Problems With Canine Over-Vaccination

by Daniel Beatty, DVM

First and foremost, vaccinations are an important component of health care, prevention and wellness for your dog. I am, by no means, recommending not vaccinating your dog.

It is vitally important to vaccinate appropriately.

For the core vaccines of distemper, parvo, adenovirus (together called DAP) and rabies, appropriate vaccination is as young puppies not before 9 weeks of age and with the final puppy vaccine for DAP at 15-16 weeks of age.

Rabies between 4 and 6 months of age and then 1 year after the initial vaccine.

After these puppy vaccines, boosters of these vaccines should not be given before 3 years and in many instances well beyond 3 years. 

There is plenty of evidence and research to support that giving vaccines more frequently does not improve their effectiveness and instead increases the risk of  adverse reactions.

Research and information from veterinarians like Dr Ronald Schultz, Dr Richard Ford and Dr Jean Dodds has been available since the 1970's and continues on to the present day. In 2006 major vaccine guideline changes were made and posted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), recommending 3 year vaccination protocols
for the core vaccines vs annual vaccination.

Here are a couple of research articles from Dr Schultz -

The consequences of overvaccinating can be immediate or delayed reactions, called vaccinosis.

These reactions can occur anywhere between 24 hours to 45 days. The three major consequences are increased allergy symptoms, autoimmune disorders and cancer. However the list of reactions overall
is quite extensive and includes -

  • Autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, arthritis, skin, and even nervous system disorders - seizures, epilepsy.
  • Behavior changes increasing anxiety, obsessive behavior, and/or aggression
  • Cancers such as fibrosarcomas at injection site
  • Muscle weakness and muscle atrophy
  • Chronic digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel
  • Skin issues such as chronic skin allergies, self-mutilation and tail chewing

How this occurs, although not completely understood, can be attributed to the overstimulation of the immune system and inflammatory system. 

There are two parts to a vaccine, the antigen and the adjuvant. 

The antigen is the specific disease particle that the vaccine is trying to protect against. The adjuvant is the substance that carries the antigen and includes substances that stimulate the immune system.

What the adjuvant does is yell at the immune system - "Hey look over here I have a disease particle that needs to be attacked!"

Substances such as aluminum salts, organics, and oil based adjuvants are all used to stimulate the immune system. These products are really good at their job, which makes for a better immune response to the vaccine. However the problem with these products is that they are really good at their job, which can overstimulate the immune system.

There have been claims that some of these substances can stimulate the immune system for up to 2 years. 

If you are giving vaccines every year you can obviously see the very likely possibility of immune system  overstimulation.

Some new technologies in adjuvants, such as virosomes, appear to have less overstimulating effects on the immune system, less inflammatory response, and have a technique that mimics the natural way the body reacts to an attacking disease. 

Continued research into these types of adjuvants is important in preventing the reactions to vaccines, however using vaccines appropriately and judiciously is just as important and gives us an answer right now to reducing the possibility of vaccinosis in our dogs.

Take home message: The core vaccines of Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis and Rabies have a duration of immunity much longer than 1 year and even longer than 3 years.

Vaccinating more than every 3 years has no benefit and actually increases the risk  of reactions.

If you base your dogs health only on risk vs reward it is obvious that vaccinating annually is not in your dog's best interest. For those of you that your dog's health is more important than just risk vs reward, it is even more obvious that you should be reducing how often you give your dog vaccines.


Daniel Beatty, DVM (Dr. Dan) is an integrative veterinarian that believes in a holistic approach to medicine and wellness. He uses the best of both the allopathic and the holistic worlds of medicine to maintain a proper balance to health and movement for his canine and equine patients. 

He also blogs at Dog Kinetics and loves to teach pet owners his ideas through blogging and webinars.

Articles by Dr. Beatty:
What Acupuncture Did For Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) 

Related articles:

To Booster Or Not To Booster: Jasmine's Parvo and Distemper Titer Results Are Back
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve 
DAP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus): Fourth Year In, Still Full Immunity 


  1. My 7-year-old golden retriever died of autoimmune hemolytic anemia, so I take these issues very seriously, even though I don't know the exact cause of her disease. I plan to titer my current dog the next time he is "due" for vaccines.

    1. Yes, it is certainly something to take seriously. Other things could trigger IMHA as well, but who's to say the over-excited immune system didn't at least contribute? All good things in moderation.

  2. Thanks for writing this; I researched over vaccination partly for my blog and partly to find out what I needed to do and have changed our dogs protocol based on what I learned from other bloggers and holistic veterinarians. The downside to vaccinations really makes you sit up and take notice. This is serious business.

    1. It certainly is. And given the fact that additional vaccination to an already immune dog won't change the status quo, completely needless risk.


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