The current vaccination recommendation for puppies is to start between six and eight weeks of age and then vaccinate every three to four weeks, with the last vaccine given at 12 weeks or older, where possible, limiting the number of vaccines within those guidelines. Veterinarians, breeders, owners, pet stores and shelters may have their own guidelines based on the puppy’s exposure to disease. Many veterinarians recommend a booster one year after the initial series just to be sure, but then move to the three-year interval for titer testing or vaccination if needed. I have found that a majority of the animals that I test have antibodies years after just their initial puppy series, but I use the titer to confirm it. Even though I may not have vaccinated very geriatric animals for many years, almost all of those I test retain good antibody titers well past the three-year mark.
The distemper/parvo vaccine titer/blood test costs more in dollars than the vaccination, but it decreases a cost to the animal’s immune system that can affect her health and longevity. There are possible connections with the onset of immune-related diseases, which, though anecdotal, still causes vets to avoid vaccinating animals with these problems. Adverse reactions also occur, most within 24 hours, and if treated with Benedryl or a steroidal anti-inflammatory, they resolve well. There is still much to learn about what effects vaccines have on the body.
The main thing I feel it is essential to remember is that each animal should be evaluated carefully, comparing the proposed vaccine with their age, breed (Greyhounds, for example, are particularly sensitive to many drugs), health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits. Most health professionals agree that minimizing vaccinations and using them prudently is a valuable goal—it is possible that we have been over-vaccinating animals, and titer testing now provides us with a tool to determine the true need.