Should Your Dog Receive Vaccinations Every Year? How to Ensure You're Not Over- or Under-Vaccinating It

29 November 2016
 Categories: , Articles

Just as guidelines for human healthcare are updated regularly to reflect new research in the medical field, dog treatment guidelines are also revised. While veterinarians once agreed that providing every dog a full set of vaccinations every year was best to protect their health, it is now believed that not only are yearly vaccinations unnecessary for some dogs, but vaccinating too often can actually cause some dogs to develop health problems.

Read to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of having your veterinarian give your dog vaccinations every year and how you and you can help your veterinarian determine the right vaccination schedule for your dog that is most likely to keep him healthy and happy for many years. 

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Annual Dog Vaccinations

First, realize that no matter what vaccination schedule you and your veterinarian agree on, all puppies need to receive all recommended vaccines when they are young, and your dog's "puppy shots" will typically be split up into several rounds. A dog's first puppy shots have no disadvantages and protect him from many life-threatening diseases. 

Once your puppy receives all of his first vaccinations, there are many factors for you and your vet to take into consideration when deciding if he should stick to an annual vaccination schedule for now, or to decide on another vaccination schedule. 

The advantages of vaccinating your dog yearly are very easy to understand: when your dog is vaccinated against all canine illnesses every year, you can feel confident that when he encounters one of the deadly viruses, he is fully immune to it and you don't have to worry about his health so much. 

However, the immunity to a disease a dog develops after receiving a vaccination for it often lasts longer than a year, and in some cases several years. Unfortunately, this varies from dog to dog, since all dog's bodies are different just as human bodies. Due to simply not knowing whether a dog was still protected from a virus a year after a vaccination was given, veterinarians have typically recommended annual shots to stay on the safe side and give both them and pet owners peace of mind that their dogs are fully protected from the viruses. 

Unfortunately, new discoveries have found a possible link between a serious dog disease called granulomatous meningoencephalitis, or GME, and over-vaccination. This is an autoimmune disease that affects a dog's central nervous system and is sometimes alternatively called inflammatory reticulosis. 

There are three types of GME. One affects vision and can lead to blindness, another form affects only some parts of a dog's brain, and the last form affects your dog's entire brain. Common symptoms include a fever, muscle spasms, loss of vision, and lethargy but symptoms can vary greatly from dog to dog.  It must be diagnosed by a veterinarian based on your dog's symptoms alone, because there is no test that can be performed while your dog is alive to confirm a suspected GME diagnosis. 

How to Keep Your Dog Safe from Disease Without Under-Vaccinating

While both under-vaccinating and over-vaccinating can also lead to serious diseases, your veterinarian and you can decide on a vaccination schedule that keeps your dog healthy and happy. The best way to keep your dog free from disease is to schedule annual titer testing for your dog. Whether he needs vaccinations or not, your dog should always visit the veterinarian for an annual check-up. You can request titer testing for your dog during this annual check-up, so no additional visits to the veterinarian are required. 

How does titer testing work? Instead of immediately administering a full set of vaccinations that your dog may or may not yet need, your veterinarian first conducts a titer test after taking just a small sample of your dog's blood to measure the antibodies still left in the blood from the previous vaccination. If your dog still has plenty of antibodies protecting him from an illness, such as parvovirus, then a vaccine for that specific virus can be skipped that year. However, if he has very few antibodies that offer protection from another illness, such as adenovirus, remaining in his system, then your veterinarian will give him that vaccination again to make sure he stays protected from the disease. 

It is very important for your dog to be properly vaccinated against the most common and most deadly dog diseases, so he can stay healthy and happy for many years. For more information, talk to centers that provide dog treatment in your area.