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Vaccination Schedules: Finding the Right Balance for Your Dog's Health

Vaccination Schedules: Finding the Right Balance for Your Dog's Health

Explore how to meet health and legal requirements without over-vaccinating your pets.

Our owner's family has grown by 12! 

A new litter of greyhound puppies have arrived.  With any new litter, we take the opportunity to reexamine our vaccination schedules. Our goal is to meet health and legal requirements while minimizing the number of vaccines to avoid over-vaccination. We aim to find the right balance to keep our puppies healthy without unnecessary interventions.

Vaccinating dogs is a topic that often sparks heated debates among pet owners. Opinions vary widely, with some advocating for no vaccinations, others for frequent vaccinations, and many falling somewhere in between. The right approach depends on what you, after careful research, feel is best for your dog.

Current Veterinary Recommendations

Veterinary schools typically recommend three core vaccines for puppies before they reach 16 weeks of age, starting between 6-8 weeks. These vaccines cover parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus.

  1. Parvovirus: Parvovirus is highly contagious and can cause severe gastrointestinal issues in puppies, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. The first dose is usually given at 6-8 weeks of age, with follow-up doses at 12 and 16 weeks.
  2. Distemper: Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Puppies receive their first distemper shot at 6-8 weeks, followed by additional doses at 12 and 16 weeks.
  3. Adenovirus: This vaccine protects against infectious canine hepatitis, which can cause liver failure. The vaccination schedule is similar to that of parvovirus and distemper, starting at 6-8 weeks and continuing every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.

For puppies over 16 weeks, two vaccines spaced 3-4 weeks apart are suggested, followed by a booster at one year and re-vaccination every three years.

Rabies Vaccination: Rabies vaccination is crucial as it protects not only your pet but also public health. The initial rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks, followed by another one year later. Subsequent boosters depend on local laws, which typically require vaccination every three years, although some areas mandate annual boosters.

Alternative Approaches

Dr. Jean Dodds of Hemopet advocates for a minimalist vaccination approach. She recommends distemper and parvovirus vaccines at 9, 14, and optionally between 16-18 weeks, followed by a booster at one year and titer tests every three years. Titer tests measure the level of antibodies in the blood to determine if a dog still has immunity to a disease, potentially avoiding unnecessary vaccinations.

Rabies Vaccination: Dr. Dodds advises delaying rabies vaccination until 24 weeks if legally permissible, with boosters at one year and then every three years. This approach aims to minimize the risk of adverse reactions and over-vaccination.

Current Common Practices

Some veterinary practices still follow a yearly vaccination schedule and include additional vaccines such as:

  1. Bordetella: This vaccine protects against kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is often required for dogs that are boarded or attend daycare.
  2. Leptospirosis: This vaccine protects against a bacterial infection that can cause kidney and liver damage. It's particularly recommended in areas where the disease is prevalent.
  3. Parainfluenza: This vaccine helps protect against another cause of kennel cough.

It’s crucial to research and ask questions before bringing home a new puppy or dog to make an informed decision about which vaccinations are necessary for your pet’s lifestyle and environment.

Advocating for Your Dog’s Health

Regardless of your stance on vaccinations, being proactive about your dog’s health is essential. Here are some key tips:

  • Separate Vaccinations: Avoid giving multiple vaccines simultaneously. Space them about a week apart to prevent overloading your dog’s immune system. For example, if your puppy is due for a rabies vaccine and a parvo/distemper booster, schedule them at different times.
  • Healthy Dogs Only: Never vaccinate a sick dog. Vaccines can suppress the immune system, making an ill dog more susceptible to complications. Always ensure your dog is in good health before any vaccination.
  • Post-Surgery Precaution: Avoid vaccinating your dog during neuter surgery. Anesthesia can weaken the immune system, and adding vaccines can lead to problems. Schedule vaccinations for a different time to ensure your pet recovers well from surgery.

Communicating with Your Vet

Always communicate openly with your vet about your concerns. It’s your right to ask questions and seek second opinions if necessary. If your vet doesn’t respect your wishes or answer your questions satisfactorily, it might be time to find a new vet. Being a responsible pet owner means advocating for your pet’s health and making informed decisions.


Vaccination choices are personal and should be made based on thorough research and what you feel is best for your dog’s health and well-being. Whether you choose a maximum, minimum, or somewhere in-between approach, ensure that your decisions are informed and prioritize your pet’s health. Always be proactive, ask questions, and feel confident in the care you provide for your furry family member.

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