Let me start off by saying, I believe vaccines do good work. My child is fully vaccinated, my dog is fully vaccinated, I am fully vaccinated. I believe your animals should be vaccinated.
Having said that, I disagree with vaccinating an animal that already has appropriate levels of immunity. What does that mean?
An appropriate immunity means the level of antibodies in the blood are at a level that is considered protective for that disease. Lets address each vaccine and the protocols I use....
*Distemper/Adeno/Parvo vaccine - this vaccine requires boosters at 3-4 week intervals, finishing AFTER 16 weeks of age to ensure appropriate immune response.
What does this mean for your new puppy? Well …of course it isn’t a straight forward answer, but I’ll give you my opinion. I do not recommend you take a puppy away from its mom before 9 weeks of age. Puppies receive immunity from their mom initially, so vaccines shouldn’t be required at 6 weeks. I recommend picking up your puppy at 9-10 weeks, and starting vaccines at that time. That would put you on a schedule looking like initial vaccine at 10 weeks, 13-14 weeks and 16-17 weeks. (I under stand rescue situations/found dogs/adoptions are a different situation, and schedule should be tailored to that specific situation)
This should provide adequate immunity for up to 1 year of age. Come back to booster 1 more time right at 1 year of age, and this vaccine immunity is proven to be good for 3+ years.
What do I recommend after 3 years has passed?
Again, there are options. If your pet is in a high risk area (frequently at the dog park, hunting, exposed to other dogs) I suggest re-vaccination.
If you are not wanting to vaccinate your dog, or if your pet is indoor only, never leaves your yard, just goes outside to potty, then I would recommend doing titer testing instead of the vaccine. Titer testing is more expensive than the vaccine, but it will let us know whether or not your dog needs a booster. If levels come back as having protective immunity, we do not vaccinate. If they come back below levels of protective immunity, we will proceed with the vaccine.
Please note: I can not guarantee boarding facilities will accept this protocol! This is the way I address the vaccine in an attempt to not administer vaccines that are not needed!
*Rabies Vaccine- in the state of TX it a legal requirement to be administered to any pet over the age of 12 weeks. Revaccination is required at 1 year of age. Depending on product used, this vaccine may be good for 1 or 3 years.
This vaccine has been proven to provide immunity of >3 years. There is no questioning that. Where we run into a controversy is whether or not your city/county will honor the 3 year vaccine. I have looked into this for the main cities I work in, here’s what I found.
Midlothian- will accept a 3 year rabies vaccine (I had to push a little, but they agreed their municipal code is dated and they will honor the 3 year.)
Waxahachie- seems like they will honor the 3 year vaccine, though I’m waiting on written clarification for this.
Corsicana- will accept a 3 year rabies vaccine.
Ennis- will accept a 3 year rabies vaccine
The state of TX will not accept vaccine titers and proof of rabies immunity, therefore re-vaccination is required at the 3 year mark.
Lepto: given yearly, immunity has not proven to last much beyond that. Prevalence is increasing significantly in TX. Booster 3-4 weeks after initial vaccine is required. At this time I recommend the vaccine for dogs at risk (outdoor, hunting, walks in the woods etc)
Rattlesnake: Recommended in hunting dogs and those exposed to rattlesnakes. Given 6 weeks prior to the exposure time. Immunity doesn’t seem to last beyond 3-4 months.
I’m beyond excited that most of my area is progressive enough to realize our pets don’t need vaccines yearly anymore. However, Midlothian specifically states that all pets must be seen by a veterinarian each YEAR for a physical exam. Waxahachie requires licensing of all pets, which requires current vaccines/exams.
Providing this information could create some controversy in the veterinary community and that is ok. No one is trying to take money from you, or harm your dog. To get this information I spent about a week calling/emailing the ‘authorities’ who should know answers to these questions and many of them did not know. Rabies vaccine has generally been viewed harmless (which in general I agree) so authorities in this state haven’t made it a priority to makes the laws crystal clear. As veterinarians, we don’t want to risk our licenses so we tend to think the easiest thing is giving a yearly vaccine and we have no question that we are within the regulation.
I am a firm believer in the physical exam, and wellness bloodwork to try to catch things in a time frame where we can do something about it. As a veterinary chiropractor, I may view things differently than your primary veterinarian, or even as I would have 5 years ago. This is a topic for a different blog, but the point is just because your pet doesn’t see a veterinarian yearly for vaccines doesn’t mean they don’t need to be seen yearly! (Or even monthly!)
Stay tuned for my next blog on ways your pet can be seen by me monthly (for an affordable price!!)
Tifani Torres, DVM