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Are Booster Vaccines Necessary for Dogs?

Tampa Bay Animal Hospitals | Tampa, FL

Primary vaccination is essential in order to prevent the once common deadly puppy diseases. However, recent research indicates that not all vaccines require yearly boosters.

There is no evidence that annual booster vaccination is anything but beneficial to the majority of dogs. Published research has shown conclusively that abstaining from some boosters can put your dog at risk. To establish whether boosters are necessary for your dog, blood tests to measure the amount of antibodies (antibody titers) are sometimes recommended. Unfortunately, these tests are often more expensive than revaccination and may be stressful to your dog.

“High serum antibody may not ensure disease protection if your dog becomes exposed to a virulent strain of disease.”

In addition, a high serum antibody may not ensure disease protection if your dog becomes exposed to a virulent strain of disease.

Government regulatory bodies have strict guidelines for vaccines, and manufacturers must prove that a vaccine is safe and effective before it can be used in your dog. Through vigilance and high standards, the veterinary vaccines used today are the safest and most protective ever.

I would prefer my dog to have boosters only when necessary. Is this okay?

It is possible, but in order to determine when boosters might be necessary, the level of immunity against any of the preventable diseases has to be established by individual blood tests for antibody titers. If a specific antibody titer is found to be low, your dog will require a booster vaccine. Currently, inoculation against a single disease may not be available, and it is likely to cost as much as a multivalent vaccine that vaccinates for multiple diseases. From your dog’s point of view, it is preferable to receive one injection against many common diseases rather than a series of single disease vaccinations.

“For patients that have low-risk lifestyles or whose owners want less frequent vaccination, your veterinarian may recommend giving certain core or essential viral vaccines to your dog on a three year schedule.”

For patients that have low-risk lifestyles or whose owners want less frequent vaccination, your veterinarian may recommend giving certain core or essential viral vaccines to your dog on a three year schedule.

It is important to note that that administering a vaccine that is labeled for annual administration at a different interval, such as every three years, is an off-label use for some vaccines and may violate government regulations. You should discuss the pros and cons with your veterinarian before making a decision. Recent studies have demonstrated that some viral vaccines may convey at least three years’ immunity. This is not the case with bacterial vaccines, which usually still require annual boosters.

Ultimately, how frequently your dog should be vaccinated is determined by your dog’s lifestyle and relative risk. Ask your veterinarian about the type and schedule of vaccines that is appropriate for your dog.

Are there any other advantages of annual vaccination?

Not all vaccines provide protection for a year.

“You and your veterinarian should decide which vaccinations your dog should receive based on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and health status.”

You and your veterinarian should decide which vaccinations your dog should receive based on your dog’s lifestyle, age, and health status. If you routinely board your dog, or if he is exposed to other dogs on a regular basis, some vaccines, especially those for infectious bacterial diseases such as kennel cough, may be necessary annually.

Prior to vaccine administration, your veterinarian will perform a health or wellness examination. You will be asked specific questions about your dog’s health status, and your veterinarian will check your dog’s head, neck, chest and abdomen, muscles, skin, joints and lymph nodes. Annual vaccines mean annual examination by a veterinarian; veterinarians frequently detect infections of the teeth or ears, and sub-clinical diseases (diseases that are not presenting definite or observable symptoms) such as underlying heart conditions, metabolic problems or organ dysfunction during these visits. Early diagnosis allows more effective and successful treatment and may improve the quality of your dog’s life.

“If you want to ensure that your dog receives the highest standard of care and protection, he or she should be seen by your veterinarian for a wellness examination on at least an annual basis.”

Since dogs age at a more rapid rate than humans do, it is important to ensure that they receive a complete physical examination on at least an annual basis, and more frequently as they approach their senior years. Regardless of the vaccine schedule that is deemed to be appropriate for your dog, if you want to ensure that your dog receives the highest standard of care and protection, he or she should be seen by your veterinarian for a wellness examination on at least an annual basis.

Rania Gollakner, BS DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2018 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.
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