Vaccinating Your Dog

Research has clearly shown that vaccines protect dogs for longer than previously believed and in many cases for life. As well, there is increased awareness and concern that vaccination is not a risk-free procedure – there is a real risk that dogs may have an allergic reaction to a vaccination or may develop serious health problems as a result of it. It is now clear that annual core vaccines should not be given.

HALO endorses the vaccine protocol set out by Dr. Jean Dodds (see the end of this article), a nationally recognized and eminent veterinarian who does research into vaccine protocols. Our mission to provide our rescues with a healthy and safe life includes ensuring that they are not over-vaccinated and receive only those vaccines necessary for their good health or required by law. We expect our adopters to take on this task. If you have a vet who continues to insist on annual vaccines, you need to question them or find another vet. If you would like further articles or information to share with your vet, please feel free to contact us.

The American Animal Hospital Association issued a set of canine vaccine guidelines to assist veterinarians in making appropriate recommendations for their patients. These guidelines were first released in 2003, and then revised in 2006 and 2011. The guidelines separate vaccines into “core” and “non-core” groups and make recommendations for each group.

Core vaccines are those that give protection against diseases that are very serious or potentially fatal, and that are found in all areas of North America. The diseases are easily transmitted. Core vaccines are the following: distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies. The AAHA recommends that after the initial series of core vaccines as a puppy and at one year, that core vaccines are administered every 3 years. Rabies administration is a matter of state law and generally must be done every 3 years (though some states have a one year requirement). It’s important to reiterate that the American Animal Hospital Association DOES NOT recommend annual core vaccines and this has been the case for over 10 years.

Many animal health experts believe that boosters every 3 years are unnecessary. They recommend conducting titer testing (a blood test) every 3 years to check the dog’s antibody levels. If the titre shows low immunity for a particular disease, they recommend giving only that vaccine, and not a combination vaccine which they feel needlessly exposes dogs to additional health risks. They point out that in doing titer testing; most pet owners will find that their dogs never need a booster and that the original vaccination series will protect the dog for life. Titre testing is endorsed by HALO. It enables you to use vaccines only when it is necessary so that you avoid the serious consequences that can occur due to overvaccination.

Noncore vaccines, which are the following: kennel cough, Lyme disease and leptospirosis, are those for which the AAHA felt a decision to vaccinate or not should be made on an individual basis, based on the recommendation of a veterinarian. The issues to consider include age, breed, current health, living environment, travel habits, as well as the possible effects of the vaccine and the ability to treat the disease. The leptospirosis vaccine leads to more reactions than any others, including serious and/or fatal reactions especially in small dogs. As well, these three diseases can be treated with antibiotics. Most vets do not recommend leptospirosis vaccine for Havanese.

We speak to veterinary offices all over the country while arranging for the care of our rescues. This past year, we asked a number who indicated they still do annual vaccines why they do it. Here are some of the answers we got:

•    It’s a way to get clients to bring their animals in for a check-up

•    We’ve always done it this way

•    I don’t think it causes health problems

•    The vaccine manufacturers recommend it

We have also found that some veterinary offices charge very high amounts for titering (remember this only involves taking blood and testing it in a lab). Dr. Dodds owns a lab in Southern California that charges approximately $50 to titer for the core vaccines. You can ask your vet to ship your dog’s sample to this lab for testing. You can also ask if it would be more cost effective to use a veterinary university lab. Although titering every 3 years will cost more than revaccinating, remember that revaccinating can be very costly when health problems result! If you need help or advice in understanding or arranging for titering, please speak to us.

In summary, there is no good reason for annual core vaccines – and by doing so, you may cause serious health problems. Our organization has had dogs become very ill or even die from overvaccination. This is a very important issue for us.

2016 Dodds Vaccination Protocol for Dogs

9 - 10 weeks of age
Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
e.g. Merck Nobivac (Intervet Progard) Puppy DPV

14 – 15 weeks of age
Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV

18 weeks of age
Parvovirus only, MLV
Note: New research states that last puppy parvovirus vaccine should be at 18 weeks old.

20 weeks or older, if allowable by law
Rabies – give 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines

1 year old
Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
This is an optional booster or titer. If the client intends not to booster after this optional booster or intends to retest titers in another three years, this optional booster at puberty is wise.

1 year old
Rabies – give 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines

Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus every three years thereafter, or more often, if desired. Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian. In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 9284