I believe in a limited vaccination protocol for my own dogs.
This is an information page to help you decide what vaccination protocol is best for you and
your dog. No one can force you to do something you're not completely comfortable with. You
should be well informed and make decisions based on what you and your family are most
There is an incredible amount of information out there about vaccines and their side effects.
Once considered to be harmless, we are now learning that we were very wrong. Vaccines can
have very serious side effects, including autoimmune disorders, epilepsy, encephalitis,
allergies, behavior problems, digestive disorders, cancer and even death! These risks MUST
be weighed against their usefulness and we must do what is best for our pets.
One option is to not give combination vaccines (a vaccine that contains more than one virus).
The vast majority of vets give these combination vaccines only, so you will likely have to ask
your vet to special-order your puppies vaccines for you. They may tell you its not possible to
get a single-virus vaccine, don't believe them. Many don't want to order it in because it is more
work for them. Galaxy makes the "Galaxy-D" single distemper vaccine; Intervet (Proguard),
Vanguard and Duramune all make single Parvo vaccines.
The multi-virus vaccines usually confuse the immune system rather than stimulate it. Many of
these combo-vaccines contain anywhere from 5-8 different diseases. Where in nature would
your dog be exposed to that many diseases all at the same time? I can only imagine that the
dog would have a very difficult time effectively fighting off that many diseases all at once. Just
think about the stress on the dog's immune system, and especially on a young puppy who's
immune system is still developing. Excessive vaccination can actually cause the immune
system to cease working altogether. So talk to your vet about the option of single vaccines as
opposed to combinations.
Another guide I personally like is to limit the total number of vaccinations. There is no valid
reason for giving the same vaccine over and over again to a puppy. The reason this practice
was started is because puppies receive natural maternal antibodies from their dam while they
are nursing, and these gradually wear off after weaning. But they wear off at different rates in
different puppies, so we have no way of knowing for sure when they have worn off....it can be
anywhere from 5-16 weeks, although the average is 6-10. Giving a puppy shots while it still has
maternal antibodies is useless, as the maternal antibodies will "block" the vaccine and prevent
immunity from being established. So someone in their infinite wisdom decided to give puppies
vaccines over and over again so that eventually one will be given after the maternal antibodies
are worn down. But since we don't know when they were down, if we opted to not vaccinate at
all until the dog was 16 weeks, it could leave pups unprotected for several weeks, which is why
many vets will tell you to keep your young puppy off the streets and away from strange dogs
until it "has had all its shots" at 12-16 weeks.
So if by that advice we have to keep our puppy isolated, even if we are giving all these most-
likely useless shots, then why do we bother putting all that extra stress on the poor puppy's
system? Doesn't it make more sense to not give those shots (since they likely won't work
anyway) and just be careful with puppy until he is a little older? Stay away from dog parks, pet
stores and other areas frequented by large numbers of dogs until after 4 months old. Do your
public socializing outside the grocery store, library, Home Depot, any place you can think
about that has lots of people, but few dogs. Invite people over to your house to play with the
puppy, they can bring their adult, healthy dogs with them for playtime. Socialization is important
but doesn't have to be dangerous.
Another option is choosing to only use vaccines that are actually needed in your area. Don’t
give a vaccine simply because it exists. Every vaccine given to your dog places stress on the
animal’s immune system and increases the risk of an unwanted autoimmune reaction. Parvo
virus is an example of a disease that is very common and widespread and effects mainly
puppies – therefore we may consider it to be a vaccine worth vaccinating puppies for. Also,
the Parvo vaccine rarely seems to cause vaccinosis. On the other hand, Distemper is another
vaccine that always seems to be recommended – yet if you actually look into things, Distemper
is essentially an unknown disease in many areas. I have talked to many vets that have never
seen an actual case of Distemper in their practice. If the disease is not an issue in your area,
then why vaccinate for it? Common side effects to this vaccine include temperament issues
(fearfulness), belly rash, chronic itchy skin, and cystitis. Some of these are temporary
problems, others have life-long effects.
Another personal guideline is no annual boosters! The practice of giving annual vaccinations is
a practice developed by the vaccine manufacturers, so that they will sell more vaccines.
Vaccines don't suddenly "expire" after a year, that's just when the manufacturer's stopped
testing the immunity. ONCE IMMUNITY TO A VIRUS EXISTS, IT PERSISTS FOR YEARS OR
LIFE. There is no need to keep rechecking titers and re-vaccinating every 3 years or whatever.
You cannot add more immunity to an already immune dog. It is not immunologically possible.
All you are doing is increasing the risk of chronic disease....there is no benefit.
The duration of immunity to infectious disease agents is controlled by memory cells, B & T
lymphocytes. Once programmed, memory cells persist for life. Even in the absence of an
antibody titer, memory cells are capable of mounting an adequate immune response in an
immunized patient. A negative titer does not accurately indicate lack of immunity, or the ability
of a vaccine to significantly enhance the immune status of a patient.
The USDA Center for Biologic and Therapeutic Agents asserts that there is no scientific data
to support label claims for annual re-administration of modified live vaccines, and label claims
must be backed by scientific data.
It is the consensus of immunologists that a modified live virus vaccine must replicate in order to
stimulate the immune system, and antibodies from a previous vaccination will block the
replication of the new vaccinate virus. The immune status of the dog is not enhanced in any
way. There is no benefit to the dog. You will be paying for something with insignificant or no
effect, except that your dog is being exposed to unnecessary risk of an adverse reaction.
According to Dr. Ronald D Schultz, head of pathobiology at Wisconsin University and arguably
the world expert on this subject, once immunity to a virus exists, it persists for years or life. I am
told that he vaccinated his own Golden Retrievers as puppies, and then didn't vaccinate them
again. He took yearly blood tests. His Goldens are reported to have died naturally at around 15
years of age, and showed good antibody levels from the first booster until they died. Moral of
the story: This and other research shows that annual shots are not necessary in every animal.
We should test titer levels and only vaccinate dogs as it becomes necessary.
Research by Dr. Ronald D Schultz, shows that a vaccine received at or after 12 weeks of age
provides immunity in over 95% of dogs. He also states that the less than 5% which did not
have immunity would never get immunity regardless of how many vaccinations they received.
Dr. Schultz is the author of this paragraph in Kirk's "Current Veterinary Therapy XI", the
conventional medicine textbook: "A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks
scientific validity or verification is annual revaccinations. Almost without exception there is no
immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for
the life of the animal. Successful vaccination to most bacterial pathogens produces an
immunologic memory that remains for years, allowing an animal to develop a protective
anamnestic (secondary) response when exposed to virulent organisms. Only the immune
response to toxins requires boosters (e.g. tetanus toxin booster, in humans, is recommended
once every 7-10 years), and no toxin vaccines are currently used for dogs and cats.
Furthermore, revaccination with most viral vaccines fails to stimulate an anamnestic
(secondary) response as a result of interference by existing antibody (similar to maternal
antibody interference). The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered
of questionable efficacy unless it is used as a mechanism to provide an annual physical
examination or is required by law (i.e., certain states require annual revaccination for rabies)."
Another interesting point on the vaccination issue is that your dog will in fact essentially be
"vaccinated" on a regular basis by being exposed to other dogs that have been vaccinated
recently. You see, for a several week period after vaccination with a modified live virus
vaccine, dogs will actually "shed" particles of the virus into their environment. When another
dog is exposed to the shed virus, it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies, just
the same as if it was exposed to the actual disease. Only this is much safer, since it is through
a more natural means of exposure (inhaled or ingested rather than injected) and with a much
smaller dosage. This vaccination through shed virus is known as the "herd immunity effect". So
as long as you keep taking your dog (over 16 weeks) out and about and expose it to other
dogs regularly (parks, training classes, dog shows) it will regularly receive low-level stimulation
of its immunity, which is safe and effective.
For additional information, I highly recommend checking out the following web pages:
Now for the recommended vaccine schedule....
At 8 weeks I have given the puppy the "dreadful" combination vaccine because thats what the
general public expects of me. Even though by all accounts it is 100% useless, a waste of
money and a shock to the puppies system. Until more people ( buyers and their vet's) are on
board with minimal vaccinations I have no choice but to provide that service to my buyers.
At 12 weeks, your puppy should get a vaccination of MLV Parvo only. You must ask specifically
for this vaccine, and then double check before it is given that it is indeed only Parvo in the shot.
Most vets only stock combo vaccinations, so if you just ask for a “parvo shot”, they will assume
you meant the combo! Since that is NOT what you want, be very sure to be insist the correct
vaccine is being used. Although more vets are starting to carry them, your vet might well have
to special-order this vaccine!
2 weeks after the Parvo vaccine, have the vet draw some blood and have it sent to Antech
Labs for a Parvo Titer test...this will show if the previously given Parvo vaccine has worked. If
the Parvo titer comes back at zero or very low, it means that the puppy still had maternal
antibodies at the time of vaccination, and the vaccine didn't take. In that case, you give another
Parvo only at 16-18 weeks. 95% of the time, the titer will come back moderate to high,
meaning the vaccine worked and the puppy established immunity to the disease. Do not
repeat this Parvo vaccine if you had a good immune response to the vaccine – you can not
make an immune animal more immune!
At 16 weeks or older (older if you had to give the parvo vaccine again), your puppy possibly
may get a vaccination of Distemper only. Only give this vaccine if Distemper is an issue in your
area – check with local vet clinics for the prevalence of this disease in your area. The
Distemper vaccine is well known for causing long-term side effects (vaccinosis). Common
side effects to this vaccine include temperament issues (fearfulness), belly rash, chronic itchy
skin, and cystitis. Some of these are temporary problems, others have life-long effects.
At 2 weeks after the Distemper (if given), you can optionally have the vet draw blood again,
and send off for a Distemper Titer. This titer is optional because by this age and for this
disease it would be exceptionally rare for a dog to not have formed a titer.
If you have ended up giving a Parvo at 16-18 weeks, you may opt to do another Parvo titer 2
weeks later (18-20 weeks) to make sure that one took, although it almost certainly will be
effective by that age. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and test it!
Rabies is given after the age of 6 months (8-12 months is much better), if required by law in
your province/state. Do not ever give the Rabies shot (or any vaccine for that matter) within a
30 day period before or after any surgery (such as spay/neuter) or within 30 days of any other
That is it for the vaccinations! If it makes you feel better, you can run titers at a year old, and
every 1-3 years after that, but it is not necessary, and doesn't really tell all that much, since titer
levels will rise and fall through the dogs lifetime in accordance to their frequency of exposure.
Remember, a low titer does not equal low immunity, as it is the memory cells that are the
important part, and we have no way to measure those. So you can pretty safely consider any
measurable titer to be proof of current immunity.
Any puppy I keep from my litters gets the 8 week shot and then does not go back to the vets
until at least 6 months for a Parvo booster. I then go back at 12 months for rabies and thats it.
We then test Titer levels every couple of years to make sure things are working properly.
So you as an owner will have to decide what is best for your dog, the above is information to
help you make an educated decision for your dog and your family. Do not be afraid to question
your veterinarian. You pay them good money to provide medical advice so use your money's
worth and ask lots of questions.
*Thanks to Tollwest for much of the above information*