Vaccinating A Stray Dog: Which Shots and When?

Written by Jan on July 7, 2009 – 12:01 am

Lucky Abbey strayed into the right new home
Lucky Abbey strayed into the right home

 Question e-mailed to me:

“We found a stray dog and so we have no idea what her vaccination history is or even if she has been spayed. She is probably about a year old at the most…looks like a small yellow lab.

I want to just have her vaccinated for parvo and distemper only and of course we have to have her vaccinated for rabies. But my question for you is how long to wait between the spaying and the vaccinations? And how long between before she gets her rabies shot? And which order do you recommend having all of this done? I know I have seen this information somewhere on the Internet before but it was a long time ago and I just can’t seem to find it now.

I would really appreciate any advice. At this point I don’t even know which thing should be done first, the spaying or the vaccinations.

Note: I got this question from Kat after she watched one of our K9Author YouTube Videos on vaccinating dogs.

Response: Hi Kat.  I’m no fan of the rabies vaccine because of its many adverse reactions. Neither do I like the idea of vaccinating a stressed dog; the vaccine may not “take” and the chance of side effects increases.

However … because most people wouldn’t be comfortable handling a strange dog with no shot history, I’d either have a titer test done to test immunity for rabies (which would prove immunity and not harm the dog, but would cost $150 or so and not allow you to get a license) … or I’d vaccinate.  If you do vaccinate, wait 3 or more weeks before spaying (or neutering) or giving another shot. If you can have a holistic vet or homeopathic vet give the shot, that would be great.  A homeopathic remedy given with the rabies shot can help prevent a reaction.

I would never vaccinate against anything else at the same time as the rabies shot. Instead, I’d have the vet do a titer test for parvovirus and distemper (the two most important diseases) to see if vaccination is even necessary. (This simple blood test should cost $60 – 80 total.) This is the safest route. Because the dog is an adult, she may well be immune to both diseases.

If you decide to vaccinate against parvo and distemper, do NOT do it at the same time as rabies or surgery. And do not vaccinate with a combo shot containing other, probably unnecessary vaccines. Wait 3 weeks or more after rabies or spaying.  Surgery and vaccination are major assaults to the immune system and should be spread out. Specifically tell your vet to never vaccinate during, or within a week or two, of surgery. If your vet does vaccinate without your permission, file a complaint with your local veterinary board. This is a violation of the legal doctrine of informed consent.

As to whether you should spay or vaccinate first, it depends on what you perceive the risks to be: pregnancy or disease. If you can keep the female away from males, go ahead and vaccinate first.

Note: I’m not a vet, but this is what I would do.

Here’s a second question from Kat:

I had actually called a vet earlier today to see how much they charge to titer test for parvo and distemper. At this particular vet’s it was $82.00 plus $43.00 for the office call. I had also called a spay and neuter clinic to see how much they charge to spay and they told me they could give her the vaccinations at the same time. I said, nope! I told them I would not have it done all at one time because I don’t think it’s healthy for the dog. I like your advice of having the rabies shot given first. So I think I will go ahead with that this Saturday then the spay and then the parvo/distemper all spaced 3 weeks apart.

I already ordered her a breakaway dog collar which is also a life saver. Thanks for all of your work in educating people and thus helping dogs to live happier, healthier lives. — Kat

My response:

Kat, you might try having the blood for the titer test tested at hemopet.com. It’s a nonprofit blood bank and testing facility run by renowned vaccine expert Dr. Jean Dodds. Her prices are usually better. Re the blood draw, it should cost no more than $25. It’s just a draw, done by a tech, not an office visit. Try negotiating with your vet … or try another clinic.

Good luck with your new girl and congrats on being such a good guardian to a stranger!

Another question from Kat:

 I just wanted to let you know about my experience at the vaccination clinic today. I took our new dog, the one who actually found us when we were camping two weeks ago. Of course we had the really long wait as is to be expected at those places. But during that time some guy that worked there came up and started asking questions about Abbey so he could fill out the paper work on her. I told him we had just found her a couple of weeks ago and he got busy telling me about the rabies and 6 in 1 shot that she needs. I told him, nope, only the rabies for this time. He looked at me like I was crazy. I told him that I’m going to wait with the other shots because it isn’t good to give them at the same time. So he started right in with saying well she doesn’t need as many because she isn’t a puppy. So she would only need a series of two. I stood my ground and once again said only the rabies. Then he tells me that from this point on it will cost me more every time I take her there for vaccinations because I broke up the shot series. Can you believe that crap?! I said, fine. Only the rabies for today. I didn’t even bother to tell him that she isn’t going to ever have a 6 in 1. It would have been a waste of time because the poor lad was already brainwashed. Nor did I go into the titer testing.
The other vet felt her belly, which he said is usually easier to tell that way than by looking. He didn’t feel any scarring. But he said to make sure that when I have her spayed that I tell them I don’t know if she was done before so if they get in there and find nothing they’ll know why. LOL One vet said I could wait and see if she goes into heat in about 3 to 6 months. I said, no way! I don’t want that. Also, I’ve heard that the more heat cycles they have before being spayed the more likely it is for them to get cancer later on. I think she must have already gone into one because her nipples are pronounced. Not like in a dog that has had puppies, but larger than my other two dogs which were spayed before ever going into heat.  Oh, would an ultrasound detect the spaying?
My response: 
 
I LOVE your story about the vaccine peddler. Good for you for hanging in there. Can you find a better vet?????  This vet cares more about money than care.
 
Re the spaying, offhand I would agree with the other vet. I think it’s safer, and cheaper, to see if she’s intact than it is to cut her open under anesthesia. One more heat shouldn’t be as dangerous as anesthesia and having her belly cut open. I just sent a vet friend an email to see if there’s a good, cheap, safe way to detect spaying.  She answered: “You can look for a small scar just below the umbilicus. You sometimes feel the scar. otherwise wait for a heat cycle. I would not do an exploratory it is too invasive.”
Re getting an ultrasound to detect spaying, I’m not sure whether or not that would detect the absence of a uterus, but I suspect it would. However … my dog just had an abdominal ultrasound. It cost $315 and a vet friend gave me discount! I’d just wait to see if she comes into heat. Easier on the wallet; easier on the dog.
 
Looking for more information on vaccinating dogs? Check our web page Vaccinating Dogs: What Your Vet Won’t Tell You and our Truth4Dogs blog articles: Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots, Dog Flu Vaccine: Do You Really Need a Shot for the H3N8 Canine Virus? and the other articles linked above.

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Anyway, on to phase two of this whole thing. I am going to be setting up a spay appointment for about 3 1/2 weeks from now. And also I’m going to be searching to find out about the titer testing for parvo and distemper.

Sorry for getting so wordy with this but I just wanted to let you know how we are doing and also to reinforce the fact that people really need to stand their ground about the vaccinations. Because they have innovative ways to try to convince you that your dog needs all of them and right now!

So finally we got up to the veterinarians. I told them we had found her two weeks ago and knew nothing about her history. So one of them asked if I wanted them to scan her for a chip. I said, sure. He said they are supposed to scan in that circumstance anyway. But I had the feeling he wouldn’t have if I had asked him not to. Anyway, he scanned and found nothing and told me I have a dog. ;) I also asked them if they could tell if she’s been spayed.

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Tags: distemper, dog, dog shots, dogs, found, order, parvovirus, rabies shot, stray, vaccination, vaccination history, vaccine
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