Vaccination for dogs - how many is sufficient?
All pets should be vaccinated, but only as often as needed. Each dog's circumstances will differ- here are some things to factor in.
By: Caroline Zambrano
How many vaccinations do I need?
The Australian Veterinary Association’s (AVA) current position on vaccination of dogs (and cats) is that adult dogs require less frequent vaccinations – a position the AVA took in 2011 based on the updated guidelines of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).
“Veterinarians should aim to vaccinate all animals, but only as often as needed,” says Dr David Neck, president of the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association (ASAVA). “Vaccines should not be given needlessly.”
According to current AVA recommendations, once puppies have received a full course of core vaccines, they may only require triennial vaccination for core diseases.
What are core vaccines?
All puppies must receive a series of core vaccines to protect against infectious and life threatening diseases that are a global threat. In Australia, these core vaccines protect against parvovirus, distemper and infectious canine hepatitis, says Dr Neck.
“One we have horrific encounters with is the parvo virus, with puppies especially. Getting puppies protected is essential,” he adds.
Non-core vaccines protect against Canine parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) and Leptospira interrogans. These vaccines are given depending on a dog's lifestyle or geographic area in which you live.
When puppies (and kittens) are born, they are protected by maternally derived antibodies (MDA) up to about eight to 12 weeks of age. Puppies receive their first core vaccines at around that time – when the MDA levels decline – to ensure your dog is fully protected.
This initial course of vaccination is followed by a booster vaccination at about 15 months of age to ensure ongoing immunity for your dog. This is the time the triennial vaccines come into play, depending on your dog’s health and other circumstances, says Dr Neck.
What is your dog’s vaccination schedule?
The AVA’s position statement on vaccinations grows in confidence as more evidence comes through (to support it), says Dr Neck.
“Vets out there in the firing line are not going to change their practice policy overnight. They are good at assessing the information they have at hand and will decide what works best for their patients,” he says. “It’s important to understand that these guidelines do not fit all dogs.”
A number of factors impact a vet’s decision to vaccinate more frequently, such as the dog’s age and lifestyle, the owner’s lifestyle as well as the population density. Do you live in a rural area? Do you leave your dog at doggy daycare? Do you travel with your dog or put your dog into boarding?
Your dog may require an annual booster kennel cough vaccination, as it is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads easily when in close contact with infected dogs in places, like kennels, veterinary hospitals and other places of boarding. In some parts of Australia, additional vaccines for local disease are also necessary to protect canines.
“There are also some disease hot spots in some geographical locations, such as with parvo virus at epidemic rates along the eastern coast of Australia (according to Disease Watchdog),” says Dr Neck. “Vets in certain areas will see more of these diseases and may recommend frequent vaccination to be as proactive as you can about your pet’s health care.”
Advice for dog owners
Pet owners are becoming more educated on the topic, doing more research and asking more questions. “It’s evolution, not a revolution,” says Dr Neck.
If you are unsure about which vaccinations your dog requires and how often, take a list of questions with you to your vet. “Very few vets would not welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues,” says Dr Neck.
Ask your vet for recommendations of websites and other reading material to help you make informed decisions about your dog’s health and wellbeing.
Remember also that vaccination comes with a complete physical exam and any other health issues will be picked up in that time.
“One of the major concerns for vets has been if owners take their dog to the vet every three years for vaccinations, how many health problems will go unchecked in that time?” says Dr Neck. “We advocate health check annually, which is critical for your dog’s future.”
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