An important part of responsible dog ownership is providing your dogs with preventative veterinary care and immediate attention to injuries and illnesses.
People often ask me what I mean when I say my dogs are on a limited vaccination protocol or I mention other limited medications. Basically, I try to give my dogs the least amount of prophylactic chemicals that I feel will still do the job. This does not mean that I am not responsible in the care of my pets. I have put a lot of thought, research and consideration into these decisions.
NOTE: I am not a vet or a medical professional of any type. This is my personal opinion. I’m writing about it because people have expressed interest in my choices and why/how I made them. You should talk to your vet before changing the dosage or frequency of anything you give your dog.
Canine Distemper & Parvovirus
After his initial puppy shots, Snickers had a distemper/parvo vaccination at one year and hasn’t had one since then. I had him titered in February of this year and he showed sufficient levels of antibodies for distemper and parvo, which means he doesn’t need to be vaccinated. I adopted Secret two years ago and she had just been vaccinated. I had her titered last month and she has plenty of antibodies also. She’s eight years old now, so I actually hope to never give her a distemper or parvo vaccination again. (There is some controversy regarding the usefulness of titer results. My vets trust them and I trust my vets.)
Most vets use a combination vaccine. I prefer that my dogs receive the least number of diseases in the vaccine. The only diseases I’m OK with being included in my dogs’ Distemper and Parvovirus vaccination are Parainfluenza and Adenovirus.
I follow the LAW regarding Rabies vaccinations. Luckily, NY and IN are both 3 year states, so that’s how often my pups get their Rabies shots.
The virus that causes Bordetella, or "kennel cough," mutates just like our cold and flu viruses, so the vaccination is formulated based on previous strains. My dogs have good immune systems… they will be exposed naturally and will build their own immunity before they would be exposed via a vaccination anyway. This is basically the doggy version of the common cold, which is not going to kill them… the benefit of the vaccination does not outweigh the risk. (And, no, my daughter and I don’t get flu shots either.) Many boarding and daycare facilities "require" the Bordetella vaccination, but I’ve never had trouble finding one that would let me sign a waiver instead.
I do not have my dogs vaccinated for Corona virus, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease or Giardia. My vets (one in NYC, one in Noblesville, IN) are both fine with that.
Canine Vaccination Links
- WebVet article explaining vaccinations in general
- Dr. Jean Dodds’ recommended vaccination schedule
- American Animal Hospital Association article on dog vaccinations
- WellVet.com’s recommended vaccine protocol
- Blogging vet, Dr. Patty Khuly, discusses difficulties of measuring a pet’s immunological status (01/13/13 – link removed, site is gone)
My Shibas get heartworm preventative (brand and dosage as recommended by my veterinarian) every six weeks, during spring, summer and fall. Once the first frost comes, I discontinue until spring. The only time I make an exception for this is when Snickers and I are actively doing animal assisted activity visits. When we were visiting elementary school classrooms, my vet recommended we continue hw preventative year round because it also protects against roundworms and hookworms. (Apparently, most roundworm victims are children.)
I’ve read multiple articles about 45 day schedules being acceptable, but I can’t find any of them right now that don’t require subscriptions. Talk to your vet. My vet in NY said that the meds recommend 1x per month because (1) it is easier for people to remember and (2) a monthly schedule is still safe if you forget and do it late.
Flea & Tick Preventative
When we were living in Manhattan, I didn’t use topical flea & tick preventative regularly. If I was taking the dogs outside the city, I would treat them with Frontline Plus a day or two before leaving (unless it was winter time and therefore unnecessary). Now that I’m living outside the concrete jungle, I follow a six week schedule for flea & tick preventative. I treat them the Sunday after their heartworm preventative is given.
If you live in an area where fleas and ticks live year round, you should continue preventatives year round also.
UPDATE – January 13, 2013 – In the 4+ years since I wrote this post, the rate of heartworm infections has risen considerably and I’ve moved down south, so I’ve switched to a 4-week, year round, schedule for heartworm preventatives. I’m still only using flea & tick preventatives on a 6-week, warm months, schedule, but I don’t take my dogs anywhere that they are likely to get ticks.
Lyme disease is also on the rise. One of NYCSR’s trusted veterinarians recently informed us that the Lyme vaccine has become much more safe and he recommended that we start vaccinating our foster dogs. Even though Lyme disease isn’t as prevalent where I’m living now as in the northeast, I’m considering adding this vaccination to the schedule for my dogs.