How often you should vaccinate your dog has become a great debate among many. Those that tend to be in the holistic or natural camp argue against over vaccinating, which some believe causes problems such as cancer (there has been some scientific evidence of this, especially in cats, but nothing concrete). Those in the medical fields understandably stick to the guidelines the vaccine companies give, which includes vaccinating every year for some and as frequently as every six months for Bordetella.
As I’ve mentioned before, frequent vaccination is really a marketing strategy by the companies that make the vaccines – after all, if every dog is only vaccinated once every 5-7 years, there is not much profit there. But yearly vaccines on millions of dogs – you don’t have to do the math to see the difference in profits there!
Here is what the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Task Force recommends for vaccinations:
Parvo and Distemper
Vaccinating Puppies Under 16 weeks:
Initial vaccination: Between 6-8 weeks of age.
Boosters: Two boosters should be given every 3-4 weeks before the puppy reaches 16 weeks, with the last booster given after 14 weeks to minimize risk of intervention by the mother’s antibodies.
Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a fourth booster no later than 1 year after the completion of the series.
Vaccinating Puppies Over 16 weeks:
One vaccine is all that is required for first “series.”
Revaccination: Dogs in this group should receive a booster every three years after that.
The Task Force Found That:
The Parvo and Distemper vaccination lasts 5 years and the Adenovirus for at least 7 years
SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
It means that your dog may not even need the revaccination guidelines set forth after the initial booster. A lot of it depends on the risks that your dog is expose to. The following are dogs that will be at higher risk to contract illnesses, including Bordatella, Parainfluenza, Parvo, Distemper and Adenovirus:
· Dogs that go to public places such as dog parks
· Dogs that stay at boarding kennels
· Dogs that frequent groomers where they sit in kennels
· Dogs that go to training classes
· Dogs that show/compete at events
· Dogs with compromised immune systems
· Senior dogs
If your dog fits on or more of these, then they may need to be vaccinated more frequently to reduce risk. Many kennels or dog daycares will require your dog to stay up-to-date on these vaccines. You should be aware that most vets give Bordatella and Parainfluenza in a vaccine that also includes Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus (called a C5). Be aware of this if you are just looking for a Bordatella booster to go a kennel, you may be inadvertently over-vaccinating your dog, especially if your dog just had a C3 (the vaccine containing Parvo, Distemper and Andiovirus).
Titers: An Alternative to Vaccines
However, even at places that require vaccines, there is an alternative. A Titer is a test your vet can do to check the level of antibodies to disease in your dog’s blood. As long as they have the right levels, they do not need to be vaccinated. Titers are a great way to make sure you are not over-vaccinating your dog while providing peace of mind that they are protected from viruses. And, most kennels will take the titer test results in lieu of vaccines. (Be sure to check with them first, as each place has their own rules).
You can also help mitigate risk by bringing your own water and bowls to public places you take your dog. Pay attention to local news and ask your vet if there are any outbreaks of illnesses that you should be aware of. If there are, keep your dog home for a few weeks if you are worried they may be susceptible.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours on how often you vaccinate your dog. The best you can do is weigh your risks, talk to your vet, and make an informed decision.