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    Mandatory vaccinations for dogs. What are they and when should they be administered?

    Vaccination is the best prevention against the main infectious diseases. Vaccinations can be classified as mandatory or optional, although it varies between regions and countries. The dog must be in good health and have a mature immune system.


    Puppies are usually vaccinated from the age of 12 weeks or even earlier. When a puppy is purchased or rescued, it usually comes with a health card and at least the initial dose of vaccine. Unvaccinated puppies should be restricted from contact with other dogs, to avoid spreading infections. The type of vaccine will depend on the breed, geographical region and the dog’s function (pet, dog shows, etc.).

    In addition, a reduction in T-cell-mediated cellular immunity and a transitory state of immunosuppression have been described after the administration of dog vaccines. Despite this, dogs are still vaccinated with live multivalent vaccines and, in general, they do not develop any serious diseases. This is based on data from a study of the immune system and vaccines, as the response to vaccination appears to create a state of disrupted homeostasis only when the body requires protection via cellular and humoural immunity. This means that vaccines should only be administered to completely healthy animals and recommendations followed very closely.

    Vaccination schedule in dogs

    Mandatory vaccinations for dogs protect against canine distemper virus, parvovirus and rabies. Optional vaccines are used to protect against leptospirosis, parainfluenza, kennel cough caused by Bordetella, Lyme disease and coronavirus. Vaccination against leishmaniasis is another optional vaccine.

    An optional vaccine in one country, may be mandatory in another where the disease is more common.

    Here is the basic schedule for dog vaccinations in Spain:

    • At 6 weeks: Primary vaccination or first vaccine.
    • At 8 weeks: Multivalent vaccine.
    • At 12 weeks: Multivalent vaccine booster.
    • At 16 weeks:Rabies.
    • Annually: Booster for the multivalent and rabies vaccines.

    The most common vaccines are trivalent, tetravalent or multivalent. The trivalent vaccine usually contains vaccines against canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis and leptospirosis. The tetravalent vaccine contains the same as the trivalent version plus a canine parvovirus vaccine. In addition to the above, the most basic multivalent vaccine also contains vaccines against kennel cough and canine coronavirus

    Vaccines for dogs. What do they protect against?

    The most commonly used multivalent vaccines are:

    • pentavalent, which immunises against distemper, adenoviruses 1 and 2 (hepatitis and kennel cough), parvovirus and parainfluenza.
    • hexavalent, immunising against distemper, adenoviruses 1 and 2 (hepatitis and kennel cough), parvovirus and two bacterial strains responsible for leptospirosis.
    • octavalent, immunising against distemper, adenoviruses 1 and 2 (hepatitis and kennel cough), parvovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus and two bacterial strains responsible for leptospirosis.

    The problem with parvovirus is that 1–2 weeks after the 6 week vaccination point maternal immunity is still strong enough to inactivate the vaccines, but it is unable to provide effective protection against parvovirus infection. Hence the special need to protect puppies using other strategies, such as immunonutrition, since puppies have special dietary needs due to the immaturity of their immune system. 

    As for rabies, the vaccination of dogs mean they create an immune response against the virus. The dog is protected within 14 days of receiving the vaccination. It is 100% effective if administered correctly. The first administration of the vaccine provides immunity for 1 year. With subsequent vaccinations, this increases to 2–3 years. The vaccination of puppies under 12 weeks old is not effective, as maternal antibodies counteract their effect.