Dog Vaccinations

Dog Vaccinations

Disclaimer: This article on dog vaccinations is for informational purposes only. The author is not a veterinarian. Read the books and studies to discuss your findings with your veterinarian before considering anything outlined in this article. The author is not responsible for any harm to any animal or person following any parts of the following statements.


A topic that has bothered me for a while is the over-vaccination of our dogs. Our veterinarians have convinced us that annual booster shots for our dogs are necessary. And we should do it “just to be safe.” This has never really made sense to me. There are laws requiring regular rabies shots, but that doesn’t mean all vaccinations are necessary or even harmless—except for the bank account of our vet. Most vets are ethical, animal-loving people. But there is a financial incentive to vaccinate more than less. About 50% of the revenue of a veterinary office stems from dog vaccinations and cat vaccinations.

The History of Booster Shots

The practice of annual dog vaccinations resulted from the veterinarian’s attempts to get people to come in for annual checkups with their pets. That is generally a good idea. However, too many people skipped those checkups. So vets started the booster recommendations to get people to bring their pets in at least once a year. However, the last time I saw a dog vaccination booster shot administered, it was performed by a vet tech. The vet didn’t even make an appearance—so much for that.

In people, vaccinations like tetanus usually last for ten years, and hepatitis or smallpox vaccines are considered to last a lifetime. The principles behind vaccinations for people and animals are identical. Studies at the University of Wisconsin’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital show that vaccines for parvovirus, distemper, and hepatitis last at least seven years. This makes you wonder how much sense these annual dog vaccination boosters make.

Vaccines are Necessary but not Harmless

Vaccines are necessary. But vaccines also carry risks. This was outlined in the study Vaccine Adverse Events (PDF) by Aguirre et al., published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, October 2007, Volume 231, Pages 79-88. This applies to human and dog vaccinations alike.

Your dog should be vaccinated with the core vaccines against Rabies, Distemper, and Parvo. But not more often than necessary. Once the body shows an immune response to a virus—as it has developed enough antibodies—you’re done. No further vaccines are necessary or beneficial at that point. This state is referred to as immunocompetence.

The only time you need a booster shot is once the body no longer has enough antibodies to mount an effective immune response. The so-called humoral immunity has worn off. Of course, there is also mucosal and cellular immunity, but we can’t test for those. Humoral immunity can be tested through antibody tests—aka titer tests. I prefer to perform titer tests on my dog before I let a veterinarian administer additional dog vaccinations.

The Problem

We face alarmingly high cancer rates in cats and even more so in dogs. Cancer is their number one cause of death. Many veterinarians realize that poor nutrition and over-vaccination are the main contributors to this sorry state. However, too many vets still send annual dog vaccination postcards, and laws are slow to change. Luckily, veterinary universities caught on and are now teaching more restraint.

If you’re like me and want to make sure your dogs are protected but not harmed, you might find the following approach appealing:

  • I am only vaccinating my pets against incurable and/or fatal diseases. Should it ever occur, anything that can be easily treated doesn’t deserve a shot. For example, Bordetella or Coronavirus (the dog one, not COV-SARS-2).
  • No more booster shots. Instead, I run annual titer tests to check if my pets still have humoral (antibody) immunity against deadly diseases.
  • Once I see the humoral immunity is too far reduced, I will reevaluate. There still is mucosal and cellular immunity, but they are not easily testable.

Here is my personal list of dog vaccinations:

  • Rabies
  • Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper

The special one on the list is Rabies. This vaccine is legally mandated in many places and required for obtaining a license for your dog. I recommend you get the three-year version of the vaccine. As a result, you reduce the number of shots over your dog’s lifetime until someone changes the law. It makes sense to check with your local animal services office if a titer test for rabies antibodies will be acceptable to them. It shows that the original vaccine is still doing its job, and a booster isn’t necessary. It’ll be better for my dogs if I can avoid even one unnecessary vaccine shot.

If you are as concerned about over-vaccination as me, let your veterinarian know and discuss options. The more you educate yourself beforehand, the more productive your discussion will be.

Additional Resources

If you want to research yourself—which I strongly recommend—I suggest you start by reading “Stop the Shots!: Are Vaccinations Killing Our Pets?” by John Clifton. It provides a good starting point and contains many additional resources on this topic. I did learn a lot from this book. I read it in about 1 hour and gained many new insights.

Another great veterinary resource is Dr. Jean Dodds. She is one of the most well-known holistic veterinarians in the country. Many breeders have adopted her Puppy Dog Vaccination Protocol. She advocates a schedule of vaccinations and subsequent titer tests that, in my view, is ideal. I have recommended her protocol to many of my clients. She is also a co-trustee of the Rabies Challenge Fund. The fund is trying to change the Rabies vaccination laws to adjust to biology. Rabies vaccines last way longer than three years. A 5-7 year duration has been conclusively proven.

Disclaimer: This article on dog vaccinations is for informational purposes only. The author is not a veterinarian. Read the books and studies to discuss your findings with your veterinarian before considering anything outlined in this article. The author is not responsible for any harm to any animal or person following any parts of the following statements.

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