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Dog Vaccinations

Does my dog need to be vaccinated every year?

In the last 30 years, vaccination regimes aimed at preventing parvovirus, distemper and infectious canine hepatitis have significantly reduced the incidence of these diseases in dogs. Traditionally, this has been done by vaccinating puppies and then giving dogs a booster vaccination every year. Puppy vaccinations and a live vaccine against parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis given between 6 and 18 months of age are critically important for all dogs and we strongly recommend these. Beyond this the evidence suggests that immunisation should only be performed according to need and risk. 

Parvovirus infection is still prevalent in Perth but distemper and hepatitis are rare. There were no reported cases of distemper in WA between 2006 and 2014(1).

There is very good evidence that the vaccines that we have been using for these diseases all produce very long immunity – much longer than one year and the immunity may indeed be life-long in some dogs following a single vaccination on or after 16 weeks of age(2). Please read our updated report on this released in May 2021 here.

We also now know that repeated vaccination of an already immune dog does not increase your dog’s immunity. Also, not re-vaccinating does not increase your an immune dog’s risk of developing disease.

For these reasons, we strongly recommended measuring your adult dog’s antibodies prior to considering revaccination. Antibodies are a blood protein that indicates that your dog’s immune system has recognized the previous vaccines and has produced an appropriate response. If these are present then revaccination will not provide any additional benefit but only increase the very small risk of an adverse outcome. Vaccination should only be given if your dog’s antibody levels have dropped below the detectable limit.

For those dogs going into boarding kennels, we can provide documentation of your dog’s antibody levels. This indicates that not only has your dog been vaccinated but most importantly it has mounted an appropriate immune response.

The situation regarding kennel cough is different. This disease is still common. Vaccination may not provide life-long immunity. There are three types of vaccine available – injectable- which goes under the skin, intra-nasal which needs to be squirted up your dog’s nose and oral which is given into your dog's mouth.

The injectable vaccine is more likely to produce pain and swelling at the injection site. It works by providing an immune response once the viruses and bacteria that cause kennel cough have already infected the body.

The intranasal vaccine may be more difficult to administer. It works by providing a protective antibody response in the mucus that lines the airways and prevents the viruses and bacteria getting into the body.

Our experience is that better immunity is achieved using the intranasal  or oral vaccination prior to your dog going into a high risk environment such as a boarding kennel or dog park. These should be repeated on an annual basis or according to risk.

Although the vaccines do not cause the diseases they are trying to prevent there are a small number of dogs that will have adverse reactions. These may range from pain and swelling at the injection site to rare, life threatening, immune mediated disorders.

Please ask our veterinarians to explain any of these issues. 

1. SE Wyllie, M Kelman and MP Warda. Epidemiology and clinical presentation of canine distemper disease in dogs and ferrets in Australia, 2006–2014. Aust Vet J.Volume 94, No 7, July 2016: 215-222

2. SA Mitchell, RJ Zwijnenberg J Huang A Hodge and MJ Day. Duration of serological response to canine parvovirus-type 2, canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 1 and canine parainfluenza virus in client-owned dogs in Australia. Aust Vet J. Volume 90, No 12, December 2012:468-473

3. LJ Larson, BE Thiel, P Sharp and RD Schultz.A Comparative Study of Protective Immunity Provided by Oral, Intranasal and Parenteral Canine Bordetella bronchiseptica Vaccines. Intern J Appl Res Vet Med • Vol. 11, No. 3, 2013: 153-160

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) New puppy owner guidelines

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Owner/Breeder guidelines

Updated 23rd May 2017