Most dog owners know that puppies need a range of regular vaccinations to keep them healthy and free of potentially fatal diseases. However, many have no idea that their furry friend still needs these vaccines well into his or her elderly years. But why are vaccinations so essential for senior dogs? Here are three reasons you need to know.
Senior Dogs Have Weaker Immune Systems
One of the main reasons why vaccinations are so essential for puppies is that puppies have weak immune systems. As a result, their bodies aren't yet strong enough to fight off infections and diseases. However, it's not just puppies who have weakened immune systems. Immunity also fades with age, meaning senior dogs no longer have a strong enough immune system to fight off disease either. Vaccinations help protect senior dogs against illnesses that they may not be able to recover from if they got infected, which is why many vets recommend that older dogs still get their jabs.
Different Vaccines Have Different Durations
Another reason senior dogs still need to be vaccinated is that some vaccinations have fairly short durations. While a rabies vaccination, for example, can effectively provide immunity for three years or more, the same can't be said for the one-year leptospirosis and canine influenza vaccines. Some have an even shorter duration, with a kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccination lasting just six months on average. That means your senior dog won't be protected from these diseases unless they've been vaccinated recently. Of course, your dog may not need regular vaccines of conditions they're not susceptible to. Leptospirosis, for example, is contracted through infected water; senior dogs who never drink from rivers or spend time in rural areas may not need to be vaccinated against it.
Vaccines Aren't Equally Effective in All Dogs
Some people believe that senior dogs don't need vaccinations because the multiple revaccinations they've had over their lives should provide a build-up of immunity. While this may be true for some dogs, it's important to know that vaccines aren't equally effective across the board. Sometimes, dogs don't develop an immune response after vaccinations, or the immunity works its way out of their system abnormally fast. While these cases are rare, they do still happen. Thankfully, your vet can conduct tests to find out whether your dog fits into this bracket. Antibody titer level testing measures a dog's immunity to a disease; a high titer level in senior dogs indicates that they've built up adequate protection, removing the need for further vaccinations.
For more information about dog vaccinations, speak to a veterinarian.