This blog is going to cover a touchy subject. Read it and think about what I am saying and decide for yourself, after some thought and reading on your own, what you feel comfortable doing with your own animal. Again, this is simply what I do and why I do it.
There is much debate about vaccinations, what to give, when, how often in both humans and animals. I was lucky to have met a very progressive veterinarian in Huntsville, AL who changed my views on vaccinations over 10 years ago. I had taken Merlot and Major in for their OFA Hip x-rays. Melinda, my vet and also fellow dog sport enthusiast, asked me what vaccination plan I used with my dogs and my future puppies. I told her I just did the normal 5-1 puppy shots every 3-4 weeks on my pups and boosters for the dogs yearly. She told me that in her mind, the only thing you should vaccinate against are life threatening issues. If it can kill your dog and the vaccine has proven to be very affective with low risk, then vaccinate. I asked what she suggested? She said “I only give Distemper and Parvo, unless someone demands otherwise”. For adults do the minimal Rabies vaccine required by law (3 year shot if the state allowed, 1 year if I simply had to do it to stay legal), and only booster vaccinate adults every few years.
Being the bookworm that I am, I took the boys home after their hip x-rays (which required no sedation, I might add, because they both LOVED and trusted Melinda.) and started hunting information on the internet. It wasn’t as easy to find 10 years ago, but there were some studies and information. I took Melinda’s suggestions to heart and my personal pets and any puppies born here have followed this routine, which has modified over the years. Again, interestingly, the litter with the poorest health that I have produced was also the litter that was vaccinated as babies with a 7-1 vaccine by the litter’s co-owner who raised them to 8 weeks of age. With only one litter to go by, this isn’t hard data, just something to note.
My current stand is for all co-owners to understand my views on vaccinations and encourage them to either refrain from giving any shots before the puppies leave or give only the Modified Live Distemper/Parvo vaccination I prefer, and that only after the puppies are 9 weeks of age. There has been much research over the years to agree with what Melinda told me 10 years go and now it even goes as far as to state that once you booster the dog at 1 year of age, titer testing their blood for immunities is all you should have to do for the life of the dog. Yes, that is right, the LIFE of the dog. PLEASE NOTE: If you live in an area endemic for an issue that has a vaccination and the disease frequency warrants a vaccination, by all means, vaccinate for that issue. An example might be you live rural, have a ton of deer who roam and graze your yard, you might seriously think a Lepto vaccination would be a good idea. Please use good judgement when reading my protocol and suggestions.
Now, many vets do not agree with no vaccination past one year of age (I’m not talking Rabies, which is required by law) even with documented studies, because they fear it will hit them in the pocket book. Rightly so. Many Americans will go to the doctor if they need a shot, but will not go just for an annual checkup. Even more so for their pets. If they don’t think they need a shot to keep their dog alive, they just won’t go.
Sadly, this is backward thinking. You should take your young dog to the vet yearly for blood work (titer testing for immunities and do a CBC to check overall health) and blood test for heartworm. You should take your older dog to the vet twice yearly for bloodwork and yearly for heartworm testing. Use the vet as you use a human doctor. Nip issues in the bud before they become chronic or life threatening.
So what do I do with my own pets? I follow Dr Dodd’s Vaccination Protocol. Read below:
CANINE VACCINATION PROTOCOL
MINIMAL VACCINE USE
W. Jean Dodds, DVM
938 Stanford Street
Santa Monica, CA 90403
310-828-4804; Fax 310-828-8251
Note: The following vaccine protocol is offered for those dogs where minimal vaccinations are advisable or desirable. The schedule is one I recommend and should not interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended by a veterinarian would be less satisfactory. It’s a matter of professional judgment and choice.
AGE OF PUP VACCINE TYPE
9 – 10 weeks
Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV (e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy DPV) 14 weeks Same as above 16 -18 weeks (optional) Same as above 20 weeks or older, if allowable by law Rabies
Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
Rabies, killed 3-year product (give 3-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster)
Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus annually thereafter. 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.
Some of the above gets modified by the place I live or activities I participate in. Some states require yearly Rabies. Some Therapy Dog programs require specific vaccination protocols to cover you with their insurance. As an example, Therapy Dogs International requires Distemper, Parvo, and Hepatitis puppy shot- but does not require Lepto, Corona, or Influenza vaccinations. The Distemper / Parvo / Hep only needs to be done as a puppy, not yearly. If you ever need to board your dog, you might need to do Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccination.
A word on heartworm medication. There are multiple schools of thought on the heartworm issue as well, but I use Interceptor for heartworms / worms monthly because I feel the one day of medication in my dogs system a month is better than having the heartworms themselves. Interceptor also controls whipworms, which Heartguard does not. Because I do rescue, go to dog shows and other high risk worm infection areas, I use Interceptor. I won’t get a flea pill or a heartworm medication bundled with a flea pill, which is the current popular pill the vets are pushing these days to new puppy owners. A month long flea pill leaves medication in your dog the entire month. I’m not going to have some poison floating around in my dog for a month, no thank you. I will treat fleas when I see flea, not before.
What you choose do to with your new puppy once he/she leaves here is absolutely your choice. I only give the above as a suggested alternative to full blown yearly vaccinations on a dog who lives the Urban or Suburban lifestyle and is exposed to very little and is kept as a beloved pet. Think about what fits your lifestyle and needs and go into it with an educated stance. Don’t simply let a veterinarian shoot your new baby up with a cocktail of unneeded vaccinations. With every shot there is a risk of reaction and who knows what long term damage is being done. Cancer and Autoimmune issues were once a rare thing in dogs, then vaccinations became popular and so have both issues in our canine friends, be it pure bred or mix breed. Food for thought.