Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dog Vaccination Protocol

I talk with a lot of dog owners through Facebook groups, at the dog park, the pet store, or just out for our daily walks and it seems that the confusion surrounding vaccination is widespread. Everyone wants to do the best for their dogs, but they complain about being overwhelmed by too much information and contradictory messages.

Let me tell you about the vaccination program we use for our dog and what led us to this protocol.

Our puppy is 17 months old. She received her puppy vaccinations at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks. These included the core vaccines (distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus), as well as bordetella, leptospirosis, and rabies. When she was due for her one-year ‘booster’ shot, we did an antibody test instead. She was shown to be immune to distemper and parvovirus, so we did not repeat her core vaccines. She did receive her rabies vaccine at this time as per our local law.

Going forward, she will continue to receive her rabies vaccination every three years unless there is a change in the legal requirements. She will also have distemper and parvovirus antibody titers done in three years. If she is still immune (and there is no reason to think that she would not be), we will not repeat the titers or the vaccines.

That is the what, now here is the why:

Core vaccinations should be given to all puppies to protect against highly contagious, nearly always fatal, and vaccine-preventable diseases. In dogs, these diseases are distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. In order for the vaccine to work, the puppy must not possess any maternally derived antibodies. This is the protective immunity that is temporarily given to the pup by the mother. It’s difficult to know exactly when the antibodies wear off, so puppy vaccines are given every 3-4 weeks to ensure that at least one of the vaccines produces immunity.

In regards to follow-up core vaccines, however, there is no scientific evidence that supports ‘booster’ vaccinations. In fact, the name ‘booster’ is itself a misnomer. You can’t boost immunity, you either have it or you don’t. If a dog shows a positive antibody titer, then no further vaccination is necessary. The WSAVA states that “the duration of immunity (DOI) is many years and may be up to the lifetime of the pet.”  Schering-Plough’s efficacy studies report that “these data support at least a 4-year duration of immunity for these three ‘core’ fractions in the combination vaccine.” From Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy, “Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal.”  International Veterinary Information Service, Dr. Richard Schultz states that “Our research on duration of immunity for the CPV-2 (parvovirus), CDV (distemper) and CAV (adenovirus) vaccines has demonstrated a minimum duration of immunity of 7 years.”

Dr. Ronald Schultz published a table summarizing his duration of immunity studies based on challenge testing:

Distemper, Rockbom strain, 7 years
Distemper, Onderstepoort strain, 5 years
Canine Parvovirus, 7 years
Canine Adenovirus, 7 years

This is a small portion of the literature and studies available that support a longer duration of immunity from effectively vaccinated dogs. For this reason, we will not revaccinate our dog.

In retrospect, I would not have agreed to the leptospirosis or bordetella vaccines. Both of these are bacterial vaccines which do not prevent infection, but only minimize symptoms. The leptospirosis vaccine will typically provide immunity in a dog against only 4 of the 200+ known strains, and its protection will last only for 6-8 months. “A dog who is vaccinated with this vaccine receives well less than one year of inadequate protection, but is placed at great risk for vaccine-related illness” says Dr. Jodie Gruenstern in a Dogs Naturally Magazine article. It is also reported that the Leptospirosis vaccine has the highest incident of adverse reactions. An interesting evolution is mentioned in a Dog Journal article, “infection rates have severely dropped and those dogs that do become infected are infected by an entirely different strain of Leptospire,” making the current vaccines even less effective.

In similar fashion, the bordetella vaccine will only provide partial protection against 2 out of the 40+ agents that cause bordetella infection. Dr. Ronald Schultz states, “Kennel cough is not a vaccinatable disease,” in a Dogs Naturally Magazine article. The article also mentions that kennel cough is “a self-limiting disease that amounts to as much danger to your dog as the common cold does to you.”

Viewing each of the vaccines in the risk versus reward vein, it appears that scientific evidence and professional experience shows that the initial core vaccines for puppies (or previously unvaccinated dogs) provides infection prevention to the most dangerous canine diseases and so is essential for all dogs. The subsequent core ‘boosters’, as well as the bacterial vaccines for leptospirosis and bordetella, are unnecessary at best and potentially detrimental. Though the initial rabies vaccinations are as effective as the distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus, local laws prohibit titering and so vaccines must be redone every three years.


Kei said...

We take the same kind of attitude with vaccinating our cats--they have their first ones as kittens, but that's it. It's probably unrelated, but the lesser-vaccined of our cats have all lived longer than the cats my parents took for all their 'boosters', by around 8-10 years!

Mindy said...

We haven't given either our cat or dog vaccinations since they were young. And they're both 12. Our cat has been treated for several things over his life, mostly from his young man years of fighting(I call him the most expensive "free" cat in the universe), but our Maddie dog hasn't had any issues, other than things that come with a dog getting older.

Magic Love Crow said...

A lot of good information Terry!! I know our cats all lived very long lives. I know there was one vaccine our poor Falco got, and it knocked him out for almost a week! My mom said, you will never give that to him again! Not sure what it was for?