AAHA’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines
Top 10 things you need to know about AAHA’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines
Vaccination is one of the easiest and most important ways to protect your dog’s health. Yet in this age of “overvaccination” scares and “Dr. Google,” some pet owners are hesitant to vaccinate their dogs—even when it’s in the best interest of their beloved pooch.
To provide fact-based leadership about this issue, AAHA (the American Animal Hospital Association) published the 2017 Canine Vaccination Guidelines. Here is what you need to know from these guidelines:
- Get a rabies vaccination for your dog—it’s the law. Rabies is a fatal—and preventable—disease that can be spread to humans by contact with saliva, so it’s mandatory in all 50 US states. Veterinarians are bound by law to give all dogs a rabies vaccine to protect people as well as pets; if an unvaccinated dog is scratched or bitten by a wild animal, it can lead to quarantine or euthanasia. Learn the specifics about the rabies laws at rabiesaware.org.
- Not all dogs need every vaccine. We will ask you questions about your dog’s lifestyle, environment, and travel to help tailor the perfect vaccination plan for him. AAHA’s Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator uses factors such as whether your dog visits dog parks, groomers, competes in dog shows, swims in freshwater lakes, or lives on converted farmland, or lays or rolls around in areas where wildlife may have been, to help us develop your dog’s individualized vaccination plan.
- There are “core” and “noncore” vaccines. Vaccinations are designated as either core, meaning they are recommended for every dog, or noncore, which means they are recommended for dogs at risk for contracting a specific disease. However, we may reclassify a “noncore” vaccine as “core” depending on your dog’s age and lifestyle.
Core Vaccines: Rabies, Distemper/Adenovirus-2/Parvo/Parainfluenza combination
NoncoreVaccines: Bordetella, Leptospirosis, Lyme, Influenza
- Titers, or quantitative antibody testing, can be used to determine your dog’s protection from some diseases. Titer testing can be useful when a dog’s vaccination history for distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus is unknown—a positive result typically means he is considered protected. However, no test is 100% accurate, and testing is time-consuming and costly, so we still recommend vaccinating. While titer testing for rabies is available, the law still requires that the dog be vaccinated since this is a fatal, zoonotic (i.e., can be spread to people) disease.
- Some vaccines only need boosters every three years. For example, the distemper vaccine, a combination of distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus vaccines that protects against very serious diseases, can be given every three years after a dog has received several boosters.
- Protect at-risk dogs annually from certain complex diseases. If we believe your dog is at risk for Lyme disease, leptospirosis, influenza and/or Bordetella (kennel cough), he will need these vaccinations yearly as there is no evidence of longer-lasting immunity with these inoculations.
- Serious vaccine reactions are rare. The risk of contracting a dangerous disease by not vaccinating a dog outweighs the potential for vaccination side effects. Still, be aware of potential reactions and seek veterinary attention if your dog begins vomiting and scratching, develops bumps (hives), facial swelling, or has difficulty breathing within a few hours of being vaccinated. Long-term side effects, like behavioral changes, immune-mediated diseases, and other complex conditions, have not been formally linked to vaccinations.
- Don’t administer vaccines to your dog yourself. While vaccines are available through sources other than here at HVC, they may not protect your pet against disease unless they are properly stored, handled, and administered. We are trained to do this correctly. It is also important to note that it is against the law for anyone other than a licensed veterinarian to administer a rabies vaccine.
- AAHA’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines are based on science. A task force of five expert veterinarians created them, along with 18 contributing reviewers, based on practical clinical experience and 123 references to scientific evidence. The guidelines also underwent a formal external review process.
- Communicate any concerns to your veterinarian. We have the same goal as you: to provide the best possible care for your pets. If, say, you are worried about your puppy or small dog receiving too many injections in the same visit, we can separate them into separate visits. We will make a plan based on your dog’s specific circumstances.