This article is for both new pet owners and those who have had one for years. All dogs need their vaccinations at specific periods of time and ages. Rabies vaccination is the one required by law, everything else is optional. Distemper-parvo vaccinations are also very common ones for your dog to receive. Bordetella vaccination is only required at some groomers and boarding/doggie daycare facilities. Anything else is all on an ‘as needed’ basis. It is up to YOU to do your research on the vaccinations your dog can benefit from.
When your fur-child is a puppy, they need their distemper-parvo vaccination every 3-4 weeks for several rounds and the rabies vaccination at 16 weeks of age. The older they are each time they receive the required vaccinations the better, i.e. by law at 16 weeks of age your dog has to have a rabies vaccination; wait until your dog is 16 weeks, no sooner. After that, your dog shouldn’t need any shots until they are one year old.
After this, most people take their pets in yearly to receive vaccinations because that is what we have been taught to do. However, things in the veterinary world are changing and not all veterinarians are up to speed. A lot of veterinarians are stuck in the way of vaccinating for every single thing yearly; this is how they were taught (even new vets) and this is the way they have always done it. The more educated you are on what I’m about to inform you about, the better.
There are tests called ‘titers’; your veterinarian will take some blood, send it off to a laboratory with specialized testing, and you will find out if your dog is still resistant to the disease the vaccination is supposed to prevent. So if you send off a ‘Rabies titer’, you will find out if your dog is still resistant to the rabies virus before vaccinating again. If they are not protected, you will have to get your dog another rabies vaccination, but if they are still protected, you do NOT have to vaccinate. This will prevent over-vaccination in your dog. You can do this for the distemper-parvo vaccination as well. I won’t lie, this test is pretty pricey, but it is safer for your pet. Ever heard of vaccine reactions? If you don’t have to vaccinate, you don’t have to worry about a reaction. To give you an example, I just had my dog’s rabies titer sent out, she is 6 years old, was vaccinated frequently because I didn’t know any better until a few years ago. Without getting too technical and medical, the rabies protection range result is from 0.4-15.0. My dog has a resistance level of 13.4…she hasn’t received a rabies vaccination since 2012. While a little expensive for me, much much safer for her—a priceless trade in my opinion!
Another thing not many veterinarians do, but again is safer for your furry bundle of joy, do not get all the needed vaccinations on the same day. For example, if your dog does in fact need their rabies vaccination, distemper-parvo vaccination, and a Bordetella vaccination, if the vet doesn’t recommend it, request having their rabies vaccination that day, and the Bordetella and distemper-parvo in about 2 weeks (those two are safe to give at the same time). The reason this is safer, it is an overload for your pet’s immune system when they receive all their vaccinations at once. Another reason this is better, say all the vaccinations were given at the same time, your dog has a reaction, how do you know which one they had the reaction to?? So when the next round of shots come, you have to expect a reaction and prepare for one since you didn’t know which one it was. So you have to put your dog and yourself through the stress again. If your vet knew which vaccination it was, they would be able to write you an exemption letter and never have to administer that one again avoiding and future allergic reactions.
I didn’t even think about this before I learned about it, but it made perfect sense. One summer I was living away from my normal vet so I took my fur-child to the local vet there to update her shots (before I knew about the titers but did know to space the vaccinations out). The veterinarian was going to give both shots at the same time…I was horrified!! I even mentioned I had been taught to not give them at the same time. (I told him politely because the last thing I want to do is insult the vet, they don’t like that very much.) He got insulted anyway and said, “I give hundreds of patients multiple vaccinations daily. Your dog will be fine.” That when it was my turn to be a little bit firmer and say I only wanted the one vaccination that day, and that is what my dog received. So the key to this—know about the options for your dog! The veterinarian cannot force you to do anything; you are your pet’s advocate.
Many vets who do the different day protocol will actually give you a physical exam and one shot the first visit and charge for both those things, and then the second time you come in for the second shot, they only charge you for a vaccination, not another exam. If you do not have a veterinarian that does this, I recommend you think about looking for one. Or if you and your kiddo absolutely love your current vet but they don’t offer these things, talk to them about it. Maybe they haven’t heard much about it so not only will you teach the vet other options, but then they will become more educated on the matter and will be able to offer those options to other patients. In the end, this will make things safer for many more dogs.
Now I have mentioned the Bordetella vaccination a couple of times. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a respiratory illness dogs can pick up. It is not something you have to get all the time, like I said, just certain groomers and boarding/doggie daycare facilities require it. This is because it can be transferred from dog to dog and in those types of facilities, there is more opportunity to spread it if someone comes in with it asymptomatically. There are 3 different ways this vaccination can be administered: as an injection, intranasal, or oral. The intranasal one works best if given at least three days prior to going to boarding/grooming and the oral one works the quickest, one of these two versions protect your dog quicker and better.
I do not want this to make you think all veterinarians are idiots and out to get your money and harm your pet. They do not! Many have just been taught different things, and while they will not necessarily harm your pet, it is no longer the best thing for them either.
However, I do want to point out you need to get your research from reliable sources; there is a lot of misleading and untrue information on the internet. Also, talk to your veterinarian, don’t try to prove what they are doing is wrong, but have an open conversation with them and together you will come up with the best options and protocols for your pet.