Are There Vaccination Alternatives For Dogs?

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


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.

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  1. Thanks for the advice Robert, very timely indeed. I’ve been looking into this very issue and only last week asked my vet (who is not a holistic vet) about titer testing. Her advice, it’s well worth doing, however it costs around $400 per dog, as opposed to a $30 parvo vaccination, etc.

    I can see why most people don’t go down that path.


    1. I have Rotties and stopped vacs 2yrs ago, asked my vet about cost of titer tests and he quoted $80 per dog. They are now 8plus and very healthy off course on Stayloyal plus raw vegs and golden paste.

  2. My small dog gets very sick for about 4 days after vaccinations and I have often wondered about the necessity of annual vaccinations. Humans don’t need repeats of their childhood vacs every year for the rest of their life! Could you please tell us your views on yearly heartworm vacs? I don’t get the 2 vaccinations at the same time because of the ill effects on my dog. Over the past 8 years I have been getting the 2 vacs 14 monthly instead of annually, 7 months apart but would like to increase that period. Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Nancy, i’m not familiar with the heart worm shot you are talking about, so cant comment. Because your dog does have ill effects from the vaccine maybe consider the titre test every 2 or 3 years.

    2. Hi Nancy, If you live in an area with plenty of mosquitos, it is best that you get the heartworm jab annually. I don’t do the C5 as often but heartworm is a must.
      Does the heartworm jab have the same ill effects as the C5? My two are due for heartworm testing now – they’ve had their jabs but they are also supposed to have this test to ensure they didn’t already have the parasite (vacinations lapsed due to funds available). We’ve never had an issue with the heartworm injection – ours are border collie and border collie cross kelpie.

  3. Thanks for your article re vaccination.
    I have been following this subject for a while now.
    Titre testing is way overpriced probably as a disincentive for dog owners to do it.
    The test apparently have to go to W.A, another ridiculous situation.
    I am not vaccinating my dogs this year and may well not do it again but I am constantly frustrated by vets as they are not open to any criticism or challenge about the subject.
    Yes, they have to make a living but I would feel much more positive towards them if they were more up front and open to change.

      1. Hi Leah, you are welcome to post your vets details here. It is hard to find good vets these days.

  4. thank you Robert for interesting emails nothing seems to be to
    trouble for you. I have never had vaccinated since she we got her
    at 8 weeks she is a Maremma we live on 10 acres & have sheep

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