Vaccinations – Some Simple Rules

Everyone goes back and forth about what is best for our dogs vaccination wise.  Its an ongoing battle and one that can get quite heated.  You have people who vaccinate not at all, people who vaccinate again and again and again, and those that fall at varying places in the middle. What’s right will depend on what you, after research, decide is the most comfortable and healthy for your particular dog or puppy.

Currently, veterinary schools across the country recommend three vaccines prior to 16 weeks of age starting between

Contrary to the opinons of some, it isn’t always best to do what has “always been done” when it comes to vaccinating our puppies

6-8 weeks of age and including parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus.  For puppies over 16 weeks of age, two vaccines spaced 3-4 weeks apart followed by a booster at 1 year and re-vaccination every three years thereafter.  For rabies, they recommend vaccination at 16 weeks of age followed by another one year later.  From that point it depends on the laws governing your particular area.  Most states and municipalities require a rabies vaccination every three years though in some areas it remains a yearly requirement.(…/vaccination_protocols.cfm)

Dr. Jean Dodds, of Hemopet, has a minimalist approach to vaccines and one which many people adhere to for their pets.  As of 2010, Dr. Dodds recommends distemper, parvo be given at 9 weeks, 14 weeks and an optional booster between 16-18 weeks.  The dog should then receive one more vaccination at approximately 1 year of age and thereafter have titre tests run to test viability every three years thereafter.  Rabies she recommends NOT giving prior to 20 weeks (as allowed by law) with another vaccine at 1 year and every three years thereafter (or as required by law).  (

There are still some “old school” vet offices who maintain a yearly vaccination schedule as well as those who include far more vaccines than those listed above including but not restricted to bordatella, leptospirosis and parainfluenza.  All vets differ so its wise to do your research and ask lots of questions BEFORE you bring home your new puppy or dog so that you know what you will be facing and can make an educated decision based on the facts of what will be suggested to you.

Whichever direction you plan on taking – maximum, minimum, no vaccinations at all or somewhere inbetween, there are measures that you should take to ensure the health of your dog regardless.  Its all about being proactive and advocating for your dog.  Its simple and basic but can make a difference.

If you are uncomfortable AT ALL with something that your vet suggests – question it!  Don’t agree simply because the vet “says so”.  Veterinarians, like human doctors, are not infallible.  We pay tons of money to our vets each and every year, its our right to ask whatever questions we wish to ask, its our right to question protocols when perhaps, we know better.  If your vet isn’t going to answer honestly the questions you pose to him or her than perhaps its time for a new vet.  You’d do it for your child so why not for your pet?

Vaccines should never be given at the same time.  If your puppy is of the age that its time for a rabies vaccine and still is due for a parvo/distemper booster – don’t let them give them at the same time.  Some vets will ever throw bordatella in there, bombarding the poor puppy with, not one, not two, but THREE vaccines at once.  Problem is that generally speaking its too much for their hardly developed immune system to handle – shoot, its too much for an ADULT’S immune system to handle.  What if the dog has a reaction?  How are you to know WHAT they are reacting to?  If you don’t know than how can you treat it?  Often, dogs who are given a bordatella vaccine (a useless vaccine in the opinion of many) along with other shots, will quickly develop kennel cough – the exact sickness that the vaccine purports to prevent.  Due to an overloaded immune system, that mild kennel cough can often spiral into pneumonia and become deadly quite quickly.  All that is necessary to hopefully avoid this scenario is to insist that your puppy NOT be vaccinated for everything on the same day.  Ask your vet to give the shots about a week apart – you are the paying client – they have no reason to refuse you.

Whether adult or puppy, dogs who have any sort of illness should not be exposed to vaccinations until they are completely healthy

Another important thing to remember is that you should never ever ever vaccinate your dog, adult or puppy, when they are ill.  Again, vaccinations will depress your pet’s immune system.  Giving a vaccine to an animal who is already ill and therefore immune compromised, can lead to a myriad of problems.  Minor illnesses can blossom into critical situations.  What was minor can become life threatening.  Immune related problems like demodectic mange can appear and plague your puppy or adult.  Any number of problems can occur and all it would have taken to avoid it is to wait until your dog is as healthy as you can get him prior to vaccination.  It is also wise to not allow vaccinations to occur when your puppy or dog is going in for neuter surgery.  Anesthesia definitely lowers the immune system of our pets just as it does in humans.  Adding the burden of vaccines on top of their surgical experience and recovery is asking for potential problems.  Simply don’t do it.  There honestly isn’t any good reason TO do it.

If you are ever uncertain as to how your veterinarian is handling your pet’s health — SPEAK UP!  Its your job as their owner to speak for them and educate yourself on what is best for them.  Its called being a responsible pet owner.  In general we can trust our vets to do what’s best for our pets BUT their idea of what is best may indeed differ from our own.  Expect your vet to hear you out and give credit to your concerns – if they refuse than its likely you have the wrong vet and should hunt around for another.  You would do it for yourself if you were uncomfortable with what your doctor said – why should it be different for our pets?