The days of the yearly "booster shot" are long behind us. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and most veterinary colleges agree that after an initial puppy series, most vaccines do not need to be given any more frequently than every three years. Some studies have suggested that immunity from commonly used vaccinations lasts seven years or more. There is no benefit to giving an additional vaccination to the dog that already has sufficient immunity. Even more importantly, repeated vaccination has been associated by some authorities with autoimmune diseases, including immediate reactions, destruction of red blood cells or platelets, and hypothyroidism. All of these problems can have a serious or even life-threatening effect on our dog's lives.
Given that both of the largest veterinary associations, veterinary colleges, and even vaccine manufacturers are recommending extended vaccination protocols, it is bewildering and a bit dismaying to hear of animals receiving vaccines each year. Hopefully this will change as information becomes even more widely more available on the risks inherent in inappropriate vaccination. While some veterinarians are extremely progressive and incorporated extended vaccination protocols years ago, others still recommend yearly vaccinations or non-recommended vaccines. Whatever the veterinarian's reasons for doing so, keep in mind that as your dog's owner, you can either accept or decline any recommendation. It is your right and responsibility to decide what is in your dog's best interest. The only vaccination you are obligated to keep current is rabies. Each state has their own laws pertaining to rabies vaccination of animals, so be sure to check your state's requirements.
So how will you decide which vaccinations your dog will receive, and when should they be given? I start with a basic vaccination schedule (which follows), and modify it on a case-by-case basis for each animal. Changes may be made in our plans as circumstances change, including vaccine reactions such as Rocky experienced. Dogs with vaccine reactions generally never receive vaccination for that disease again, and are carefully monitored with any other vaccines. Depending on the case, blood testing may be used to measure the level of antibodies against disease. While these titer tests are not a perfect measure of immunity, in many cases they show significant antibody levels, many years after vaccination. I feel it is wiser to run a titer test prior to vaccinating an adult dog that had been previously vaccinated.
The field of veterinary immunology and vaccination has changed greatly in the relatively short time I have been in practice. Early in my veterinary career, I was often confronted with multiple cases of parvovirus in a single day. Sadly, many of these did not survive. In the past year, I a total saw two cases. I believe the reason for this is the effectiveness of our parvovirus vaccines. Conversely, when I began practicing, it was common procedure to give multiple vaccinations at one time, or to vaccinate twice yearly in show and competition dogs. Vaccine reactions were extremely rare. Last year I saw a four-month-old puppy experience a fatal reaction to a distemper combo vaccine, going from tail wagging to death in two hours. It was the second vaccine the puppy had ever received. Non-fatal reactions seem to be more and more common. I believe the explanation for these events is the high potency of our vaccines, coupled with what we now know to be too frequent administration of these products.
The days of a simple, harmless, "shot" are long gone. We need to view vaccines as powerful chemical and biological agents capable of stimulating the immune system, the body's protector against disease. Used inappropriately, vaccines can trigger excess or misdirected immune system responses, often with serious or fatal results.
Laurie S. Coger, DVM, CVCP
Has anyone had titers done? how much do they cost?
My doodle is due for shots soon and I don't want to be a bad doodle dad but i don't want to over vaccinate either.
I totally agree! If we don't speak for those who cannot....
Can you give me an approximate cost of the titers? I need to budget $$.