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The Lowdown on Dog Vaccinations

Over the last 20 years, vaccinations have generally been started in puppies at about 6-8 weeks of age, when the natural immunity inherited from the mother may start wearing off. A series of shots will then be given every three to four weeks, and boosters are administered every year after that.

On one hand, in the last 20 years few could deny that vaccinations as they are administered now have been quite effective. I mean, when was the last time anyone's seen Old Yeller limping down the street, foaming at the mouth, requiring the talents of the local sharp-shooter, Atticus Finch, to protect the panicking townspeople? I'm mixing my movie metaphors, but the point is these films with rabid dog scenes are set in decades past, and since then, rabies, and other diseases like parvovirus and distemper, have been successfully prevented in vaccinated American pets.

Vaccination Concerns Leading to New Trends

In recent years, the current trends in canine immunization and boosters have come under much scrutiny. With new vaccines becoming available with increasing frequency, and with more and more vaccines being given in combination within a single injection, many pet owners and veterinary professionals are becoming concerned over the possibility of over-vaccination, particularly with regard to annual boosters, a problem with potential negative outcomes of its own.

To address this issue, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), in 2003 issued recommendations using available scientific evidence, as well as the clinical experience and expert opinions of a wide variety of animal health professionals. While not a protocol to be followed exclusively, these recommendations offer guidelines for veterinarians setting up individualized vaccination schedules for pets on a case-by-case basis.

New AAHA Recommendations

Basically, the AAHA recommends that vets follow all previous recommendations for puppy vaccinations, but to place vaccines for adult dog boosters into two categories: core (recommended) and noncore (optional).

Core vaccines would be administered every three years. (There is some evidence that suggests core diseases could be covered for 5 years or more with these vaccines, so three years was given as a compromise, a "better safe than sorry" approach). They cover the most severe and common illnesses.

1. Rabies
2. Canine parvovirus
3. Canine parainfluenza virus (in combination with other kennel cough- causing viruses)
4. Distemper

Noncore vaccines cover diseases which are not as common or severe, and may have at one time been given to most dogs, perhaps unnecessarily. The new guidelines suggest that noncore vaccines should be given on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration factors like the age and health of the dog, or his likely exposure to the infectious agent. For instance, you may not have to give a vaccine or boosters for Lyme Disease if your pet stays in your apartment and ventures out only for walks on concrete city sidewalks. Or, if ol' Max is of advanced age, the risks of some vaccinations may outweigh the benefits. Under these recommendations dogs would receive appropriate noncore boosters annually.

Finally, the AAHA listed three vaccines that it feels should not be administered at all.

1. Giardia- the vaccine for this disease does not prevent infection

2. Canine adenovirus type 1(hepatitis)- the vaccine for this disease can cause visual impairment in dogs, and type 1 of this disease is covered with the type 2 vaccine, which is usually given in combination with the vaccine for parainfluenza.

3. Corona virus- according to the AAHA, corona virus does not commonly occur, and when seen is self-limiting.

Since these recommendations are not intended to be "set in stone", and since canine vaccination is obviously a nuanced issue (read: confusing and complex!), it is wise to discuss with your vet the rationale behind your dog's vaccination schedule and follow his or her recommendations based on your dog, his health, and his environment.

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.

Dina Giolitto is a copywriting consultant and ghostwriter with 10 years of experience writing corporate print materials and web content. Trust her with your next e-book, article series or web project, and make a lasting impression on your audience of information-hungry prospects. Visit http://www.wordfeeder.com for more information.

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