies in the blood. This then provides information on whether your dog already has a reasonable level of protection against a specific disease without receiving a booster.

In Conclusion

We all want our four-legged friends to be safe and protected against devastating diseases like parvo and distemper. We recommend chatting to your veterinarian about your dog’s needs to see if boosters are in their best interest.