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Everything You Need to know about Vaccines

As a retired pharmacist, I have been concerned since I started breeding 18+ years ago that we were over-vaccinating our dogs. Our children get many necessary vaccines, but at least we eventually stop vaccinating them after puberty. But with our pets, we continue vaccine boosters until they are well into their senior years. As adults, we don’t assault ourselves with annual boosters for childhood diseases, and we certainly wouldn’t do this to our elderly family members.  So why do we inflict this upon our dogs, regardless of their immune status or age, when common sense would tell us those vaccines should last longer than a year or even 3 years? 

History of the Core-Canine Vaccines (Distemper, Parvo, and Rabies) 

Vaccines serve a vital purpose to prevent distemper, parvo, and rabies in our dogs. However, good scientific research shows that after the Distemper and Parvo puppy vaccines are administered, immunities are lasting 7 years, and it is thought they may even last a lifetime. Dr. Ron Schultz (recognized leading authority on canine vaccines and a board-certified immunologist) commented, “The recommendation for annual re-vaccination is a practice that was officially started in 1978.  This recommendation was made without any scientific validation of the need to booster immunity so frequently. …The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given.”  He made that statement FORTY years ago.  In 1997, he proved through his research, that the core vaccines had at least a 7-year immunity, and most likely lifetime immunity once a dog had completed their puppy shots. And yet the veterinarian community did nothing with this information until 2007.  A panel of veterinarians when presented with this new 7-year immunity data voted to "compromise" and give booster vaccines every 3 years instead of every year.  Task force member Dr Richard Ford said that the decision to recommend a 3-year revaccination schedule for core vaccines was a compromise. “It’s completely arbitrary,” he said. “I will say there is no science behind the three-year recommendation.” Dr Schultz continued with his work, and by 2006 he’d done 7 additional duration of immunity studies on over 1,000 dogs. He’d achieved the same results repeatedly. The research still showed dogs had protection for much longer than 3 years … and most likely for the life of the dog.  In fact, he believes in his own research so much that he only gives his dog one Distemper Parvo shot. One and done.  In 2011, the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) added this comment after “every 3 years or more, “Among healthy dogs, all commercially available [core] vaccines are expected to induce a sustained protective immune response lasting at least 5 yr. thereafter.” Again the 5-years was an arbitrary number, and we yet we continue to see veterinarians push 3-year vaccines, and even yearly vaccines. 

Whenever I get a phone call from an owner whose dog has just passed away from cancer at an early age of 8-10 years when I ask the question, “How often did you vaccinate your dog?”  They proudly reply, “Every year, just like my veterinarian suggested”.  One vaccine manufacturer claims that a whopping 60% of veterinarians are still vaccinating yearly.  Fast forward to 2017, because the AAHA retracted the comment about 5-year protection.  However, they do now contemplate doing antibody titer testing instead of vaccinating. This is the statement they have now added, “Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against parvo, distemper, and adenovirus.” So, what do I think is going on?  The AAHA guesstimates that 14% of a veterinarian’s income comes from vaccinations.  Just as they are slow to decrease the frequency of vaccinations, unfortunately, they are also slow to start using antibody titers.  I keep waiting for them to figure out that they can make just as much (or more) money from doing antibody titers versus over-vaccinating.  

Additionally, there are no adjustments in the vaccine dose for the size or age of your dog. We dose dogs by weight for everything else, for worming, antibiotics, etc. But your 8-week-old 2–3-pound Miniature Schnauzer puppy receives the same amount of vaccine as a 14 lb. bull mastiff puppy that is 5 times heavier.  A 10-pound house cat gets the same amount as a 400-pound lion.  Ask yourself why children are now being given a 1/3 of a COVID vaccine, but vets are refusing to give smaller dogs ½ of a dose.  Fortunately, in 2014 Dr. Jean Dodd did a 2-year study where she gave dogs that were 12 pounds or less a ½ dose of vaccine.  Her study published in 2016 concluded that dogs given a 1/2 dose of vaccine will produce the necessary antibodies needed to produce immunities. I give this study to every new owner to give to their vet. Link to ½ dose study  Since the study was published many vets have been testing this after giving a 1/2 dose, by following up with an antibody titer test. To date, only one dog that I know of tested low for distemper immunity.  All other dogs have produced the proper number of antibodies necessary to produce immunity according to my owners.  This to me is interesting, because 2% of all dogs vaccinated will NEVER produce any immunity no matter how often they are vaccinated.  

What you need to understand is that over-vaccinating will overwhelm your pet’s immune system.  Here is what Dr. Jean Dodd (board-certified immunologist and veterinarian) says, “So, what do vaccinations have to do with our dog's immune systems? Plenty!  As a dutiful pet caretaker, you are no doubt vaccinating your pet against a host of diseases. And, of course, a proper vaccination program is essential to your dog's health. On the other hand, research shows that our pets simply don’t require annual vaccination boosters to keep them protected. …Yet, many well-intentioned people continue to follow the advice of some veterinarians and give their adult dogs annual vaccine boosters. This can result in over-vaccination and a variety of potentially damaging – and in some cases, even life-threatening – adverse reactions (referred to as “vaccinosis”).”  Here is what a LOT of people don’t understand about canine vaccines.  Our FDA allows the veterinarian pharmaceutical companies to add ingredients to dog vaccines that are NOT allowed in human vaccines. For example, mercury (thimerosal). That is added so they can make multi-dose vials.  Mercury is an element on the periodic chemistry chart.  Your dog’s body can NOT eliminate it or break it down, and so like many other harmful substances your dog encounters (think pesticides on the yard), etc., it will get stored in your dog’s liver.  Over time, your dog’s liver gets FULL.  When that happens, these substances start getting circulated in the body.  The dog’s body recognizes them as foreign substances, and their immune systems start to fight them 24/7.  Over time, their immune systems decline, and they will develop auto-immune diseases and cancers.  Here is an article that explains the many harmful substances found in canine vaccines:

Vaccine reactions are at an all-time high. A study of more than 2,000 cats and dogs in the United Kingdom by Canine Health Concern showed a 1 in 10 risk of adverse reactions from vaccines. This contradicts what the vaccine manufacturers report for rates of adverse reactions, which is “less than 15 adverse reactions in 100,000 animals vaccinated” (0.015 percent).  Sound familiar? Additionally, adverse reactions of small breeds are 10 times higher than large breeds, suggesting standard vaccine doses are too high for smaller animals. A study published by Purdue in 2005 found correlations between vaccine reactions in dogs and variables such as age, size, and the number of vaccines given. The study found: that smaller dogs are more prone to vaccine reactions than larger dogs.  The risk of reactions increased by 27 percent for each additional vaccine given per office visit in dogs under 22 pounds, and by 12 percent in dogs over 22 lbs. Risk increased for dogs up to 2 years old, then declined with age.  Risk increased for pregnant dogs and dogs in heat.  More reactions were found in small dogs given the Leptospirosis vaccine. 

As in humans, one of the reasons why dogs and cats need vaccine protection at all is that they aren’t eating an ideal diet. The better your pet’s nutrition is, the healthier the immune system will be, and the better it will be able to fend off pathogens. A few bold veterinarians have paved the way for ending over-vaccination like Dr. Dodd, and I follow her vaccination protocol.  Here is what I recommend to my new puppy owners.  Once your dog has had his/her annual 1-year Distemper Parvo booster shot you are done. And the latest information suggests that the last 1-year shot is optional.   Ask for an antibody titer test every 3 years to make sure he/she still has adequate immunities. They have recently developed "in home" antibody titer tests that are also convenient and less expensive.  

Non-CORE Vaccines:  

We have always had it in our contract that you do not give the Corona Virus vaccine or the Leptospirosis vaccine because of the potential health risks to small dogs which I and other breeders have seen.  In fact, I do not recommend giving any of the non-Core vaccines for the following reasons, and I’ve provided links to more information on each vaccine. 

  1.  Corona Virus is puppy diarrhea in dogs that is only seen in pups that are 8 weeks or younger. So why would you give it?  It’s also very expensive, and not without side effects.  Corona Virus in humans is totally different from the Corona Virus in canines. Corona Virus Link

  2. Leptospirosis: Texas is not considered a high-risk area for Leptospirosis, even though many vets are seeing an increase in Leptospirosis cases. The leading authority on the Leptospirosis vaccine is Dr. Ron Schultz who does live in a high-risk area for Leptospirosis. He does not recommend the vaccine even in high-risk areas. Both he and Dr. Dodd feel the health risks especially in small dogs caused by these vaccines outweigh the benefits.  Additionally, Leptospirosis is a bacterin vaccine that must be administered every year. Because it is NOT a virus, it is treatable with antibiotics like tetracycline.  Leptospirosis Link

  3. Lyme Vaccine: 85% of the Lyme cases are in New England 2. The vaccine itself can cause Lyme Disease Symptoms. 3. The Lyme Disease Vaccine contains dangerous ingredients. 4.  Most dogs don’t get Lyme Disease Symptoms even when they have Lyme Disease.  Lyme Vaccine Link

  4. Bordetella (Kennel Cough) They now recommend the Bordetella vaccine only be given 3 days prior to boarding your pet only when required, as it only protects against 2 of the 8 possible strains of kennel cough. It's like a shot in the dark. Bordetella (kennel cough) is like a bad cold/cough in dogs, and most vets don't even treat it because its’ a virus. It is usually gone in 2-3 weeks. And it must be given every year, and some vets recommend it every 6 months!  My recommendation is to find a groomer that does NOT require Bordetella.  I teach owners how to groom their own dogs.  And I think it is much preferable to board your dog with family members or friends. Or, to pay for a bonded pet sitter to stay in your home with your pet while you are gone.  Bordetella Link

    5. Canine Flu Vaccine: There are at least two strains of Canine Flu.  Until 2015 the vaccine only covered                 one of them.  So, Merck and Zoetis (Pfizer) rushed to make one that covered both.  Their license is “                  "Conditional” because they have not yet finished their studies on efficacy and safety.  Sound familiar?                 They claim their vaccines have a reasonable expectancy of efficacy and safety.   But it’s not very                             reassuring especially given what we know about vaccination risks and side effects.  Canine Flu Vaccine

    6. Giardia Vaccine: The efficacy of the Giardia vaccine has not even been substantiated. In fact, because it             has NOT been shown to be effective, several of the pharmaceutical manufacturers have discontinued                 making it.  Giardia causes diarrhea but is easily diagnosed by a fecal test, and easily treated with                           Fenbendazole and Metronidazole.  Link Puppy Diarrhea​

Rabies is considered a Core Vaccine.  However, there are more reactions to the Rabies vaccine than any of the others.  Here is a good reference to read on the Rabies Vaccine: Rabies Information Link

Texas T's Vaccine Recommendations

Most vets do not carry the Distemper & Parvo (only) Vaccine.  If not, it is OK to give the 5-way or 5&1 vaccine which is Distemper, Parvo, Adenovirus and Hepatitis.  Be aware that all vet technicians refer to their vaccine as the Puppy Vaccine.  They also make a 5&1 +CV (Corona Virus).  They also make a 5&1 + L (Leptospirosis).  They also make a 7-way, which is a 5&1 + CV+L.  You must ask, “What is in that vaccine?”, and make it clear that you do not want your puppy vaccinated with Corona Virus or Leptospirosis.  I use Dr. Jean Dodd’s Protocol with one exception.  When your puppy leaves us at 8+ weeks, I vaccinate them on the day they leave which may be before her recommended 9 weeks.  So, the schedule is 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks.  The new information states that the 1-year booster is optional.  9 – 10 weeks of age.  Distemper + Parvovirus, e.g., Merck Nobivac (Intervet Progard) Puppy DPV 14 – 15 weeks of age.  Distemper + Parvovirus,  18 weeks of age. Distemper Parvovirus Note: New research states that last puppy parvovirus vaccine should be at 18 weeks old. 22 weeks or older, if allowable by law Rabies – give 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines As for the Mercury-free (thimerosal-free, TF) 1 year old.
Distemper + Parvovirus, this is an optional booster or titer. If the client intends not to booster after this optional booster or intends to retest titers in another three years, this optional booster at puberty is wise.

Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus every three years thereafter, or more often, if desired. Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian. In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request. 


Please note that Dr. Dodd separates her vaccines by four weeks, and only gives one vaccination per visit.  A lot of vets like to bring puppies back in at 3 weeks.  It voids my health guarantee if you give more than one vaccine in a visit.  AND, if you give the vaccines earlier than every four weeks.  Because I give your puppy a vaccine prior to leaving at 8 weeks, they will be getting their third Distemper Parvo vaccination at 18 weeks.  By law in Texas veterinarians should be giving the Rabies vaccine at 16 weeks.  The three Distemper Parvo vaccines should be taken in order.  I have my new owners explain to the vet that it voids my health guarantee to give a Rabies shot at 16 weeks, but you will make an appointment to bring your puppy back in for a Rabies shot at 22 weeks.   

We recommend our new owners give FortiCal/Nutrical after every vaccination to prevent hypoglycemia. We give all new owners a tube of Nutrical/Fortical, which you can find in most all pet stores. Also, never let your puppy run around on the floor at your vet’s office or let any other patrons’ pet or play with your puppy.  The #1 place to get parvo is at the vet’s office. Remember that most of the dogs are there because they are sick. When we go to our vet, we sign in at the desk, and then wait in the car until they call us on our cell phone. So please do not even let your puppy eliminate on the grass outside of the office. Parvo is highly contagious! 


Many holistic veterinarians like Dr. Dodd, Dr. Karen Becker, and others are sounding the alarm that over-vaccinating and poor nutrition are the two primary things responsible for causing thyroid disease, epilepsy, liver failure, diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis, allergies, other autoimmune diseases, & cancers.  If you are interested, you may also want to read my article on the problems associated with finding a nutritionally sound dog food.  

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