What Every Dog Owner Needs To Know About Dog Vaccination

There are many questions about dog vaccines. Does your dog need yearly vaccines? What are the real risks of vaccination? What is a safe, advised vaccine protocol for my dog? Are there alternate options to conventional dog vaccines? In this article I will give you an understanding of what vaccines are, including the reasons for vaccination. I will highlight the new canine vaccine recommendations, along with the risks associated with vaccines. You will see some of the vaccine alternatives, along with my suggested vaccine protocol. Whether you choose to vaccinate your dog or not can have serious health implications; I urge you to completely read the article, discuss it with your veterinarian, and make an informed decision.

Vaccinations work by stimulating the immune system. The positive effect is to protect against infectious disease. When vaccines are given, they incite the immune system to produce something called ‘humoral immunity’. Humoral immunity is essentially disease protection that is mediated or controlled by antibodies. If the body has had a previous encounter with a pathogen, the body makes ‘Opposite Invaders’ to circulate in body fluids. The ‘Opposite Invaders’ are called antibodies. These molecules attach to or otherwise disable invaders and prevent them from doing harm to the body.

The conventional approach in the past was to get annual ‘booster shots’, in the belief that vaccines only provided immunity for approximately one year, and that revaccination was required in order to boost or maintain a dog’s immunity. This was the advised protocol of veterinary associations for decades, and most veterinarians followed that protocol. Fortunately times have changed, and now recent American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines advise that all core vaccines are recommended every 3 years, with the 1 year Rabies being the exception. They have also stated that distemper virus, parovovirus, and adenovirus vaccine immunity lasts for at least 5 years; AAHA though still suggests that your dog is given the vaccine more frequently than the length of immunity. They advise giving 3 boosters prior to 16 weeks, vaccines at 1 year, then every 3 years thereafter. In many cases individual States or Provinces require rabies vaccine to be given prior to 16 weeks, boosted at 1 year, then every year thereafter.

Vaccines have a number of risks, and the AAHA report states that: “Vaccine adverse effects (AE’s) are underreported in veterinary medicine.” There are short term side effects which can last for up to 3 days, such as appetite loss, injection site pain, lethargy, unwillingness to walk/run, and fever. More serious sudden side effects include: vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of skin, seizuring, breathing difficulty and collapse. Then there are the immune related diseases, including immune mediated hemolytic anemia, immune mediated skin disease, vaccine induced skin cancer, skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, inflammatory bowel disease, thyroid disease, kidney disease, and neurological conditions, to name a few. The reasoning behind this is that when a vaccine is injected, the immune system becomes ‘over-taxed’ and responds inappropriately. It may turn and attack itself, as in the event of an autoimmune disease, or even attack the site of the injection. We see the evidence clearly in cats with the incidence of injection site sarcomas, or with dogs, the worsening of inhalant allergies after vaccination. The list of potential problems is exhaustive.

More dog owners are now making the decision on whether or not to re-vaccinate their dog by checking their dog’s immunity level with antibody titers. These titers have become more standardized, and when measured at a particular level, will give a good indication if your dog has enough antibodies to be protected against canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and rabies. Antibody titers are a great way to see if your dog is in need of revaccination following the puppy vaccine boosters.

The chief alternatives to vaccines are called homeopathic nosodes. A nosode is thought to carry a mirror image or reflection of the disease, or in other words the ‘molecular imprint’ of it. When the nosode is administered, it sensitizes the immune system and helps it prepare the body for the defense against that same disease, without actually being exposed to the full strength of the living disease. Nosodes are considered completely safe, with no side effects, but their effectiveness is questionable. Some dog owners report that they seem to offer some protection by reducing the severity of illness if your dog is exposed to these infectious viruses.

The vaccine regimen I suggest is based in my own research and experience in veterinary practice. Puppies only need a series of two vaccine boosters, one at 8 weeks then repeated at 12 weeks. I find the most critical time to prevent infectious disease is at this young age. In small puppies, I prefer to wait until 12 weeks. The traditional third booster in puppies is not necessary. If possible, delay giving the rabies vaccine until 6 months. Puppies should only be vaccinated for parvovirus (MLV – modified live vaccine) and Distemper (MLV). Only give bordetella (kennel cough) vaccines if going to a kennel or puppy class. Give rabies vaccine (KILLED) at 6 months.

I do not recommend vaccinations for corona virus, leptospirosis, lyme or giardia vaccines for dogs. The currently licensed leptospira bacterins do not contain the serovars (viruses) causing the majority of clinical leptospirosis today, so it is generally not a useful vaccine.

My current advice is to give booster vaccines at 1 year, then every 3 years until the age of 10. With the new research showing longer duration of immunity (5-7 years), you may not need to be re-vaccinating your dog for 5-7 years after the 1 year booster. Most of the infectious diseases are transmitted when dogs are young; the most important vaccines are the two boosters for puppies and the one year booster. Discuss this with your veterinarian prior to vaccinating your dog.

This issue of dog vaccination is fraught with controversy and an array of conflicting opinions. There are real benefits of vaccines, but also risks, from short term lethargy, to more serious disease such as autoimmune disorders. Fortunately organizations such as AAHA are now suggesting longer intervals between vaccines, but the number, and frequency of vaccines is still up for debate. Consider my suggested vaccine protocol, and learn as much as possible about vaccines and diseases in your area. Your veterinarian cannot make this decision for you, nor should they. It is your responsibility to make this decision for your dog. The best road to good health is feeding a diet rich in fresh foods, raw meats for the carnivores, fatty acid supplements, adequate exercise, lots of positive human interaction and avoiding disease.

Are You Over Vaccinating Your Dog? Update

I have been a Maltese breeder for 20 years. I am a breeder who believes it is vital for a client to be fully educated about vaccine concerns in order to make healthy and safe decisions concerning their new pet. My clients are aware of the dangers of yearly vaccines and have chosen veterinarians that have updated their protocol or who are willing to listen to their clients requests.

I would like to make you aware that 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 a medical decision.

Here are some facts I would like to share with you to help you understand our pets immune systems.

Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully at 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 (I.e: canine distemper, parvo, feline distemper). 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 hemolytic anemia. 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 & kittens 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 SUPRESS 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 months) will provide LIFETIME IMMUNITY

Blood antibody testing provides good evidence that the rabies vaccine persists seven years post vaccination. The French proved in the early 1990’s that the shot lasted at least five years. The three year shot is only guaranteed for three years because that’s how long the manufacturer chose to test it. TESTING IS EXPENSIVE. UNFORTUNATELY, most laws require vaccination every three years and some locales even require annual or bi annual vaccination.

Everyone also needs to be aware that our small breeds of dogs receive the same dosage of vaccine as the larger breeds. There is mercury and aluminum in the vaccine that is very harmful and cause reaction. In some of the vaccines you can also find formaldehyde, BHA-BHT in addition to the viral antigen. I only give my puppies 2 doses of MLV (Dhpp) vaccine starting 11-12 weeks of age. Waiting till that age and then another vaccine given at 16 weeks subjects the puppy to 2 vaccines and not 3. It is recommended that another MLV (Dhpp) vaccine be given 1 year after the last vaccine date and that it gives LIFE TIME OF IMMUNITY


My Maltese live in my home and have a secured fenced yard. Understand that I have a better chance of winning the lottery then I do of my dogs contracting rabies. I have a much greater chance of adverse reactions caused by the vaccine. Reactions immediately or up to 3 days after the shot are vomiting, facial swelling, fever or lethargy, circulatory shock, loss of consciousness and death. Reaction days, weeks or months after the shot can cause Fibro sarcoma (cancer) at the injection site, seizures and Epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, including organ disease, allergies and skin problems, chronic digestive problems, muscle weakness and skin diseases like Ischemic.

There is much to learn concerning the harm vaccines can cause. Just recently videos have been created to explain in more depth what every pet owner needs to know.

Needle and Pain Free Vaccinations

The development of a needle-free vaccination delivery system has been identified by the Grand Challenges in Global Health (GCGH) initiative as one of the major challenges facing global health care today.

Millions of needles and syringes are used each day in health care. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 12 billion injections are given each year. Only about 5% are used in the delivery of vaccines for immunization and prevention of infectious diseases. Even though vaccinations have saved lives over the years, there are some hurdles to overcome. One of these is the use of needles or “sharps” to deliver the vaccines.

According to Myron Levine of the Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine and member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) “three fundamental themes remain in common worldwide: first, high immunization coverage of target populations generally must be attained for maximal public health impact; second, most current vaccines are administered parenterally using a needle and syringe; third, there is a broad recognition of the need to find ways to administer vaccines without the use of ‘sharps’ (that is, needles and syringes).”

The disadvantages of needle delivery of vaccine include:

(1) Pain and irritation of vaccination site. A large fraction of our population is scared of needles, probably as consequence of a previous bad experience. The majority of patients at the delivery end of vaccination are very young children under the age of two and needle pricks in this patient population can cause a lot of pain and distress. Needles may also cause discomfort at the injection site long after the shot has been applied.

(2) Lack of compliance. The World Health Organization’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) has recommended six basic vaccines for infants in developing countries: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus toxoids (DPT), bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), and attenuated polio and measles. In developed countries such as the US, more vaccinations are required by health authorities. However, for the so-called “herd immunity” to work, a certain % of the population must comply with vaccination schedule.

(3) Safety. Vaccination with needles produces dangerous infectious waste that come with serious health threats to both patient and health care professionals. The reuse of unsterilized needles has facilitated the transmission of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

(4) Speed and efficiency. Recently, the threats of bioterrorism and pandemic flu have highlighted the need of fast, easy and safe vaccine delivery to the masses should the need arise. Definitely, vaccination using syringes and needles was not designed for these situations.

(5) Cost-efficiency and logistics. Doing away with syringes and needles can make vaccinations in less developed countries cheaper and more accessible. Syringes and needles need to be transported and stored for vaccination purposes. Injectible vaccines need to be refrigerated during transport.

Although needle-free delivery systems exist for many drugs, vaccines present a challenge because they usually consist of large molecules that cannot be easily delivered transdermally. Myron Levine summarized in a review article the different methods of administrating needle-free vaccines.

(1) Vaccines delivered through mucosal surfaces. Though theoretically possible, this form of delivery hasn’t caught on except perhaps with the use of the nasal spray.

(2) Oral vaccines. Specific vaccines can be given orally in the form of pills. Oral polio vaccine has already been around for awhile. Other vaccines can be delivered via this route including certain types of cholera vaccines and the new rotavirus vaccines. However, this delivery route presents some problems for very young infants who might not be able to swallow properly and whose digestive system may not be able to withstand the effects of the vaccines.

(3) Nasal vaccines. The nasal vaccine through the respiratory tract is a very popular alternative to the flu shot. The FluMist” nasal spray, made from live, attenuated, cold-adapted vaccine, has been approved by the FDA and is delivered using a single-use spraying device through the nostrils.

(4) Aerosol vaccine. This mode of administration through the respiratory tract has been tested for measles vaccine. This is an alternative to the nasal spray and can be used with liquid aerosol and dry power for mass immunization.

(5) Needle-free percutaneous jet injection. This device works by propelling liquid through a small skin pore under high pressure. The liquid is then transported to the dermis and underlying tissues and muscles. There are multiple dose injectors available, making this type of delivery fast and practical for mass immunizations. However, it has the disadvantage of a high incidence of local irritation at the vaccination site as well as the possibility of transmission of infectious diseases.

(6) Transcutaneous delivery. This is commonly known as the “vaccine patch” and is delivered via the skin. The adhesive patch is applied after a preliminary hydration, directly on the skin. The occlusive patch makes the skin permeable to the vaccine. The cutaneously applied antigens are then taken up by Langerhans cells found in the upper layer (epidermis) of the skin allowing the immune-processing cells to migrate to the lymph nodes.

In recent years, several biotech companies have invested millions of dollars in developing, testing and finalizing different forms of needle-free delivery systems for all kinds of drugs, not only vaccines. The most promising of the needle-free vaccination systems at this juncture is Trans Cutaneuous Immunization (TCI).

Several advantages of the TCI have been identified. including cost-effective, safe, fast distribution, easy storage (can be stockpiled!) and easy administration, with the potential for self-administration.

In 2007, American researchers tested the efficacy of TCI with Clostridium difficile toxoid A in mice, with positive results. The bacteria C. difficile is the leading cause of nosocomial diarrhea, e.g. infectious diarrhea transmitted in the hospital setting. Also in 2007, Johns Hopkins University researchers tested the protective efficacy of TCI with the heat-labile toxin (LT) of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). The results showed that the patch “induced anti-toxin immune responses that did not prevent but mitigated the illness.

Apollo Life Sciences has developed and patented a needle-free drug delivery and in May 2007 it released the results of preliminary studies on needle-free transdermal delivery of tetanus toxoid vaccine in mice. Apollo has developed the non-invasive transdermal carrier, TransD” which works by delivering “a protein-laden water layer across the skin and into the surrounding dermal and sub-dermal layers. It has potential to replace injections for biodrugs based on molecules such as interferon, growth hormones and anti-TNF (tumor necrosis factor).”

The TCI developed by the biotech firm Iomai, now owned by the Austrian company Intercell has recently made the headlines. Drug Delivery Report described how it works: “Administration is a two-step process. First, the skin is prepared by placing the device on the patient’s arm and pulling a tab. The tab draws a mildly abrasive substance across the skin, making a painless and nearly imperceptible dent and simultaneously leaving an ink mark to indicate where the patch should be applied. The patient then wears an adhesive patch [with the vaccine] for several hours.” The innovative design company Ideo helped designed the patch which required removal of an extremely thin layer of skin (about one-thousandth of an inch!).

Currently, Intercell’s vaccine patch against traveler’s diarrhea or the so-called Montezuma’s Revenge is showing promise. The disease is a major cause of diarrhea among travelers, with symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to vomiting and diarrhea. Dr. Herbert DuPont of the University of Texas is one of the researchers involved in testing the vaccine. He told Reuters: “I think it’s one of the most exciting new developments in travel medicine. People could buy this and put it on themselves whenever they take a trip. It is the most convenient form of immunization I have ever seen.”

The vaccine has been tested on visitors travelling to Guatemala and Mexico and showed 70% efficacy against traveler’s diarrhea. In another field study of 170 travelers as part of the vaccine patch Phase II trials, the vaccine patch reduced the risk of developing moderate to severe traveler’s diarrhea by 75%. Phase III clinical trials are in process. If approved, this will be the first vaccine to prevent traveler’s diarrhea. The study results were published in the Lancet and conclude that “the vaccine patch is safe and feasible, with benefits to the rate and severity of travellers’ diarrhea.”

A second promising Intercell vaccine patch is targeted against the pandemic flu. If successful, the patch will expand the limited vaccine supplies by allowing fewer or lower doses of vaccine. The program is funded by a United States Department of Health and Human Services contract.” The patch contains a vaccine made from the H5N1 influenza virus. Results of a Phase I/II trials showed that a small amount of the vaccine triggered a protective immune response in 73% of the study participants. Phase II trials are expected to begin in 2009.

Vaccination and immunization technology has changed a lot in recent years as it tries to meet the health challenges facing both developed and developing countries. The TCI or vaccine patch is a promising tool which will hopefully help solve some of the problems facing traditional vaccine delivery systems.