Rabies Vaccination for Dogs Part 4


Rabies Vaccination for Dogs – AB 272

Dog Getting Vaccinated


What is a vaccine?

A vaccine is a manufactured preparation that helps to boost the body’s immune system to a specific germ that can cause disease, disability, or death so that it can destroy the germ microscopically.  Vaccine=concealed weapon that stimulates the cells by producing antibodies to fight off disease.

We’re only going to be discussing dogs here, but vaccines can be given to all mammals and birds.

There are several parts to a vaccine:

  • The disease itself
  • A chemical which dilutes the germ
  • Preservatives such as mercury or aluminum
  • Adjuvants (foreign protein cells surrounding the disease so that it can grow, usually derived from cows, ducks, monkeys, pigs, etc.)  Adjuvants are kept secret by the manufacturers.

Vaccines can either be monovalent or multivalent.  A monovalent vaccine contains only one disease being vaccinated against, i.e., rabies.  A multivalent vaccine contains several diseases, i.e., puppy shots, aka DHLPP – distemper, hepatitis, etc.

What are the types of vaccines?

There are two forms of vaccines – modified live (also called infectious) and killed (also called noninfectious).   A modified live vaccine is where the disease is weakened or diluted.  That tiny weakened part of the disease mimics the disease itself and stimulates your dog’s body to build up a defense against it so that if he comes into contact with that same disease later in life, his body remembers that he had it and destroys it.  But his body sometimes forgets, and that’s why he may need a booster shot.  A killed or noninfectious vaccine is one where the germ is dead – really?  Something finally makes sense.

A parenteral vaccine is given in the skin or muscle (a shot), or it can be inhaled.  All other vaccines are given through the gastrointestinal tract, i.e., they are swallowed.

Does every dog need to be vaccinated for every disease?

No.  There are certain core vaccines which every dog should receive — Canine Distempter (CDV), Canine Parvo (CPV-2), Canine Adenovirus (CAV-2), and Rabies.

It’s up to your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are needed for your dog, your lifestyle, and the part of the country in which you live.  If you live in New England, then veterinarians consider Lyme disease as a core vaccine.  If you live in California and you never take your dog hiking or near an area with wild animals, then your dog likely would not need the Lyme vaccine.

Why do we have to give puppies a series of vaccines?

Because no one knows when the maternal passive immunity wears off and also because the first set of the vaccines “primes” the body so that the second set can actually give the immunity.  I don’t quite understand how the body actually does this, but I think it’s like a baseball catcher getting ready to actually catch the ball – he wouldn’t go outside to smoke a cigarette while waiting for the pitch; he’s crouching down waiting for the ball to come his way.  The vaccines are generally given 2-4 weeks apart to give time for the body to get ready for the next set.  Each vaccine expands the pool of immune cells once the mother’s passive immunity is low enough not to interfere.

What’s the difference between giving a vaccine and creating immunity?

That’s a really important question.  The puppy receives passive immunity both from being in the womb and from mother’s milk, and we don’t know when that immunity wears off.   (Remember that maternal immunity only lasts for a short time.)   If the puppy is vaccinated during the time of maternal immunity, he is not protected against the disease because the vaccine “doesn’t take” since the maternal immunity blocks it.  Therefore, a series of vaccines needs to be given 2-4 weeks apart (because giving them closer together, they will interfere with each other and be ineffective) to ensure that his body is primed or ready to accept the next set.

Simply vaccinating as a puppy one time does not mean that he is immune.  The second (or third) vaccine needs to be given between 14-16 weeks because everyone agrees the maternal antibodies have worn off.

We will talk more about the ages of vaccination later.

Are there different ages when certain diseases are likely to show up?

Yes.  Distemper, parvo, parainfluenza, adenovirus, panleukopenia, calcivirus, and herpes virus are likely to show up before eight months.  Big words and big diseases.  If they show up in dogs older than eight months, it’s likely that the dog is from a breed that has a predisposition to the disease, it has an immune dysfunction, or it is poorly cared for, or it was never vaccinated for in the first place.


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Disclaimers – this is a *very* long article (almost 17,000 words) which I have loosely broken up into segments. This is the unedited final draft of the article in its entirety that I wrote in 2013 for a website that is no longer in existence. Not only is the final article no longer available, but I have had computer and Internet issues where some data may have been lost. I have spent several hours trying to piece it together and reformatting.

The article does not reflect current research as of 2018.  However, a good portion of the discussion is still applicable. If there is something that you believe was not true in 2013 or if I have made a mistake in reformatting, please let me know and I will do my best to fix it.

The reason it is posted here is because I was hosting a discussion on DogRead DogRead@yahoogroups.com about my book Doggie Dangers ( Kindle http://tinyurl.com/y8uc4gtc  Paperback http://tinyurl.com/y7vhce9t ), and the subject of rabies vaccines came up when we were talking about wildlife concerns for family dogs. We were discussing how to keep the yard safe from wildlife, but one person mentioned she had a bat fly into her house! Some of the participants requested that I post the article since it is no longer published.

And the final disclaimer – I am a dog trainer, not a veterinarian or medical researcher. Therefore, this article is for information only and not a substitute for any veterinary, medical, or other advice.

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