Show Wins
Junior 4-H
Therapy Dogs
Fun Pics


The Straight Shot On Vaccines

Canine Vaccinations

Vaccinations are a controversial subject in veterinary science and for responsible breeders.  There seems to be no best answer or practice.  Vaccinating practices vary and involve the following factors:

1.      Your puppy's environment

2.      Your puppy's breed

3.      Your puppy's age when he received his first shot

4.      The interval between vaccines

5.      The kinds and types of vaccines best for your area of the country


The first point to consider is safety.  Vaccines can be harmful and vaccinations should be given only when the advantages outweigh the risks.  

Talk to your veterinarian about the vaccinations required for your area and the recommended vaccination schedule for your breed of dog.  The cost of preventive vaccines is usually much less than the cost of treating a preventable disease and less heartache is involved on your part.  Viral diseases can be transmitted through dog-to-dog contact of discharges from eyes or nose, feces or urine, or by contact with surfaces that an infected animal has visited (such as parks, playgrounds, kennels, dog shows, pet shops, animal shelters, etc.).  Some viruses can survive in the environment for years and some others are airborne.  

We follow Dr. Jean Dodds' vaccination protocol which consists only of Distemper/Parvo and Rabies vaccine (as required by state laws). 

The following is a brief description of these two vaccines:

DHPP (also known as DA2PP or DHPPv): This vaccine includes canine distemper (upper respiratory virus that can affect the central nervous system), adenovirus-2 (also known as hepatitis), parainfluenza, parvovirus (a severe gastrointestinal virus that is highly fatal to dogs and puppies if not treated early). This vaccine is administered 3-4 weeks apart with the last vaccine given after the puppy turns 16 weeks of age.  After the initial puppy series is completed, this becomes a three year vaccine.

Rabies: Rabies is a virus that attacks the neurological system. The vaccine requirements vary by state as to how often a booster is needed.

The following is a description of other optional vaccines (that we do not give):

Bordatella: (also known as kennel cough): This is an upper respiratory virus that causes a severe croup-like cough that can turn into pneumonia.  It is airborne and highly contagious. The vaccine is administered to dogs and puppies who will attend obedience classes or who are boarded at a kennel.  This is a 1 year vaccine. 

Lyme Vaccine: This vaccine prevents tick-borne Lyme's disease. The vaccine is not normally given unless the dog is high risk for tick infestation such as if camping or hunting frequently, travel to a different part of the country or has had a tick infestation before.  This is a 1 year vaccine.  Due to conversary as to whether this vaccine really works, we do not recommend giving it unless you live in a high-risk area.

Giardia: Giardia is an intestinal spirochete that causes severe diarrhea. This vaccine is more situational than routine and is administered annually. 

The following is a description for vaccines that seem to cause problems in Cavaliers and, therefore, we URGE not to give:

Leptospirosis: Lepto is a bacterial infection caused by a family of organisms known as Leptospira interrogans. Until recently, vaccines were available for only two strains (Leptospirosis canicola and L. icterhaemorrhagiae), but vaccines for two additional types (L. grippotyphosa and L. pomona) are now on the market.  Controversy arises because some dogs are allergic to the carrier in the lepto vaccine; as a result, some veterinarians no longer use the inoculant in areas where the disease is not a problem.

CV or C: Coronavirus. The American Animal Hospital Association released the 2003 Vaccination Guidelines for dogs. Corona virus vaccine was not recommended. Texas A & M Veterinary School has not recommended Corona vaccine for over 15 years. Corona virus causes a self-limiting diarrhea only in dogs less than 8 weeks of age.  It is a very rare disease.  At Texas A & M they have only seen one case in over 10 years. Scientists have never been able to demonstrate that corona virus causes disease in adult dogs.  Adult dogs are immune to corona virus whether they are vaccinated or not.  Vaccination of adult dogs provides no benefit.


All 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats.

Some of this information will present an ethical & economic challenge to vets, and there will be skeptics. Some organizations have come up with a political compromise suggesting vaccinations every 3 years to appease those who fear loss of income vs. those concerned about potential side effects. Politics, traditions, or the doctor's economic well-being should not be a factor in medical decision.

NEW PRINCIPLES OF IMMUNOLOGY: Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully around 6 months.  If a modified live virus vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it produces immunity, which is good for the life of the pet (ie: distemper, parvo, etc.).  If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect.  The titer is not "boosted" nor are more memory cells induced.  Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia.  There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines.

Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk.  This natural protection can last 8-14 weeks.  Puppies should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks.  Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, delay the timing of the first highly effective vaccine.  Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart suppress rather than stimulate the immune system.  A series of vaccinations is given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age.  Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at 1 year 4 mo) should provide lifetime immunity.


We follow Dr. Jean Dodds' Vaccination protocol listed below:


 W. Jean Dodds, DVM
938 Stanford Street
Santa Monica, CA 90403
310-828-4804; Fax 310-828-8251
e-mail: homopet@hotmail.com  


Age of Pups

Vaccine Type


9 - 10 weeks


14 weeks


16 -18 weeks (optional)


20 weeks or older, if allowable by law


1 year


1 year




Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
(e.g. Intervet Progard Puppy DPV)

Same as above


Same as above (optional)




Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV


Rabies, killed 3-year product (give 3-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster)

* Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus every three years thereafter, or more often, if desired.  Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian.  In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request.


This thought-provoking article by Dr. Jean Dodds provides valuable information regarding making informed decisions:



W. Jean Dodds, DVM

938 Stanford Street

Santa Monica, CA 90403

(310) 828-4804; FAX (310) 828-8251


The challenge to produce effective and safe vaccines for the prevalent infectious diseases of humans and animals has become increasingly difficult. In veterinary medicine, evidence implicating vaccines in triggering immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis) is compelling.  While some of these problems have been traced to contaminated or poorly attenuated batches of vaccine that revert to virulence, others apparently reflect the hosts genetic predisposition to react adversely upon receiving the single (monovalent) or multiple antigen “combo” (polyvalent) products given routinely to animals. Animals of certain susceptible breeds or families appear to be at increased risk for severe and lingering adverse reactions to vaccines.   

The onset of adverse reactions to conventional vaccinations (or other inciting drugs, chemicals, or infectious agents) can be an immediate hypersensitivity or anaphylactic reaction, or can occur acutely (24-48 hours afterwards), or later on (10-45 days) in a delayed type immune response often caused by immune-complex formation. Typical signs of adverse immune reactions include fever, stiffness, sore joints and abdominal tenderness, susceptibility to infections, central and peripheral nervous system disorders or inflammation, collapse with autoagglutinated red blood cells and jaundice, or generalized pinpoint hemorrhages or bruises.  Liver enzymes may be markedly elevated, and liver or kidney failure may accompany bone marrow suppression.  Furthermore, recent vaccination of genetically susceptible breeds has been associated with transient seizures in puppies and adult dogs, as well as a variety of autoimmune diseases including those affecting the blood, endocrine organs, joints, skin and mucosa, central nervous system, eyes, muscles, liver, kidneys, and bowel.   It is postulated that an underlying genetic predisposition to these conditions places other littermates and close relatives at increased risk. Vaccination of pet and research dogs with polyvalent vaccines containing rabies virus or rabies vaccine alone was recently shown to induce production of antithyroglobulin autoantibodies, a provocative and important finding with implications for the subsequent development of hypothyroidism (Scott-Moncrieff et al, 2002).   

Vaccination also can overwhelm the immunocompromised or even healthy host that is repeatedly challenged with other environmental stimuli and is genetically predisposed to react adversely upon viral exposure. The recently weaned young puppy or kitten entering a new environment is at greater risk here, as its relatively immature immune system can be temporarily or more permanently harmed. Consequences in later life may be the increased susceptibility to chronic debilitating diseases. 

As combination vaccines contain antigens other than those of the clinically important infectious disease agents, some may be unnecessary; and their use may increase the risk of adverse reactions. With the exception of a recently introduced  mutivalent Leptospira spp. vaccine, the other leptospirosis vaccines afford little protection against the clinically important fields strains of leptospirosis, and the antibodies they elicit typically last only a few months. Other vaccines, such as for Lyme disease, may not be needed, because the disease is limited to certain geographical areas. Annual revaccination for rabies is required by some states even though there are USDA licensed rabies vaccine with a 3-year duration. Thus, the overall risk-benefit ratio of using certain vaccines or multiple antigen vaccines given simultaneously and repeatedly should be reexamined. It must be recognized, however, that we have the luxury of asking such questions today only because the risk of disease has been effectively reduced by the widespread use of vaccination programs. 

Given this troublesome situation, what are the experts saying about these issues? In 1995, a landmark review commentary focused the attention of the veterinary profession on the advisability of current vaccine practices. Are we overvaccinating companion animals, and if so, what is the appropriate periodicity of  booster  vaccines ?  Discussion of this provocative topic has generally lead to other questions about the duration of immunity conferred by the currently licensed vaccine components.   

In response to questions posed in the first part of this article, veterinary vaccinologists have recommended new protocols for dogs and cats. These include: 1) giving the puppy or kitten vaccine series followed by a booster at one year of age; 2) administering further boosters in a combination vaccine every three years or as split components alternating every other year until; 3) the pet reaches geriatric age, at which time booster vaccination is likely to be unnecessary and may be unadvisable for those with aging or immunologic disorders.  In the intervening years between booster vaccinations, and in the case of geriatric pets, circulating humoral immunity can be evaluated by measuring serum vaccine antibody titers as an indication of the presence of immune memory. Titers do not distinguish between immunity generated by vaccination and/or exposure to the disease, although the magnitude of immunity produced just by vaccination is usually lower (see Tables).  

Except where vaccination is required by law, all animals, but especially those dogs or close relatives that previously experienced an adverse reaction to vaccination can have serum antibody titers measured annually instead of revaccination. If adequate titers are found, the animal should not need revaccination until some future date.  Rechecking antibody titers can be performed annually, thereafter, or can be offered as an alternative to pet owners who prefer not to follow the conventional practice of annual boosters. Reliable serologic vaccine titering is available from several university and commercial laboratories and the cost is reasonable (Twark and Dodds, 2000; Lappin et al, 2002; Paul et al, 2003; Moore and Glickman, 2004). 

Relatively little has been published about the duration of immunity following vaccination, although new data are beginning to appear for both dogs and cats.     

Our recent study (Twark and Dodds, 2000), evaluated 1441 dogs for CPV antibody titer and 1379 dogs for CDV antibody titer. Of these, 95.1 % were judged to have adequate CPV titers, and nearly all (97.6 %) had adequate CDV titers. Vaccine histories were available for 444 dogs (CPV) and 433 dogs (CDV). Only 43 dogs had been vaccinated within the previous year, with the majority of dogs (268 or 60%) having received a booster vaccination 1-2 years beforehand. On the basis of our data, we concluded that annual revaccination is unnecessary. Similar findings and conclusions have been published recently for dogs in New Zealand (Kyle et al, 2002), and cats (Scott and Geissinger, 1999; Lappin et al, 2002).  Comprehensive studies of the duration of serologic response to five viral vaccine antigens in dogs and three viral vaccine antigens in cats were recently published  by researchers at Pfizer Animal Health ( Mouzin et al, 2004).     

When an adequate immune memory has already been established, there is little reason to introduce unnecessary antigen, adjuvant, and preservatives by administering booster vaccines.  By titering annually, one can assess whether a given animal’s humoral immune response has fallen below levels of adequate immune memory. In that event, an appropriate vaccine booster can be administered.


Dodds WJ. More bumps on the vaccine road.  Adv Vet Med  41:715-732, 1999.

Dodds WJ.  Vaccination protocols for dogs predisposed to vaccine reactions. J Am An Hosp Assoc 38: 1-4, 2001.

Hogenesch H, Azcona-Olivera J, Scott-Moncreiff C, et al.  Vaccine-induced autoimmunity in the dog. Adv Vet Med  41: 733-744, 1999.

Hustead  DR, Carpenter T, Sawyer DC, et al. Vaccination issues of concern to practitioners. J Am Vet Med Assoc  214: 1000-1002, 1999.

Kyle AHM, Squires RA, Davies PR. Serologic status and response to vaccination against canine distemper (CDV) and canine parvovirus (CPV) of dogs vaccinated at different intervals. J Sm An Pract, June 2002.

Lappin  MR, Andrews J, Simpson D, et al. Use of serologic tests to predict resistance to feline herpesvirus 1, feline calicivirus, and feline parvovirus infection in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 220: 38-42, 2002.

McGaw DL, Thompson M, Tate, D, et al. Serum distemper virus and parvovirus antibody titers among dogs brought to a veterinary hospital for revaccination. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213: 72-75, 1998.

Moore  GE, Glickman LT. A perspective on vaccine guidelines and titer tests for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 224: 200-203. 2004.

Mouzin DE, Lorenzen M J, Haworth, et al. Duration of serologic response to five viral antigens in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 224: 55-60, 2004.

Mouzin DE, Lorenzen M J, Haworth, et al. Duration of serologic response to three viral antigens in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 224: 61-66, 2004.

Paul MA.  Credibility in the face of controversy.  Am An Hosp Assoc Trends Magazine XIV(2):19-21, 1998.

Paul MA (chair) et al. Report of the AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force: 2003 canine vaccine guidelines, recommendations, and supporting literature. AAHA, April 2003, 28 pp.

 Schultz RD.  Current and future canine and feline vaccination programs.  Vet Med 93:233-254, 1998.

Schultz RD, Ford RB, Olsen J, Scott F.  Titer testing and vaccination: a new look at traditional practices. Vet Med, 97: 1-13, 2002 (insert).

Scott FW, Geissinger CM. Long-term immunity in cats vaccinated with an inactivated trivalent vaccine. Am J Vet Res 60: 652-658, 1999.

Scott-Moncrieff JC, Azcona-Olivera J, Glickman NW, et al.  Evaluation of antithyroglobulin antibodies after routine vaccination in pet and research dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 221: 515-521, 2002.

Smith CA.  Are we vaccinating too much?  J Am Vet Med Assoc  207:421-425, 1995.

Tizard  I, Ni Y.  Use of serologic testing to assess immune status of companion animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213: 54-60, 1998.

Twark L, Dodds WJ. Clinical application of serum parvovirus and distemper virus antibody titers for determining revaccination strategies in healthy dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 217:1021-1024, 2000.

Table 1. “Core” Vaccines *

                         Dog                                        Cat

                            Distemper                               Feline Parvovirus

                            Adenovirus                              Herpesvirus

                            Parvovirus                               Calicivirus

                            Rabies                                      Rabies


                                    * Vaccines that every dog and cat should have



 Table 2.  Adverse Reaction Risks for Vaccines  *


       “There is less risk associated with taking a blood sample for a titer test than giving an unnecessary vaccination.”


                        * Veterinary Medicine, February, 2002.



Table 3. Titer Testing and Vaccination *


“While difficult to prove, risks associated with overvaccination are  an increasing concern among veterinarians. These experts say  antibody titer testing may prove to be a valuable tool in  determining  your patients’ vaccination needs.”



                    * Veterinary Medicine, February, 2002.




Table 4. Vaccine Titer Testing  *


“Research shows that once an animal’s titer stabilizes, it is likely to  remain constant for many years.”


                        * Veterinary Medicine, February, 2002.     


W. Jean Dodds, DVM, is an internationally recognized authority on thyroid issues in dogs and blood diseases in animals.  In the mid-1980's she founded Hemopet,the first nonprofit blood bank for animals. Dr. Dodds is a grantee of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and author of over 150 research publications.  Through Hemopet she provides canine blood components and blood-bank supplies throughout North America, consults in clinical pathology, and lectures worldwide.  





Back to Top & Navigation Links