Do We Need To Vaccinate Our Dogs Yearly?
A yearly dog vaccination and health examination have been the norm for dog parents for as long as most of us can remember.
However, as time evolves, research is conducted and products improve, we now realise that the need for a yearly C3 vaccination may not always be necessary.
There are, as usual, caveats to this recommendation.
The answer as to whether your dog needs a yearly vaccination isn’t quite so simple…it depends.
Some vaccine brands require yearly boosters, while others have a longer duration of action.
Whether you give your dog an annual vaccination or change to every three years depends on the manufacturer of the vaccine and the disease you are vaccinating against.
We also need to remember that vaccination recommendations always need to be tailored to the individual dog and the associated environment that it lives in.
In this article, we discuss dog vaccination protocols (including puppy vaccination schedules), why some dog vaccines require a yearly booster while others don’t, and when you may be able to spread out the vaccinations for your dog over a longer time period or use titre testing, plus what diseases vaccinations protect against.
Read on to find out more about what vaccinations dogs need.
Core Dog Vaccination Schedule
The core vaccines are those vaccines that all dogs must receive to protect against infectious diseases of global significance.
The three main diseases that these vaccines protect against are:
- canine distemper virus (CDV),
- canine adenovirus (CAV types 1 and 2),
- canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2).
Some countries will also include other diseases that must be included in the core vaccination schedule, eg. Rabies.
Years of extensive research has determined that the vaccines that protect against the core diseases Parvovirus, Canine Hepatitis and Canine Distemper can produce antibodies for a prolonged time period.
For that reason, many vets have moved from yearly vaccination to a three-year protocol.
Core vaccines in Australia for dogs protect against Canine Parvo Virus, Canine Distemper Virus and Canine Adenovirus.
The only vaccine brands that are suitable for vaccination every three years are Nobivac® C3 and Duramune® C4, C3.
Other vaccine brands such Canigen®, Canvac®, Protech® only offer yearly immunity.
It is quite possible that this will change in the future as more companies do the research required to extend the duration of activity claims.
It is also important to note that (aside from Rabies) killed vaccines do not provide long-lasting immunity.
For this reason, it is very important that you have a veterinarian vaccinate your pet with a live vaccine. (Vets are the only ones allowed to handle live vaccines).
Vaccines bought from an online store are always ‘killed’ vaccines. Likewise, those vaccinating who are non-vets, will be using a ‘killed’ vaccine.
In those countries where it is law to vaccinate your dog against Rabies, it has been established that vaccination can be extended triennially, however you do need to do what the law says.
Vets are currently lobbying some jurisdictions to extend Rabies vaccination from yearly to triennially.
Dog Vaccination Schedules Vary Depending On Brand
Protech C3, C4 = Yearly
Duramune C3,C4 = Triennial
Nobivac DHP Vaccination = Triennial
Take a look at our article on puppy vaccinations to learn more about their requirements.
Non-Core Diseases Vaccination Schedule
Non-core vaccines are those that protect against diseases that might be prevalent in a particular geographical area, or where there is an increased lifestyle risk.
When deciding whether to vaccinate with a non-core vaccine, you and your vet need to way up the potential risks of catching the disease versus the risk of having an adverse reaction to the vaccination versus being protected against the disease.
Examples of diseases in dogs that we use non-core vaccines include:
- Kennel Cough
- Lyme Disease
The immunity inferred against these diseases is often short-lived, therefore annual vaccination is required.
Dog Vaccination Protocol In Australia
For ADULT dogs in Australia the common vaccinations will be:
C3: parvovirus, hepatitis, adenovirus
C4: C3 plus parainfluenza
C5: C4 plus bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
C7: C5 plus leptospirosis and coronavirus
It is likely that your dog will still require a yearly vaccination due to timing of short acting vaccines.
Most practices will be using the 3 yearly vaccination now.
If they are, your schedule will most likely be as follows:
Year 1: c5
Year 2: KC only (possibly includes parainfluenza)
Year 3: KC only (possibly includes parainfluenza)
Year 4: C5
If your dog is immunocompromised by disease, has had a reaction to vaccinations in the past, is being treated with immunosuppressive drugs or has a history of immune-mediated disease (eg IMHA), your vet may recommend not to give a booster.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule
You can read more about puppy vaccinations here.
In the vaccine schedule inserts copied above, you will note that these companies recommend a vaccination schedule that finishes at 10 weeks of age.
Although these companies have undertaken rigorous research to get this claim, many veterinarians feel uneasy with this protocol.
Many cities have a major problem with Parvovirus and we need to remember it is one of those diseases that lasts a long time in the environment (up to 7 years or longer).
The presence of maternal antibodies can prevent vaccination from working effectively.
In areas where parvovirus risk is high, it is recommended to have the last vaccine booster at 16 weeks so that we can be more certain that maternal antibodies won’t interfere with the development of immunity.
To be absolutely sure that your pup is protected, titre test at 18 weeks of age.
Some dogs are what we call “non-responders”.
These dogs may never respond to a vaccination, or in the case of puppies, it might be that maternal antibodies were high and interfered with the development of antibodies.
It makes perfect sense to titres test puppies who live in high-risk areas 2 weeks after their 16 week final vaccination.
This will pick up any pups that have failed to develop an immune response to the vaccine.
These pups can then be revaccinated and cross fingers (titre test check) that they will respond.
Titre Testing Dogs
We need to remember that like humans, dogs are all different.
Vaccination guidelines are designed to suit the majority of a population, which of course can mean that some dogs will have adequate immunity to vaccination, while others won’t.
We can check the immunity status of our dogs against the core diseases by titre testing canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus (CPV), and canine adenovirus (CAV) antibody only.
A small amount of blood is tested and the presence of antibodies against the disease tested is noted. Remember this does NOT test for cell-mediated immunity.
In very simple terms:
If antibodies are present: the dog doesn’t need vaccinating.
If antibodies are absent: the dog may require vaccinating**.
Our article Titre Testing In Dogs explains this process in far more detail.
** A negative titre test may not mean your dog is unprotected. In a healthy dog that has been regularly vaccinated, it may mean that there is adequate B lymphocyte (cell-mediated immunity). However, there is absolutely no way to test for this at this point in time (2018). Therefore a booster vaccination is recommended.
Conclusion: Dog Vaccination and Annual Health Checks
Every year our dogs need to be examined by a veterinarian regardless of whether they require vaccination or not.
Your veterinarian will be checking them all over ensuring that they are healthy and well.
This includes examining their:
- mouth, teeth, eyes, ears and skin
- heart, lungs and abdomen
- rectal exam
- legs and musculoskeletal system
Your vet will also discuss your dog’s behaviour and nutrition.
Vets are trying to pick up on any little sign that things might not be quite right so that we can do the appropriate checks and ensure we keep your dog healthy.
During this exam, your vet will discuss parasite preventatives and advise on what core and non-core vaccinations are required.
If your vet is concerned that something is not normal they may recommend further diagnostics such as blood and urine testing.
Your dog’s yearly health exam is so important.
As they say, prevention is better than cure, and these exams allow vets to uncover health issues before they become big problems.
To help you have a great experience with your vet, we have developed this gift for you: a free downloadable checklist to help you prepare for your pet’s veterinary exam.
Be sure to share this article with your dog-owning friends. If you have a question you would like answered leave it below and we will get right back to you!
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