Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content



Why should we vaccinate our dogs against diseases?

Vaccines help protect dogs against serious, often potentially fatal, contagious diseases.  In the case of rabies, that risk extends not just to dogs but to you and any other mammals that may come in contact with the virus.  Before vaccines it wasn’t uncommon for distemper to wipe out entire kennels, sometimes more than once.  When parvo first hit and there were no vaccines, people lost a lot of dogs to an ugly death and there was little they could do to prevent it.  While there can be risks associated with vaccine use, adverse consequences are very rare.  Abandoning vaccines because of this low risk is putting your dogs at the much greater risk for contracting one of the contagious diseases we vaccinate against and potentially spreading it to other unvaccinated dogs or, in the case of rabies humans and other mammals.

I haven’t vaccinated a dog for over 10 years and they never get those diseases.  Are vaccines really necessary?

If your dogs are staying healthy it is either because you keep them isolated from other dogs and have been fortunate enough not to transport any of the pathogens into your home or, more probably, because most the other dogs they come in contact with are vaccinated.

Won’t a healthy lifestyle, a natural diet give my dog a high natural immunity so he doesn’t need vaccines?

While healthy practices and a good diet can bolster the immune system it isn’t enough to prevent infection in all cases.  Given the dire significant and sometimes fatal nature of the diseases for which we vaccinate, not doing so isn’t worth the risk.

What if I keep my dogs away from other dogs, won’t efforts to boost immunity do the job? If your dog is never exposed to the disease organisms through contact with an infected dog or its excretions you can’t really know if it has high natural immunity or not.  And there will be times you must take your dog away from your home where it could encounter pathogens.  Veterinary visits are necessary occasionally even for health dogs and sick dogs also go to the vet so you could encounter pathogens in or around your vet’s facility.

The important thing with vaccines is to avoid over-use.  Over-vaccinating can interfere with proper immune function.

How often should dogs be vaccinated?

Rabies vaccination of dogs is generally governed by law because of the risk the disease poses to humans.  Modern vaccines will be effective if administered on a three year cycle after the dog has had a shot as a puppy and at a year.  However, our local law may dictate more frequent administration.

For other vaccines, the American Animal Hospital Association recommends that most commonly administered canine vaccines have a three-shot puppy series, an adult vaccine at one year and every three years thereafter.  If the dog has not been vaccinated prior to 16 weeks, it should have two doses with a 3-4 week interval, and every three years thereafter, with the exception of parainfluenza for which one initial dose is adequate.  Exceptions to these general rules are bordatella, leptospira. and Lyme, for which a two-dose puppy series is recommended with annual adult boosters.  (Bordatella may be given every 6 months in high-risk areas.)     Canine flu vaccine requires two initial doses three weeks apart and annually after.  Vaccines for rattlesnake bites and periodontal disease should be administered per the manufacturers’ labels.  Not recommended for use are:  killed canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus-1, killed canine adenovirus-2, giardia, and coronavirus.

AAHA considers parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus-2 (modified live), and rabies to be “core” vaccines, necessary for all dogs.  Others should be given if there is risk of exposure either locally or to somewhere you plan to travel.   If you sometimes board your dog the facility may have its own vaccination requirements.

Why do vaccines sometimes fail to protect a vaccinated dog?

If a dog has a compromised immune system, due to illness, parasite load, malnutrition, immune-suppressive medications, or stress its immune system may not be able to respond to a vaccine.  In puppies the immune system must learn how to function and vaccine failure in a young puppy may occur simply because the puppy’s immune system didn’t know how to react properly (the reason multiple doses of some vaccines are given.)

Why do vaccine reactions happen?

In puppies the  immune system’s “learning curve” which occasionally prevents a proper immune response to the vaccine may also lead to an overreaction.  These reactions, whether in puppies or adults, are rarely to the vaccine itself, but to other substances intended to maintain viability of the vaccine or extend the product for ease of administration.

 Do vaccine reactions mean the dog has a genetically faulty immune system?

No.  Vaccine reactions can occur for a wide variety of reasons and not all of them indicate a genetically faulty immune system.  The reaction may have occurred because the dog was ill, medicated, or under stress.   If the dog previously had similar reactions to other things this might indicate some sort of immune system dysfunction, but in that case the vaccine may have been coincidental to the reaction if a prior trigger occurred at about the same time.

 How common are vaccine reactions in Aussies?

5% of the dogs in the ASHGI 2009-10 health survey were reported to have had veterinarian-diagnosed vaccine reactions.

 What vaccines cause reactions in Aussies?

Rabies was the only vaccine for which a significant number of reports of vet-diagnosed reaction in the 2009-10 health survey.

 If a dog has a vaccine reaction will it have more later?

Probably, if the substance that triggered the reaction is in subsequent vaccine doses.  Often it is the “extenders” that provide volume which trigger the reaction.  An example would be the egg whites used in human flu vaccines.  Those who are allergic to eggs will react to the vaccine.

If the vaccine which caused the reaction is not a “core” vaccine (parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus-2 (modified live), and rabies), discuss with your veterinarian whether the risks of the disease in your locality outweigh the risks posed by the dog’s reaction.  When a reaction has occurred, note the manufacturer and, if possible, use a different manufacturer’s product.

 Are vaccine reactions a breeding concern?

In general, no.  However, if the reactions are occurring because the dog is highly allergic and reacts to multiple triggers the dog is a poor breeding prospect.

Are vaccines responsible for increases of cancer and autoimmune disease in Aussies?

Highly unlikely.  Some diseases leave individuals immune compromised and because of that they may not react to vaccines normally.  If your dog has such a disease, discuss whether or not to vaccinate with the vet who is treating the dog for that disease.