The lack of updated vaccines can prevent you from traveling with your dog (or boarding them when they can't come along), so it's important to stay up-to-date on your dog's vaccines. Regardless of plans to stay in or venture out, preventative healthcare saves you money, time, and — most importantly — keeps everyone healthy.

Maintaining Your Dog's Vaccines

Canine diseases like Bordetella, influenza, Lyme, and leptospirosis are always out in full force, with no decrease in likelihood. In fact, hiking and outdoor walks in the park or visiting the dog park all increase your dog's exposure.

Bringing your dog to the vet should also be part of your dog's routine maintenance because veterinary visits are for more than just vaccinations. They allow the veterinarian to thoroughly examine your dog, identify potential problems before they progress, and keep you and your whole family safe by ruling out parasites or other contagious health conditions.

Why Is It Important to Maintain Your Dog's Vaccines?

For the health of both pets and people, one of the most important reasons to maintain your dog's vaccines is rabies protection. Rabies can be transmitted to humans and is nearly 100% fatal to both people and pets, so it's essential we do everything we can to minimize disease exposure by vaccinating your pet.

What to Include in Your Pet Preparedness Plan
What to Include in Your Pet Preparedness Plan
Why Your Dog Is at Risk for Diseases Until Proven Otherwise
Disease Prevention
Why Your Dog Is at Risk for Diseases Until Proven Otherwise

Another reason pet owners should maintain their dog's vaccinations is to avoid having to restart the vaccine series in the future, costing more time and money in the long run. Vaccines need to be re-administered on a set schedule (in many cases annually, and with some vaccines, every three years), in order to keep a sufficient level of immunity[1]. If a pet owner chooses not to administer vaccines this year, their dogs may have to “restart” the series and require a two-dose series next year to reach effective antibody levels – negating any financial savings this year and causing an extra veterinary visit and vaccination for your dog next year.

Common Diseases and How They Spread

Here's a quick look at vaccines your veterinarian may recommend and how their associated diseases can spread.

DiseaseWhat It CausesHow It’s Spread
Canine Distemper VirusFever, lung disease, seizures, can be fatalThrough the air: Aerosol and droplets
Adenovirus Type 1 (Adenovirus-1)Uveitis, liver and kidney damageThrough the air: Aerosol, droplets
Contact with fluid
Adenovirus Type 2 (Adenovirus-2)Respiratory disease, pneumonia, can be fatalThrough the air: Aerosol, droplets
Contact with fluid
Canine ParainfluenzaCough, runny nose, lung infectionThrough the air: Aerosol, droplets
Canine ParvovirusVomiting, bloody diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, can be fatalVia nose or mouth when in contact with contaminated feces
Canine Coronavirus Disease (CCoV)DiarrheaVia nose or mouth when in contact with contaminated feces
LeptospirosisFever, vomiting, liver and kidney damageContact with infected tissue or urine, or indirectly through contaminated water
Bordetella (a.k.a. Kennel Cough)Cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing, lung infectionThrough the air: Aerosol, droplets
Contact with contaminated surfaces
Canine InfluenzaCough, runny nose, difficulty breathing, lung infectionThrough the air: Aerosol, droplets
Contact with contaminated surfaces
Lyme DiseaseJoint pain and inflammation, fatal kidney damageBites from an infected tick
RabiesNervous disease progressing to deathBite from infected animal or contact with infected saliva

You can see that these diseases are all spread in a few different ways: aerosolized, nasal/oral contact, contaminated water, or by a bite from an infected animal or insect.

Aerosolized transmission, in particular, is a concern even if your dog is six feet away from other dogs. Aerosolized diseases spread when bacteria and viruses travel on microscopic respiratory droplets or dust particles that enter the air when an infected dog sneezes, coughs, or pants heavily.

It's easy to see why dogs, simply walking and exercising outside, can quickly spread disease. Our dogs are still at risk, even when they aren't traveling or boarding. Vaccinating your dog is the best method to keep them healthy.


Karen Stasiak, MSN, DVM, MSc(CMID)

Dr. Karen Stasiak is the Head of Core Diagnostics and Infectious Disease Platforms with Zoetis. She earned her DVM degree from the Ohio State University in 2001, a Master's degree in Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease from the University of Edinburgh in 2021, and a Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati in 1994. Prior to joining with Zoetis, she was in private practice for 13 years, owning a mixed animal practice in Colorado. She received additional training in Comparative Animal Medicine and worked in laboratory animal medicine at National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver. She is also a neonatal nurse practitioner and worked in the newborn intensive care unit for 20 years.

  1. 2022 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines, Accessed April 24, 2024.