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Canine Vaccinations

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Vaccinations for puppies are a very controversial subject in veterinary science and for responsible breeders.  There seems to be no best answer or practice.  Vaccinating practices vary and involve the following factors:

  1. Your puppy's environment

  2. Your puppy's breed

  3. Your puppy's age when he received his first shot

  4. The interval between vaccines

  5. The kinds and types of vaccines best for your area of the country


The first point to consider is safety.  Vaccines can be harmful and we should be vaccinating because the advantages outweigh the risks.  

Talk to your veterinarian about the vaccinations required for your area and the recommended vaccination schedule for your breed of dog. The cost of preventive vaccines is usually much less than the cost of treating a preventable disease and less heartache is involved on your part. Viral diseases can be transmitted through dog-to-dog contact of discharges from eyes or noses, feces or urine, or by contact with surfaces that an infected dog has visited (such as parks, playgrounds, kennels, dog shows, pet shops, humane shelters, etc.). Some viruses can survive in the environment for years and some others are airborne.   The following describes one vaccination scenario for a low-risk puppy:

DHPP (also known as DA2PP or DHPPv): This vaccine includes canine distemper (upper respiratory virus that can affect the central nervous system), adenovirus-2 (also known as hepatitis), parainfluenza, parvovirus (a severe gastrointestinal virus that is highly fatal to dogs and puppies if not treated early). Vaccinations are administered every 2-4 weeks. The Parvovirus vaccine can also be given separately and the last vaccine in the series is given after the puppy turns 16 weeks of age. This is an annual vaccine after the initial puppy series is completed. There is an ingredient in these vaccines that has been given in the past called Leptospirosis, but it is usually left out since Lepto is not a problem in our area and some puppies may have adverse reactions to it.

CV or C: Coronavirus (gastrointestinal virus similar to parvovirus). Coronavirus vaccines need to be administered twice, being as close to 8 and I I weeks of age as possible.

Bordatella: (also known as kennel cough): This is an upper respiratory virus that causes a severe croup-like cough that can turn into pneumonia. It is airborne and highly contagious. The vaccine is administered to dogs and puppies who will attend obedience classes or who are boarded at a kennel. If the vaccine is not given intranasally, a booster is required in 3 weeks. 

Lyme Vaccine: This vaccine prevents tick-borne Lyme's disease. The vaccine is not normally given unless the dog is high risk for tick infestation such as if camping or hunting frequently, travel to a different part of the country or has had a tick infestation before. Typically administered annually.

Giardia: Giardia is an intestinal spirochete that causes severe diarrhea. This vaccine is more situational than routine and is administered annually. 

Rabies: Rabies is a virus that attacks the neurological system. The vaccine requirements vary by state as to how often a booster is needed. The rule in Washington state is that if the dog is under I year of age at the time of administration, the vaccine is good for I year. If the dog is older than I year of age, the vaccine is given every 3 years. The first Rabies vaccinations for puppies are given after 15 weeks and no later than 6 months of age.


I would like to make you aware that all 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats.

Some of this information will present an ethical & economic challenge to vets, and there will be skeptics. Some organizations have come up with a political compromise suggesting vaccinations every 3 years to appease those who fear loss of income vs. those concerned about potential side effects. Politics, traditions, or the doctor's economic 
well-being should not be a factor in medical decision.

NEW PRINCIPLES OF IMMUNOLOGY  Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully at 6 months. If a modified live
virus vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it produces immunity, which is good for the life of the pet (ie: canine distemper, parvo,feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect.  The titer is not "boosted" nor are more
memory cells induced. Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia. There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines.

Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk. This natural protection can last 8-14 weeks.  Puppies & kittens should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks.  Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, delay the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart suppress rather than stimulate the immune system.  A series of vaccinations is given
starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age.  Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at 1 year 4 mo) will provide lifetime immunity.

More information on the annual v. 3 year boosters...