Researching the right breed of service dog, preparing your space to make it dog friendly, and showing your new friend all the love and attention they deserve are all parts of caring for a happy and healthy animal. But there’s a lot more to doing what’s right for your pet than just that. A healthy dog is a happy dog and there’s one big part of a service dogs health that every responsible owner should know about: vaccinations.

Vaccinating a puppy

Now, there is certainly a lot of information out there online, many of it questioning the importance of vaccinations and even blaming them for illnesses in dogs. The fact of the matter is that vaccines are an important part of keeping your dog healthy and all of the science (that is, not something you saw in a Facebook post) supports this. That being said, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about vaccinating your new friend.

If you’re adopting or buying a puppy, make sure that whoever you’re getting the dog from can tell you if they’ve been vaccinated and provide you with the paperwork. Puppies aren’t supposed to be vaccinated at all before about 6 weeks old so if your little guys is below that threshold, it will be up to you to start from scratch. Dogs need a lot of vaccinations in the first year of their life, but they can’t have all of them at once. That can make them less effective and make the dog sick or uncomfortable.

On your first visit to the vet you can schedule the first round of vaccinations. Make sure the doctor knows ahead of time that you want to get vaccinations. That should cover DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus), bordatella, leptospira, lyme disease, and canine influenza. Over the next several weeks, your new dog should be expected to get boosters for most of these diseases, as well as rabies. By the time your pet is 1 year old he should be totally up to date and protected against these terrible diseases.

The most important thing is to keep accurate records and talk in detail with your veterinarian throughout the process. There was a time when it was recommended for adult dogs to get booster vaccinations every year. Today, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends booster shots only once every three years. If your vet is encouraging vaccinations every year for adult dogs and/or offering exceptionally cheap vaccinations, you might want to look into other options for health care.

Speaking of health care, it’s no secret that veterinarian bills can be high – even for something as routine as vaccinations. Most reputable vets offer some kind of wellness plan that includes annual visits and vaccinations as part of the package. Not only do these wellness plans bring down the cost of health care in general, they make it more likely that you will be good about taking your dog for regular and necessary visits. Remember, despite what you might hear in other corners, vaccines are indeed an important part of a dog’s health. In fact, many places have rules in place that make vaccinations necessary for all registered animals. Furthermore, if you plan on traveling with your pet, especially abroad, you will be hard pressed to find a locale that will let you travel with an unvaccinated animal.