Analyzing New Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs

Written by Jan on November 15, 2011 – 1:01 am

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recently issued its 2011 Canine Vaccination Guidelines.  The 2003 report, revised in 2006 and 2007, caused quite a stir.  Many veterinarians and pet parents didn’t trust the findings –and still don’t — even though the report was backed by scientific studies and written by 14 well-respected experts. Change can be scary.

The report’s recommendation to eliminate or limit many unnecessary and/or dangerous vaccines, and to give the important “core vaccines” no more often than every three years (NOT annually!), was and is unpalatable to many practices.  It could represent a huge drop in income.

Though veterinary organizations and every North American vet school changed their vaccination protocols to accommodate the report’s findings, most clinics continue to over-vaccinate. Pet guardians still overpay for shots their pets don’t need and too many pets (and pocketbooks) suffer from the subsequent vaccine reactions.    

The AAHA report contains good information and acts as a resource for pet guardians wanting to stand up to vets pushing shots their pets don’t really need. But this report is very conservative — with decisions made by committee. It doesn’t go as far as many of us would like.  Important note: do not presume that your veterinarian abides by the report’s recommendations or that he/she has even read it. 

Possible problems with the report
When reading any study,  see who sponsored it and then look for possible conflicts of interest. This particular study was sponsored by four vaccine manufacturers: Merck, Merial, Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim. In addition, the AAHA has close financial ties to both veterinarians and sponsors. I am not suggesting bias, but in a perfect world, studies would be funded by disinterested parties, not by parties with a financial interest in decisions.
To arrive at a consensus, and to accommodate readers with the least vaccination expertise, individual taskforce members had to compromise.  The consensus may or may not represent the personal view of any individual member.
For example, in 2003 task force member Dr. Richard Ford, Professor of Medicine, North Carolina State University, said that the decision to recommend a 3-year revaccination schedule for core vaccines was a compromise. “It’s completely arbitrary…,” he said. “I will say there is no science behind the three-year recommendation…” 
Several committee members have personally told me this was a “political” decision, meant to ruffle the fewest veterinary feathers. (Read about vaccine duration of immunity at Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots.)
I would have liked a section showing how taskforce members vaccinate their own dogs, just as the Supreme Court publishes “dissenting opinions,” although this might have presented legal problems and required endless caveats. 
Outside the report, renowned expert and taskforce member Dr. Ronald Schultz has a very different puppy vaccination protocol for his own family’s dogs. He uses only the three core vaccines: parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus-2 (hepatitis).  He does not revaccinate every three years. He runs antibody titers on the pups to know exactly when is the best time to effectively vaccinate. Then, 2 to 3 weeks or more after vaccination, he titers (tests the blood of) the offspring. If there is ANY positive antibody response, he doesn’t revaccinate for the reminder of the pet’s life.  (Before doing this yourself, listen to what he says during this YouTube video and consult your veterinarian.  Advance 8 1/2 minutes into the video. Also find his cat vaccination advice there.)
Notable quotes from the report
My dear friend Kris Christine read this report and pulled out the following quotations of note. Kris is the founder of the Rabies Challenge Fund and a tireless activist who was largely responsible for helping every US state to switch from 1- and 2-year rabies vaccination schedules to 3 year (though sadly not all local laws have followed suit). Kris is currently working with other activists and state legislators to provide rabies vaccination exemptions for dogs with health problems.  The fight goes on. 
Note from Jan: I highlighted the important topics in the quotes below.
Don’t vaccinate dogs with health problems:  
p. 21  “It is reasonable to avoid administration of any vaccine to patients with a history of systemic disease suspected to be associated with previous vaccination (e.g., immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia) or known to be caused by vaccine (vaccination-site cutaneous ischemic vasculitis after administration of rabies vaccine).  
p. 28  “As with pregnant dogs, veterinary medicine has advised against vaccination during illness, due to concerns about suboptimal protection, or worse, vaccine-induced illness.”
p. 29  “Manufacturers only recommend administration of vaccine to healthy dogs. Dogs receiving immunosuppressive chemotherapy should not be vaccinated. Doing so may result in a suboptimal immune response or may aggravate (reactivate) an immune-mediated illness.”
The difference between noninfectious (“killed” vaccines like rabies) and infectious vaccines (“modified live” vaccines like parvovirus and distemper): 
p. 3  “When compared with infectious (attenuated, avirulent, modified live, recombinant viral vectored) vaccines, noninfectious vaccines are more likely to produce local and systemic adverse reactions in some dogs.”  
p.10  “Most noninfectious vaccines require at least two initial doses to immunize, regardless of the dog’s age. The first dose of a noninfectious vaccine generally primes the immune response and the second dose, which should be administered 2-6 weeks later, provides the protective immune response. Immunity typically develops approximately 7 days after the second dose. Therefore, the minimum time for onset of immunity is approximately 3 wk after administration of the first dose of a noninfectious vaccine”
p. 12 “Because dogs older than 14-16 wk of age are not likely to have interfering levels of MDA [maternally derived antibodies], administration of a single initial dose of an infectious vaccine to an adult dog can be expected to induce a protective immune response. ….. MDA is the most common reason early vaccination fails to immunize.”
p. 12 “The onset of immunity after administration of a single dose of infectious core vaccine is approximately 4±3 days in the absence of MDA [maternally derived antibodies].”
p.13  “Infectious core vaccines are not only highly effective, they also provide the longest DOI [duration of immunity], extending from 5 yr up to the life of the dog.”
Note:  see Box 1 beginning on page 14 of the report for more info.
Antibody titer testing (blood testing) to prove immunity  
p. 17  “Despite the confusion and controversy surrounding antibody testing, these serologic tests are useful for monitoring immunity to CDV, CPV-2, CAV-1, and RV. …..On completion of the puppy core vaccination series with the last dose given at 14-16 wk of age, a dog can be expected to have an antibody titer or positive test result, regardless of the serologic test performed, provided the serum sample is collected  > 2 wks after the last dose of vaccine.” (CDV=distemper, CPV-2 = parvovirus, CAV-1 hepatitis, RV= rabies)
p. 18  “….the last dose of CDV and CPV should be administered at 14-16 wk of age. At this age, MDA should be at a level that will not block active immunity in most puppies (>98%) when a combination MLV vaccine is administered.”
p. 18  “In a study reported in 1997, dogs vaccinated with a product containing CDV (canine distemper virus) and then placed in an environment without CDV maintained antibody titers for at least 10 yr.”
Adverse reactions: 
p. 20  “…the list that follows includes categories of adverse reactions that have been attributed to vaccine administration. 
  • Injection-site reactions: lumps (abscess, granuloma, seroma), pain, swelling, hair loss associated with ischemic vasculitis
  • Transient postvaccinal nonspecific illness: lethargy, anorexia, fever, regional lymphadenomegaly, soreness, abortion, encephalitis, polyneuritis, arthritis, seizures, behavioral changes, hair loss or color change at the injection site, respiratory disease
  • Allergic (hypersensitivity) and immune-mediated reactions:Type 1 (acute anaphylaxis): angiodema (especially the head), anaphylaxis (shock) and death;Type 2 (cytolytic): immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (suspected only; causality has not been confirmed);Type 3 (immune-complex): cutaneous ischemic vasculopathy associated with rabies vaccine, corneal edema (‘blue-eye’) associated with CAV-1 vaccine, immune-mediated disease.
  • Tumorigenesis: vaccine-associated sarcoma or other tumors
  • Multisystemic infectious/inflammatory disorder of young Weimaraner dogs
  • Vaccine-induced immunosuppression: associated with first or second dose of combination MLV vaccines containing CDV and CAV-1 or CAV-2 with or without other vaccines (e.g., CPV-2, CPI). Immunosuppression begins 3 days after vaccination and persists for 7-10 days. The suppression may be associated with increased susceptibility to other diseases. 
p.33  “Vaccine adverse events are significantly underreported in veterinary medicine.”
Minimal vaccination protocols
In answer to the question: “Is there a vaccination program that could be recommended for those owners only wanting the least number of vaccines possible or for those dogs that are not likely to be seen again by a veterinarian?”
p. 34  “The vaccination protocol that includes the minimum number of vaccines yet still provides a reasonable opportunity to immunize the dog would be: a single dose of combined infectious (attenuated, avirulent, modified live, recombinant viral vectored) CDV, MLV CPV-2, with MLV CAV-2, administered at 16 wk of age or older, plus a rabies shot at the same time (but inoculated at a separate site on the body).
Note from Jan: It is important NOT to give the rabies vaccine with other vaccines or medications if at all possible. Renowned rabies vaccine experts and principals of the Rabies Challenge Fund, Drs. Ron Schultz (a member of the AAHA taskforce) and Jean Dodds both agree on this. The protocol above is for dogs not likely to be seen again by a veterinarian.”  Both have also told me, and the AAHA report warns as well, about the dangers of adverse reactions for multiple vaccines given at once, especially for smaller and medium-sized breeds. Please read Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing for the particular risks of giving multiple vaccines to small dogs.
Links of interest:  
  • A DVD: world-renowned scientists W. Jean Dodds, DVM and Ronald D. Schultz, PhD spoke at our Safer Pet Vaccination Benefit Seminar in March 2010. A 2-hour DVD of the event, along with articles by the speakers, is available here. Or learn more about it at  All proceeds less actual shipping costs benefit the study of the rabies vaccine.
  • Learn more about rabies vaccination and about canine vaccination in general and read articles elsewhere on this blog.
  • Read the 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination  Guidelines
  • Read the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Guidelines for Vaccinating Dogs and Cats. This report addressed to a worldwide audience prepared by a small academic panel.  Dr. Schultz sits on this panel in addition to the AAHA task force. Intervet-Schering Plough Animal Health sponsored the report.  
Tags: bad reactions, booster, dog, dog shots, over-vaccination, rabies, recommendations, symptoms, titer test, Vaccination, vaccination schedule, vaccine, vaccine reactions
Posted under Uncategorized, Vaccination, Vaccine Reactions | 23 Comments » Email This Post

23 Comments to “Analyzing New Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs”

  1. Andrea Partee Says:

    GREAT article Jan. Bless you!

  2. Marg Says:

    What about vaccinations for cats?

  3. Jan Says:

    Marg, click the link for the WSAVA report at the bottom of my post. You can also watch the set of videos by Ron Schultz mentioned in the post.

  4. Carolyn in Belize Says:

    Thank you so much for keeping on top of this important issue and sharing it with us.

  5. Ally FurAnimals Says:

    Thank you so much for this information! It does create issues though. I see a great vet locally that doesn’t push vaccines other than Rabies. However, I also use a fantastic veterinary internist and his staff will not allow pets to be left there for ANY reason if they don’t have dhpp yearly.
    Even if I have the AAHA recommendation in hand, if I want my dogs seen by this vet, (whom I LOVE and find to be more than competent), I have to follow their hospital policy. What would you recommend I do? Write the vet for an exception for my pets?

  6. Jan Says:

    Ally, I hope you’ll think long and hard about why you think your “fantastic veterinary internist” is fantastic. In my book, he’s horrible. He insists on administering very potent chemicals, known to cause adverse reactions in many animals — especially when administered time after time. These vaccines are proven to last for 7 or more years. Even the very conservative AAHA report and the WSAVA guidelines say not to vaccinate
    any more often than every three years!!! And these reports, funded by vaccine makers, even admit the vaccines may give immunity as long as a lifetime. Why won’t your fantastic vet admit this?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this vet is competent. Or if he is competent, he is way behind the times … or cares more about money than health. If I’m being really cynical, I’d bring up the point that over-vaccinated dogs are more likely to need the services of an internist because they are more likely to become ill. That makes over-vaccination a conflict of interest.

    What should you do? If it were me, I’d find another specialist. He might be behind the times on lots of things.

    Or, if you can’t bear to leave him, I’d print out both studies and ask why he overvaccinates when EVERY vet school and EVERY major vet organization thinks his protocol is dangerous???? I hope you’ll love your dog more than you “love” this awful vet.

    Another thing: does he vaccinate sick dogs? If your dog is seriously ill, will he either turn the dog away or vaccinate in violation of label instructions? Vaccine labels say they are for healthy animals only! This is animal cruelty as far as I’m concerned. Shame on him.

    Please read: and

    I’ve probably hurt your feelings, but I’m an advocate for your dog. I hope you will be as well. I know you’re trying to do what’s right or you wouldn’t have read my AAHA article or written to me.

  7. Lifelong Vaccine Immunity -- Why Vets Are Pushing Back | Truth4Dogs Says:

    […] Be your dog’s advocate – protect him with knowledge and by taking a stand against unnecessary vaccination. His life may depend on it! ***** Related links at Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots Titer Test: Don’t Vaccinate Your Dog Unnecessarily What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions Analyzing New Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs […]

  8. Diane Lakata Says:

    Great information. Our vet agreed to get titers for my 6 year old golden. As expected, he was immune.

    Do you have any information about Lymes vaccine? Our other dog (lab mix) has had the disease twice. Don’t know the history of the first bout, but we did not vaccinate and he became quite ill this year. Vet recommended the vaccine for what limited protection it offered.

  9. Jan Says:

    Diane, there’s great info in a newsletter of one of my favorite holistic vets, Konrad Kruesi at I’m emailing it to you. If you need more, or if you don’t receive the email, write me and I’ll send you some articles.

  10. Michelle Says:

    I looking for an answer if anyone knows. My vet has my puppy on a vac schdeule that looks like this. Dhlppc and annual lepto. Last month when I had my pup into the vet it was those plus the rabies and lyme. I oppted for the lyme since it is a problem in my area.

    My question is. Is it normal to do the Dhlppc and the annual lepto since the combo vac has it in it too? I thought since the combo had the lepto and extra 2 shots of lepto on the side was excessive.

  11. Jan Says:

    Michelle, you ask if it is normal to do the dhlppc plus annual lepto? NO. Two leptos plus a combo? It is dangerous and based, in my opinion, on your vet’s ignorance or desire for money.

    Lepto is a particularly dangerous vaccine. I bet your vet forgot it was in the dhlppc. This vaccine is not recommended, especially for dogs under 10 pounds. It is only effective if the limited number of strains in the vaccine work on the strains of lepto in your area. This is a question to ask your vet. What are the strains in your area and in the vaccine? You can check with your local animal health officials and the drug maker to verify. Scroll down to the page bottom at to get links to veterinary organization guidelines for AAHA and WSAVA.

    Also please read this about eliminating unnecessary shots: And this about the dangers of giving multiple vaccines at once; it mentions the special dangers for small and medium sized dogs, but pertains to all sizes.

    How old is your dog and what shots has he/she had, and when? This is important.

  12. Michelle Says:

    I have a nefie pup. He is 6 months old now. I seem to have lost his vac records. They are somewhere around the house. He has had 3 combo shots (at 4 week intervals starting I think 10 weeks of age) and an annual lepto, rabies and lymes in January. When I received the post card in the mail about another combo shot and more lepto, I got hesitant and haven’t been back to finish off the shots.

  13. Michelle Says:

    Ok the breeder gave him distemper shot at 8 weeks. I took him at 12 weeks to the vet and he received the combo shot. I was supposed to have him in for another in Dec, but I was sick so I took him in the beggining of January. He received combo, rabies and lepto, and lymes. He was 47lbs. I am now supposed to take him for another combo and lepto and lymes. Rufus is about 60 lbs now.

  14. Jan Says:

    Michelle, getting a combo shot and lepto and lyme at the same time is very dangerous. The combo alone generally contains at least 4 vaccines. In fact, the lepto may be in it. Each vaccine adds to the chance of a reaction and makes it very difficult to determine a cause if there is a reaction.

    Are lepto and lyme epidemic in your area? The lepto vaccine is particularly reactive and shouldn’t be given unless it contains the same strain of virus that is prevalent in your area. It may well not. Investigate.

    Search for Lepto in this report and go to page 6 or 7 and look for Lepto. It says it is Noncore.
    Specific vaccination recommendations vary on the basis: (1) known geographic occurrence/prevalence, and (2) exposure
    risk in the individual patient. That is, you have to have a good reason for your dog to get it. The same goes for lyme.

    Other than that, your dog probably needs only parvo and distemper. The report above will help you. Also please read Vaccinate with knowledge. Ask your vet for a reason for each shot given. Write again if you need more help. (Note: I am not a vet.)

  15. Michelle Says:

    Thank you so much for your help. I will be sure to look at all of that information. I am also in search of a new vet. The lyme I did opt for since my cousin and a friend has contracted it in the last 2 years. I don’t know if that means epidemic. The vet said the lyme vaccines has a guarantee with it. Im thinking about just purchasing the parvo and distemper form the local tractor supply and doing it myself. They carry them.

  16. Dolly Says:

    Hi Jan,
    I need your help, please…. I have a Yorkie, she how 15 weeks old. She healthy , but has itchy skin, I see dry flakes, I have been trying to give her omega -3 oil with her food, her does not like it.

    BUT that is not really what I need help with, I am afraid to vaccinate her. She has had no shots. I only want what is safe for her. The Vets here seem to want to give her only the comb shots 5 in one.
    My dog before this one died from the shots,,, what am I to do?
    Please help.

  17. Jan Says:

    Dolly, you are right to be cautious. Read Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing This talks about a study published in American Veterinary Medical Association Journal in 2005. Yorkies are in the top ten of dogs that have bad reactions to multiple vaccines given at once.

    Your dog is at the right age, according to expert Dr. Ron Schultz, to get one shot of parvo and distemper. Do not give a 5 way shot. Call around and find a vet that does only those 2 or 3 at a time. A homeopathic vet is the safest if there’s one near you. Check the list at

    Read Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions at BEFORE you vaccinate. You should also read

    Before long, the vet is going to want to give a rabies shot. Do not do it within 3 weeks of the other shots. Write again if you need nore help.

  18. Tobias Says:

    Thanks for the info. I am concerned that the vet decided to give the distemper vaccine to our healthy 2 year old shepherd/retriever mix and she had a reaction to the shot with acute anaphylaxis (face edema). She was also given the kennel cough vaccine internasally (Bordetella).

    $200 later (atop the $150 already paid) and some benadril, our dog is OK. The vet emergency room says they see 4-5 dogs a night with this allergic reaction. That seems awful strange to me and makes me wonder about the safety of the vaccine made by BI (formerly Ft. Dodge).

    Seems like an issue that is not being addressed. Thoughts???

  19. Jan Says:

    Tobias, I suspect it was the Bordetella that caused the reaction, or it couldn’t have been the distemper or combination of the two. That’s why it’s a problem to give more than one vaccine at once.

    Also, unless some uninformed institution insisted on the Bordetella, it was unnecessary, not to mention ineffective. Read this: Also, the distemper was likely unnecessary.

    Make sure the reaction was reported to the drug maker. Your vet should have done this but probably didn’t. This is imporant. And please read this before you are urged to vaccinate again.

  20. Jill Says:

    Hi, I, like so many others have already said, wish that I would have found your site a few days ago. I took my 4#9oz Yorkie on his 6 month birthday (29th) to have his 1st shots. It’s been 36hrs & he is running a fever, vomiting, in severe pain at injection sites, & having a hard time walking. He wasn’t able to even stand & was having seizures during our severe weather last night. I called the vet & was told to give him 1/4tsp benedryl and 1 baby aspirin. He got 2 shots, but they were major combos of Rabies & all the other shots combined. The vet is the son of one of our deacons at church where my husband is the pastor so I’m between a rock & a hard place. He did acknowledge that my dog was having a reaction to the shots when I called the emergency line last night. I won’t give him anymore shots but in TN they have to have rabies vac. every yr. I checked the homeopathic list & there isn’t a dr in TN. Do you have any suggestions on what I should do about my yorkie and how to respectfully encourage my vet to look at vaccinations differently. Thanks! Jill

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  22. Cynthia R Says:

    In NYC most pet owners take their pets to board, be groomed, daycare, training classes, dog parks, have dog walkers, take them to other countries, etc. Most of these places/organizations require vaccines every year.

  23. Jan Says:

    Cynthia, fight! The American Veterinary Medical Assoc. and The American Animal Hospital Association, both very conservative groups, recommend AGAINST yearly vaccinations, as do all the veterinary schools in the US. Call your state congressperson or Senator. Change the law. This is how it happens.

    Check out for more ammunition.

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