Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots

Written by Jan on April 22, 2009 – 9:11 am

Syringes with blood dropWhen vaccinating our dogs, most of us rely on our vets, trusting that their advice is up-to-date and not biased by economic or political concerns.  Unfortunately,  unless vets stay current on veterinary journal reading (no easy task) … and actually assimilate new findings … and decide to forgo significant vaccination income, their advice may lag well behind many years behind what experts now advocate.

Vaccination is a serious medical procedure with the potential for adversely affecting health, both in the short and long term. Experts now advise us to vaccinate each dog according to his or her individual needs.  But  how do you cut back without endangering your dog’s health?  Here are 10 ways to eliminate unnecessary shots while actually improving pet health.

1. Always consider locale, lifestyle, risk and vaccine effectiveness. Bordetella (kennel cough) is for dogs in poorly-ventilated close quarters (like kennels), not for pets sometimes playing with others. Leptospirosis is a disease of wetlands and woodlands, and the vaccine may not protect against the actual disease in your area. Lyme is only for dogs in areas with Lyme disease. Furthermore, each of these vaccines has dangerous side effects and their efficacy is questionable. Don’t give them without proven need and benefit.

2. Eliminate vaccines on the “not recommended” list of the American Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccine Task Force as well as most veterinary organizations and schools. These include Giardia and Coronavirus (found in many combination shots).

3. Say no! to combination shots. Combo shots (called names like DHLPPC) assault your dog’s immune system with five or seven vaccines at once. Given for (false) economy and convenience rather than health or safety, combination shots are linked to autoimmune disease and other major health problems. Also, they invariably contain unnecessary and even dangerous vaccines.

4. Stop vaccinating against diseases for which your dog may already have immunity. Blood serological studies show that parvovirus vaccines given to dogs over 15-16 weeks of age generally give at least 7 years of immunity, as does the Rockborn distemper strain. (The Onderstepoort strain gives 5 years.) Ask your vet which vaccine your dog received.

5. Don’t allow your vet, kennel owner or groomer to intimidate you into giving unnecessary shots. Suggest titer testing for parvovirus or distemper — or go elsewhere.  Require written proof from experts that your dog needs any shot. Your dog’s lifelong health  is at stake.

6. Test immunity; don’t automatically re-vaccinate. Titer tests (pronounced TIGHT er) are blood tests measuring antibodies to disease. Renowned pet vaccination expert Dr. Ron Schultz believes that titer tests yielding strong titers for parvovirus and distemper means not vaccinating against these diseases for years and maybe life. (Note: Don’t expect everyone to accept test results in lieu of vaccination. This subject is complicated, and most people are programmed to think of vaccination as “the gold standard.” Also, the absence of strong titers does not necessarily mean that a dog needs a “booster.”) Read my article on titer testing here at for details.

7. Never vaccinate sick dogs.  All vaccine labels state that they’re to be used in healthy animals.  Unfortunately, vaccine labels  don’t define “healthy” and most clients don’t know about this admonition.  As a result, sick pets, immune-compromised pets, pets undergoing chemo and surgery, and even dying housebound pets are vaccinated.  Any shots given to an unhealthy animal may well not provide immunity and will likely cause an adverse reaction, even death. Regarding the rabies vaccine: chronically ill or immune-compromised pets may be eligible for a rabies shot exemption for a specified period or even life.  Click the preceding link for more information. And watch for our upcoming post on this subject.

8. Don’t vaccinate puppies too early. Vaccinating pups who still have maternal immunity is unnecessary and ineffective. Most vets suggest waiting until at least 8 weeks of age.  Some experts suggest waiting until 3-4 months to vaccinate puppies, keeping pups away from public places and strange dogs until immunity is proven by strong titers.

9. Insist that your vet documents any adverse vaccine reactions in detail. Someday you may want to apply for rabies vaccine exemption.

10. Make copies of dog licenses and vet files and store them in a safe place. Clinics lose records, go out of business, leave town, etc. Without your dog’s records, you may have vaccinate sooner than necessary because of lost or missing records.

Ready to make a change?  Best case, find a vet concerned about over-vaccinating to advise you.  Educate yourself and go to the vet armed with information.  Most important: actually advocate for your dog; don’t just intend to advocate.  (If you have trouble keeping your resolve, watch my video Stand Up to Your Vet.) Learn more, and watch our video on vaccination, at my web page Vaccinating Dogs.

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Tags: adverse reactions, bad reactions, distemper, dog, dogs, kennel cough, parvovirus, rabies shot, rabies vaccine, shots, side effects, titer testing, vaccinate, vaccinating, Vaccination, vaccine, vet, veterinarian
Posted under Uncategorized, Vaccination | 162 Comments » Email This Post

162 Comments to “Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots”

  1. Karri Hill Says:

    We had to euthanize our not-quite 5 month old Scottie pup a week ago due to an auto-immune disorder that caused her body to destroy her red blood cells. We eliminated all other causes of her severe anemia, including poisoning and a bone marrow disorder.

    I took the breeder’s shot record to her first vet visit. That vet suggested I repeat 2 DAPP vaccines already given “just to be safe.” I declined and pointed out that the breeder had not only included the dates of the vaccines, but had also included the vaccine vial labels. He noted that, and agreed.

    Over the course of the next 10 weeks, three vets in the practice gave her another 3 doses of DAPP, split the Lepto vaccine into 2 parts and gave both, gave Bordatella, and a rabies shot. The rabies shot was given at the same time as one of the DAPP vaccines and the 2nd Lepto vaccine. A look at her records indicates that they had her scheduled for yet another dose of DAPP a week after she died, which would have been over the recommended amount for her age, even IF they chose to ignore my original request.

    Additionally, no one advised against surgery in close conjunction to vaccinations, allowing me to schedule her spay for 2 weeks post vaccination (she didn’t live long enough for that to happen), and her next dose of DAPP would have occurred days after spaying.

    I trusted my vet practice to do what was best for my sweet puppy, and obviously that was wrong. They either didn’t read her records before administering vaccines, or they didn’t care (not sure which is worse). At no time was I ever advised that the Lepto or Bordatella vaccines were NON CORE. My puppy wasn’t fully vaccinated, and we weren’t exposing her to other dogs, she was not at risk for either. At no time was I given any advice about the risks of any vaccine, or side effects to watch out for.

    It wasn’t until after she died that I realized she’d been over vaccinated. Quite a lot. Knowing what I know now, I realize she never had a chance.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Karie Hill- please file a formal complaint to the Veterinary Regulatory Body in your area. If you genuinely feel your vet intentionally over-vaccinated your pup causing its death, you MUST ensure it is not allowed to happen to anyone else again. Do not just post a comment online and let it go.

  3. Ashie Says:

    I have a senior dog and I have to vaccinate him because it is a requirement as pet boarding/daycare!! I decided not to vaccinate him. So searched for a Integrative/holistic vet. Got the titer tests for Distemper/parvo. But pet boarding facilities do not accept titer for Rabies vaccine….Why??Clearly this is for profit…
    Thanks for this article…

  4. Jan Says:

    Hi Ashie. One reason titers aren’t accepted is that there is no legal titer standard. We only have the titer for humans. The Rabies Challenge Fund will hopefully give us a canine titer standard soon.

    Another reason is that laws are made by lay people who don’t understand that a titer test is a better determination than mere vaccination, which may or may not provide immunity.

    Here are a few articles that might convince a boarder.

    This is why I hire a petsitter. It’s much safer for dogs.

  5. Kerry Krieg Says:

    our Maltese also contracted Autoimmune hemolytic anemia which is on the list of severe complications due to over-vaccination. $6,000 later her life was saved. My cousin’s Maltese was also just diagnosed with this. I am now working with a holistic vet (not easy to find) and have so far avoided many unnecessary shots using titer for our new pup. This is a huge problem folks. Thank you for caring.

  6. Jan Says:

    Kerry, I wrote this for another reader who just wrote the other day about a similar situation. I hope it helps: I’m afraid I’m going to make you feel even worse. But it’s your vet’s fault, not yours. Please read

    Also read this before you even think of vaccinating again. and

    I hope both of the Maltese do well.

    Then fire your vet.

  7. Why Vets Don’t Recognize Vaccine Reactions Says:

    […] the great majority of revaccination of adult dogs is unnecessary and never explained. (See Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots.)  If your dog had a vaccine that wasn’t needed and suffered a reaction, your vet might worry […]

  8. B. D. Colen Says:

    There is much sensible advice here re not over vaccinating, not vaccinating for diseases not found in our areas, splitting up vaccinations, etc. But I would point out that the horror tales in the comments do not provide a shred of scientific/medical evidence that vaccination had anything to do with the tragic problems of the dogs described. Suggesting that a dog that got X, Y, or Z condition got it because of vaccination, simply because of a temporal connection, is like suggesting that a child developed autism because he or she was first diagnosed around the time of vaccinations. (And no, I am not a vet, do not work for a vet, or have any connection to any pharmaceutical company. I simply am a life-long dog owner and lover who knows something about medicine and science.)

  9. Jan Says:

    B.D., most knowledgeable vets will tell you otherwise. Whereas there is not always a connection, there often is.Ten years of research has taught me this. Do you know that billions of dollars have been paid for human childhood reactions, and the bar is very high to prove cause and effect. And even medical doctors (except those profiting from vaccination) will tell you, when you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras.

  10. Kim Contino Says:

    Dad and I took the dog for its shots for its license, rabies, 3 year and I believe parvo, I told the vet she had just gotton over being sick, and had the runs, I asked if it was ok to give the shot, which was my question to hm, he did not say to much, The shot was given, she was a small pug dog, we brought her home, and in with 1 day, she could not even stand in back yard to go potty, like she used to, had to carry her in, the next day she was not eating or drinking water, we brought her back to the small animal hospital on Elmwood Ave. they said she was diabetic, and needed to b hospitalized, they could not do anything, never explained shot risks or anything, we brought her to the emergency, vet in Cheektowaga NY, near the airport, they said she may not make it, They said she started her heat, and may need surgery to get better for the hormones, It was 2100 just for surgery, she woke up after surgery, was not doing that great, They gave pain meds and all we took her home, she would not eat or drink to even give insulin, they gave her, 1 day she would eat a small amount had a little water, then nothing, had to use a dropper for water, a week later she passed away, in the middle of the night, she was 7 years old

  11. Holly Watson Says:

    After a rabies shot for both my boys 12 year old golden and 9 year old husky on the same day my husky immediately became ill. Vomit and diarrhea, called the vet said it was normal. Two months later diagnosed with hermangiosarcoma after being lethargic. Died within 5 months, a horrible death. Then my golden showed the same signs 9 months after the injection and died within two months of diagnosis, same horrible death. I blame the RABIES shots for both my boys!

  12. Jan Says:

    Holly, how awful for this to happen to one dog, let alone both. PLease make sure that both deaths are reported to the drug maker. Your vet should have done this, but most won’t take the time.

    Vaccines are really hard on older dogs, and totally unnecessary as the vaccine is proven to provide 5 years, and maybe even 7 years, of immunity. A better vet would have known this. And the reactions are not normal; they were common. That’s different.

    So sorry for your losses.

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