AKC eNewsletter


Summer 2005

Vaccinations: Know what You’re Using

By Theresa Shea, editor

As a dog breeder, imagine yourself sitting down in a “vaccine” restaurant.

Be selective when deciding which vaccines to use and how often to administer them to your dogs. Boston Terrier.
Credit: Isabelle Francais.
When you open the menu to view your choices of vaccines, you might be surprised at the number of options before you. You could be further shocked by a list of ingredients included in each vaccine. When it comes time to order, which vaccines will you select for your dogs, and how often will you administer them?

At a recent American Kennel Club and AKC Canine Health Foundation Breeder Symposium at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Richard Ford asked dozens of dog breeders these questions and discussed canine vaccination protocols and what he considers a need to revise them.

“In the last decade, we’ve seen a rapid proliferation of companion animal vaccines introduced throughout the world. In North America today, there are approximately 25 types of canine vaccines to select from,” Ford said.

Ford, a professor of medicine at N.C. State, encouraged breeders to find out as much as they could about the exact ingredients in vaccines their dogs receive and to consider how often their dogs need to receive them.

“What should not occur is complacency with respect to selection and administration of vaccine,” Ford added. “The objective, quite simply, is to administer the most appropriate vaccines at the most appropriate stage of life and to do so with the best products available.”

Some breeders get prescriptions from their veterinarians and order vaccines to administer to their dogs themselves. Others have their veterinarians administer the vaccinations.

“I don’t know where you get your vaccines. You can get virtually any vaccine a vet can get and can buy doses of vaccines in feed stores,” Ford said. “There’s a thriving over-the-counter market, but there are some problems. I want you to know what you’re getting. …Don’t just follow catalog advice.”

“Look in your fridge and see. Make sure you know what you’re using,” Ford advised.

For example, there are numerous vaccines for kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis).

“What makes this really problematic is that there are four kinds of injectible forms and two kinds of intranasal forms,” Ford said. “Which do you use? Do you know? I think you’ve got to know.”

While a quarter century ago the most common vaccines had three viral antigens (distemper-hepatitis-leptospirosis), the vaccines routinely administered annually to dogs today have seven or more antigens, Ford explained.

“Polyvalent (or ‘mixed’) vaccines are routinely administered annually with seemingly little regard for the actual risk of infection,” Ford said. “Depending on the vaccine antigen, dogs are expected to derive protection that persists for as little as a few months to as long as seven or more years. Convenience, rather than science, appears to be the driving force behind conventional recommendations listed on vaccine labels (product inserts).”

Dr. Richard Ford urges breeders to "know what you're getting regarding canine vaccines."
Credit: Michael Mantini.
Ford explained that the vaccine menu breeders have to choose from is divided into three categories: CORE, Non-CORE, and Not Recommended. CORE vaccines are those every dog should receive. They include Distemper, recombinant Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus-2, and Rabies. Non-CORE vaccines are optional vaccines, such as Parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Lyme borreliosis, Leptospirosis, and Disptemper-Measles, which breeders may wish to use based on known health risks. Vaccines such as Coronavirus, Giardia Lamblia, and Adenovirus-1 or the canine hepatitis vaccine are not recommended.

Most vaccine labels or package inserts recommend annual boosters.

“With the exception of the rabies vaccine, veterinarians are not legally bound to comply with annual booster recommendations listed by vaccine manufacturers on product inserts,” Ford said. “For virtually all of the vaccines designated CORE, a minimum duration of immunity has been reported to range from five to seven years. The maximum duration of immunity has not been established.”

Breeders should take into consideration their lifestyle, geographic location, dogs’ age, and whether certain diseases are prevalent where they live when deciding whether to administer Non-CORE vaccinations to their dogs.

“If you’re living south of southern Virginia, the odds of needing to vaccinate against Lyme disease fall precipitously,” Ford said.

Christine Weisse, a central North Carolina Labrador Retriever breeder, uses a veterinarian to administer vaccines to her dogs. Weisse discussed what she learned about vaccination protocols at the breeders’ symposium with her veterinarian.

“We gave our vet the information, and we’re definitely changing our way of doing shots,” Weisse said.

“For our older dogs, we’re just doing titers,” said Weisse. (A titer may indicate the standard strength of a dog’s antibodies.) “If their antibodies are high, we’re just giving them the CORE shots.”

“Our younger dogs get the CORE shots, Parvo, Distemper, Parainfluenza, and, of course, all our dogs will get the rabies shot every three years,” Weisse added.

You may visit Dr. Ford’s vaccination web site that outlines guidelines and protocols at www.dvmvac.com.

  Ronald N. Rella, director, Breeder Services
Theresa Shea, editor | Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org | Joanne Beacon, designer
Customer Service | Phone: 919-233-9767 | Email: info@akc.org

© The American Kennel Club 2005