Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year?

Eduarda Piamore
By Eduarda Piamore, Expert in canine and feline psychology, education and training.. May 24, 2022
Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year?

See files for Dogs

As a responsible guardian we know to take care of all our dog's basic needs. This includes feeding, walking and providing basic comfort. For too many, vaccinations are not considered part of these basic needs. While many see vaccinations as optional, they are fundamental to your dog's well-being. Not every dog will encounter the diseases these vaccinations protect against, but those that do are protected from life-threatening illnesses.

Although your dog may have had their shots when they were young, we may not be so sure about booster shots. This is why AnimalWised asks do dogs need shots every year?

  1. Why are dog vaccines so important?
  2. Why do some people not vaccinate their dogs?
  3. Is it necessary to vaccinate dogs every year?
  4. Do dogs need annual booster shots?

Why are dog vaccines so important?

Vaccines work by generating a mild immune response in our dogs. This response is sufficient to cause their body to strengthen its immune system. The result is a dog with the necessary natural defenses to prevent or control the development of certain pathologies. This means they may become infected, but the chances of a severe reaction or death are best minimized.

The content of each vaccine will depend on the disease or diseases which need to be prevented. They may contain a fraction of viruses, attenuated microorganisms, controlled microbial toxins, surface proteins or dead microbes. The content of these vaccines have been carefully prepared so that a satisfactory immune response is produced after subcutaneous inoculation, without compromising the health of the animal.

Each vaccine generates a specific immune response to a certain microbe or certain pathogens, depending on its content. We have different vaccinations because not all dogs will need the same shots. Where the dog's live and their behavior are important factors which will help determine which of the different shots a dog will need.

Why is it so important to vaccinate your dog?

When you vaccinate your dog, his body triggers an immune response when coming into contact with the attenuated microbes or microorganisms. This is the process of inoculation which occurs when given their shots. Upon recognizing the presence of this pathogenic agent, their body begins to produce specific antibodies to either eliminate it or control its proliferation.

In the event the dog comes into contact with these non-attenuated pathogenic agents (viruses, bacteria, etc.) in the future, their body will already have the specific antibodies to identify, combat or control them naturally. In doing so, they avoid reproduction in their body and prevent symptoms which can be seriously harm the health of your dog.

As many of these diseases are fatal or severe, respecting the vaccination schedule of dogs can save the life of your best friend. They also prevent irreversible damage that compromises their quality of life. For example, at least two of the 5 deadliest diseases in dogs can be prevented effectively if we apply specific vaccines at the correct age of the dog and with due frequency.

Specifically, we are referring to canine parvovirus and distemper in dogs. These two diseases have a very high mortality rate among dogs, especially among puppies and younger individuals.

Canine vaccinations don't only benefit dogs. Zoonoses are diseases that animals can transmit to humans. One of the most deadly zoonoses is rabies. This is a virus which can be transferred by the bite in dogs. It is a lethal disease and any is fatal if not treated in time. Dogs which are infected with rabies will be put down. For this reason, vaccinations are a public health concern and are mandatory in practically every country in the world.

Learn more about the mortality of dog diseases with our article on how long will a dog with parvovirus live?

Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year? - Why are dog vaccines so important?

Why do some people not vaccinate their dogs?

As with human vaccinations, there is a worrying trend towards vaccine skepticism or anti-vax movements in animal guardians. Some even make the same debunked claims that dogs can develop autism, but autism is not a condition which is recognized in canines. The reasons are varied, but many have to do with the proliferation of false information, political ideologies and a lack of trust in scientific bodies.

Some claim that a lack of awareness of the diseases against which vaccines protect may be part of the issue[1]. Since vaccinations for dogs have been so effective, many of us have never had to witness the terrible distress, physical pain and death which diseases like canine distemper can cause. The result may be that many think a conspiracy is afoot, when the truth is much more pedestrian. Vaccinations are effective in protecting dogs.

An understandable worry about your dog getting shots is due to side effects. Potential side effects are possible with combined vaccines for dogs. These can include issues such as anaphylaxis. However, in a study on 57,300 dogs inoculated with non-rabies combined vaccines, only 1 mortality was recorded as a possible side effect of the vaccination[2]. When we compare the fact that the mortality rate of canine distemper is as much as 50%, the benefits outweigh the risk to a staggering degree[3].

Another concern is a financial one. Getting your dog's shots costs money and many low-income households struggle to pay. Depending on where you live, there are many services which will offer free vaccines for your dog. When we compare the health benefits they will receive, it is part of the cost of responsible dog guardianship.

While your veterinarian will be the one to administer vaccinations, take a look at our article on how to give a dog a shot under their skin for more relevant information.

Is it necessary to vaccinate dogs every year?

Shots are effective when applied at the right time and with due frequency. The dog's immune system must be sufficiently mature to receive certain vaccines and generate a satisfactory immune response.

In addition, the strengthening of the immune system generated by a shot is often temporary. Its application must be repeated to keep the dog protected. For this reason, there is a vaccination schedule for dogs that guides us on the ideal age to apply each vaccine to our canines. This is adapted to the individual needs for your dog and determines how often shots need to be repeated to provide optimal preventive medicine.

Mandatory vaccinations may vary depending on the country or region we reside. However, mandatory vaccines are not the only ones you should offer your dog. Generally, the mandatory vaccines for dogs are those that prevent zoonoses and exist due to a public health issue. For example, rabies shots are mandatory in almost all states in the USA. Some will also have mandatory shot guidance for pathologies that are highly contagious or deadly to dogs.

Although they do not infect humans or they have a lower mortality rate in dogs, there are other diseases that can significantly weaken the state of health of dogs. They can compromise their quality of life or cause irreversible damage to their body.

To prevent them, there are the following optional vaccines that strengthen the dog's immune system:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine parainfluenza
  • Kennel cough (caused by Bordetella)
  • Lyme's desease
  • Coronavirus
  • Leishmaniasis

There are also polyvalent vaccines (combined vaccines) that help prevent various diseases in the same shot. This is the case of trivalent, tetravalent, pentavalent, hexavalent, octovalent and even decavalent vaccines in some countries.

At AnimalWised, we advise you to consult a trusted veterinarian to update or complement your dog's immunization. They will be able to consider the vaccines recommended in your country, taking into account the canine diseases with the highest incidence in your region. They can also look at the specifics of your dog's lifestyle which may determine which vaccines are or are not required.

Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year? - Is it necessary to vaccinate dogs every year?

Do dogs need annual booster shots?

As stated above, each vaccine has an optimal frequency to be applied, depending on the duration of the immune response it generates in the dog's body. Not all dog vaccines should be applied annually, but some require this annual booster shot to have the desired preventive effect.

In most states the rabies vaccine for dogs is a require annual booster shot. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to monitor vaccination in families with dogs, so many people can avoid these shots easily.

Booster shots help to provide the best protection against health compromising and deadly diseases. This is especially the case with vaccinations like the rabies shot. Not all will need required with the same frequency. For this reason, consultation with the veterinarian is necessary. They will help determine what is required for your dog.

In certain states of the USA, some have tried to introduce legislation which requires the dog be tested for their antibody levels (titers) before a booster shot is administered[4]. This legislation proposes that dogs can skip a booster if the titers are sufficiently low. However, many vets point out that this is more costly and the dog will be much better off to simply receive the booster shot as potential adverse side effects are practically nil.

It is possible a dog will never come into contact with pathogens against which their shots will protect. This probability is affected by various factors, such as the amount of access to wildlife or other dogs. However, if an unvaccinated dog is infected with a pathogen which can cause serious harm or death, their protection is drastically reduced and the likelihood of a fatal outcome is high. In diseases such as rabies, this probability is 100%.

Not giving your dog booster shots of vaccinations is done so not only at your own risk, but the risk of your dog. For this reason, it is important your discuss vaccination schedules and options with your dog. Deworming schedules for dogs are a similar important canine health protection which should also be adequately assessed.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year?, we recommend you visit our Vaccination category.


1. Kluger, J. (2019). Some Anti-Vaxxers Aren't Getting Their Pets Vaccinated. Here's Why That's So Dangerous. Retrieved from:

2. Miyaji, K., et al. (2012). Large-scale survey of adverse reactions to canine non-rabies combined vaccines in Japan. Vet Immunol Immunopathol., 145(1), 447–452.

3. Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. (n.d.). Canine Distemper. Retrieved from:

4. Connecticut General Assembly. (2017). Proposed Bill No. 5659. Retrieved from:

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 3
Do Dogs Need Shots Every Year?