While you must vaccinate your dog against some diseases, and maywant your pet vaccinated against others, vaccines can be costly – and come with side effects.

Benefits of vaccination far outweigh risks, but careful assessment of risk factors should be undertaken to establish an appropriate vaccination protocol for each animal. Recent investigation into the origins of vaccine recommendations for dogs revealed no basis in scientific data, nor duration of immunity studies. With exception of rabies, vaccinations aren’t legally required, and are subject to debate. Recent studiessupport belief that vaccines provide disease immunity for several years. Annual boosters are not only unnecessary, theymay actually be harmful. Increasingly, veterinarians are offeringto check vaccination titers rather than routinely administeringthe annual shot. Seeing a veterinarian yearly for a booster may soon be replaced by an annual physical exam, with recommended vaccinations given only at intervals.

Based on risk of exposure, severity of the disease, or its potential transmissibility to humans, the administration of core vaccines is considered vital, with non-core vaccinationsdependent on vulnerability.

Core Vaccines
Recommended or required by state law because they protect against prevalent, life-threatening or zoonotic diseases such as rabies.

  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus-2
  • Rabies

Non-Core Vaccines
Optional, recommended according to an animal’s risk of exposure and lifestyle considerations.

  • Parainfluenza virus
  • Bordetella (kennel cough)
  • Leptospira
  • Lyme disease

Not Generally Recommended
Of limited benefit and may cause adverse events.

  • Corona virus
  • Giardia
  • Adenovirus-1
  • Rattlesnake venom

Source: University of California, Davis, Center for Companion Animal Health, Fall 2006

Although rabies has been eradicated in domestic animals, most states require dogs to be vaccinated against it. The vaccine is an absolute requirement of international law. Each state (and country)has its own legislation governing rabies vaccine administration. Some require annual rabies vaccination. Others require vaccines every three years. But everywhere, proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine suggests that young dogs receive a booster after a year, and further vaccinations every three years. Laws vary, so be sure to follow your local requirements.

Rabies is the only vaccine required by law. But it is not the only core vaccine. According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, shots protecting against canine parvovirus, distemper virus, adenovirus type 2 and hepatitis are strongly recommended. Puppies should receive a dose of modified live virus vaccine every three to four weeks, from six to eight weeks of age, with afinal booster at 16 weeks.

For dogs over 16 weeks old, UC Davis recommends that your veterinarian administers two doses of a modified live virus vaccine, three to four weeks apart. Your pet should be given a booster after a year, and vaccination every three years.

Non-core canine vaccines are optional. Administration dependson your lifestyle and geographic location. Pay attention toepidemics in your area. Be mindful, however, not to inoculateyour dog with unnecessary vaccines, since some can cause side effects. If you need to board your dog, it must be vaccinatedagainst canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Should you Titer test?

With veterinarians recommending core vaccinations every three years, plus numerous non-core vaccinations, inoculation can be hard on both your wallet, and your dog. The solution is a titer test. This lab test examines your dog’s antibodies to determineprecisely which vaccinations are required. Titer testing is not cheap; however, you need only to do it once. Most recommend a test that examines antibodies for canine parvovirus, plusdistemper.