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Choosing a Vaccination Schedule for Your Dog


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.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 40: Jan/Feb 2007
Barbara Royal is a graduate of the Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and has also completed training in acupuncture from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, Western and Chinese herbal Medicine at Tufts University.

Photograph by Jurga R.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by AureliaHendricks | July 28 2012 |

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Submitted by melinda | September 5 2013 |

I'm researching on a personal level the use of titer testing before vaccinating my dog & the info out there is most convincing. I'm now convinced that we should schedule the annual Wellness Check with the idea of getting titer testing and not vaccinations unless the testing shows a lack of immunity in the pet for specific diseases. My vet will do it but isn't happy about foregoing routine vaccinating. I called 3 other vets in my town and their reaction was the same...they'll do it but aren't convinced it's the way to go. Also the cost for parvo & distemper titers ranged from $130 to $265! Perhaps the good people at Bark could do some research on the pros/cons of titers in lieu of routine vaccines & report their findings. And perhaps if warranted by their research, get actively involved in lobbying to change the existing standards for immunization of dogs & cats. I am just one person but am actively lobbying the DVM agencies to re-think their approach to immunizing pets.

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