Dog Longevity Survey: How Important Is Vaccination for Longevity?

Vaccination is one of the nowaday's top controversies.

Take a look at the full range of responses to this one. 23.81% checked vaccination as extremely important, 40.48% as important, 19.05% as somewhat important, 4.76% as not important, 2.38% didn't know, and 9.52% opted for alternate answers.

The other answers include opting for titers, the importance of not over-vaccinating, and considerations for exposure. These notes are all correct and essential, though not addressing the question of initial vaccinations.

Where do you stand on the subject of vaccination?

Vaccinations do save lives.

I believe that every puppy should receive the core vaccines. Rabies is always fatal. Parvo is potentially fatal, and I would not take a chance with that. Distemper is potentially fatal, and it's a debilitating disease I would never want to risk my dog getting. Canine adenovirus vaccine protects against hepatitis and respiratory disease (part of the kennel cough complex).

Almost all experts agree that all puppies should receive initial core vaccinations.

Only a very few voices are against vaccinating altogether. The lack of cure and the morbidity with these diseases is something I would not want to risk. That is not to say that if your dog got parvo, for example, you shouldn't treat. But the treatment is costly and supportive only.

I believe that the risks of the diseases themselves vastly outweigh the risk of the vaccines. Have you ever seen a puppy sick with parvo or distemper?

That said, once immunity is acquired, there is no reason to keep revaccinating.

Except for rabies, which is regulated by legislation. Unless something changes, this vaccine is mandatory.

With parvo and distemper, all you need to do is to run a titer test to see the level of your dog's immunity. We just did titers for Cookie couple months ago, because it's been three years since her last vaccination. And it is entirely possible that the last booster was indeed the last and she won't need one for the rest of her life. We'll continue to titer to confirm she's protected.

Should any veterinarian insist on annual boosters, just say no.

It seems that many of them use vaccine reminders as the means of getting you to show up in the clinic for an exam. I imagine there are people who wouldn't come otherwise. I assume there are plenty of such people. Our present clinic came up with a creative solution. They give only one vaccine at the time, meaning that even though they honor the minimum of three years between boosters, you get to come one year for parvo, next year for distemper ...

Pretty clever.

Good for the dogs too, I guess, as the immune system needs to deal only with one at a time. When we moved up here, with Cookie's vaccination history not known, we gave her both parvo and distemper but with a month apart.

When it comes to vaccinations, I consider Dr. Dodds' guidelines the most discriminate source. But if your vet insists on annual boosters, you can also refer them to the AAHA guidelines. There is not a single reliable source recommending yearly boosters anymore.

That applies to core vaccines only, though, because the elective vaccines are mostly against bacterial infections and they do not last longer than a year.

What about the non-core vaccines?

Non-core vaccines are absolutely a judgment call for each individual dog given their lifestyle and potential exposure. There are areas where vaccinating against things such as leptospirosis, Lyme or even rattlesnake bites might make sense. When we lived down South, we did do lepto vaccine. As the time passes, we might need to start doing that up here as well.

Always vaccinate a healthy dog only.

It is mindboggling that you can still bring your dog to a vet because they're sick and they might tell you to vaccinate as well since you're there already. That just does not make any sense. Do not allow your dog being given boosters if they are ill.

At the end of the day, everybody needs to do what they believe is best.

While there are antivaccination voices out there, there is enough consensus to support initial immunization for all dogs. The risks of not vaccinating at all outweigh those of potential vaccine reactions.

What say you?

Related articles:
Problems with Canine Over-Vaccination

Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
How Important Is Weight Management for Longevity?


  1. This is my favorite line: "At the end of the day, everybody needs to do what they believe is best." I need to ask my vet about titer testing, they've never mentioned it.

    1. That is what it all boils down to. As there are no clear-cut answers to anything these days. Titer testing is a way to evaluate state of immunity to determine whether or not a booster would need to be considered.

  2. I am a very moderate person when it comes to vaccines. I think they need to be treated cautiously like you would treat any other form of medical treatment. Titers are a great idea. Understanding the kinds of risks your dogs might have as a result of your lifestyle and the area you live in is important. Pets that spend a lot of time outdoors in Florida run much different risks than pets that spend most of their time indoors because of the harsh winters in the northern United States and Canada. Understanding the risks and benefits of each vaccine is important too. For the most part, getting vaccines is not an emergency procedure, so you have time to do some research on what you are getting into.

  3. We do all the initial vaccinations and keep up with at least rabies after that. I have gotten mine DAPP boosters as well, but not on the schedule that some vets like to push. I would love to do titers for my dogs, but they're over $200 here, and $800 on 4 dog titers just isn't in the cards. Great, informative post!

  4. A lot of people really get worked up about this topic. I believe everyone should just do whatever they feel is best for their dog after research and speaking with a vet they can trust.

  5. I agree with not over vaccinating. I'm definitely for initial vaccinations especially when our pets are puppies/kitten stage. I also get the state mandated rabies vaccine, but beyond that I don't see a need. My last vet confirmed this when I took my indoor cat to see him. He said as long as your cat is indoors only there isn't a need to keep vaccinating. That's what works for me, but each pet parent will do what they feel is best for them and their pet.

  6. I really don't want to over vaccinate my dogs, but every Vet I've ever been to insists on it and doesn't do titers! My dog had gotten a 3 yr rabies shot from one Vet, when we moved I told the new Vet office twice, who does them every year, that she didn't need another rabies shot 'til the following year. Somehow it didn't get communicated properly and he gave my dog another rabies shot! I now have another Vet but they also don't seem concerned about over vaccinating. Actually, they all want to fully vaccinate but this one will do a 3 year. It's so frustrating!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  7. I really love how you presented this. I used to sell human vaccines and believe in immunization for the prevention of disease strongly. That said, I don't believe in vaccinating just for the sake of vaccinating. There is so much new information coming out all the time from Dr. Dodds and others that I find fascinating. I just keep an open mind, do my own research from lots of different sources, consult my vet and, at the end of the day, do what I think is right for my boys. I do not appreciate when people demeanize others, especially on the topic of vaccination, because we have a difference of opinion. The other thing I will say is that as far as health is concerned, I believe diet, weight, and early spay/neuter are far bigger issues than vaccines. I have seen some rabid anti-vaccine people feeding Puppy Chow and I just scratch my head.


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