Talking about dog vaccinations to colleagues and online forums has revealed two important things to us:
1) Nobody agrees on everything
2) It’s a hot topic!
So we’re writing this blog, and any comments here or on our FB page, as a safe space where we can all discuss what we personally do to vaccinate our dogs - if at all - so we can really start to understand what’s important, what’s optional and what experts are saying about them.
Standard Vaccination Procedures
Up until 2017, we always vaccinated our resident dog Sprocket each year. Like many other dogs, as a puppy Sprocket got a full round of the necessary vaccinations. Yearly afterwards this was topped up by the annual booster vaccination.
Every 3 years after that, the full round of puppy vaccinations were given to him again. It’s only recently we began to think about all the chemicals getting pumped into our wee dug, and found out that more puppy vaccinations shouldn't be required as the puppy vaccs should set them up for life.
Your dog is unlikely to require these additional chemicals injected into their systems which ironically may do more harm than good.
Titer Testing for Dogs
This year, however, we took him for titer (pronounced "tighter") testing at our local lovely vets who we just can’t recommend highly enough, ICR Vets in Loanhead.
Titer testing is a way to check that the puppy vaccs worked first time, and if they are still working it means your dog does not require a full vaccination again.
Your vet will take a blood sample from your dog and then send it to the lab to test that the immunity/resistance levels given via the puppy vaccs remain high. When your vet calls you with the results, which will be a number between 1 and 6 with 6 being the highest immunisation level, 0 the lowest. You can at that point discuss if your dog's immune system requires the full vaccinations again.
Sprocket, aged 8, was recently titer tested for the first time. His immunity is still very high, our vet was happy that he did not require the full round of vaccs again. Going forward we agreed to titer test again in three years to check if his immunity levels have remained strong.
The yearly booster vaccination is to protect your dog against Lepto, or Leptospirosis, and this is where you should start paying attention because Lepto is a zoonotic disease, meaning you can get it too. It’s a type of bacteria from animals’ urine, and can survive in streams and rivers meaning if your dog is a swimmer, like ours, it’s possible it could catch the infection.
In short if, like our dogs, yours enjoys playing in the water this is a very important vaccination to get. Although Sprocket did not require his full vaccinations again we did get his Lepto 2 booster, and we will continue with this annually because he’s a water baby.
It is important to be aware of the dangers with the Lepto 4 booster, which has been reported to cause more harm than good. Our dogs have only ever received Lepto 2, and our vets do not use Lepto 4. Always check with your vet which Lepto vaccination they use prior to your dog being vaccinated.
If your vet is unsupportive of titer testing, find a vet who is! We have experienced negativity with a vet practice before and would never wish that on anyone. Always follow your instincts, and remember that this is private healthcare for which you pay a premium and your dog deserves the best. You always have the right to disagree and walk away to get a second opinion.
If your dog is insured, always check your insurance policy before you begin a new vaccination regime. If you are unsure about anything, it is best to call them to confirm.
Overall the majority of cover is not affected unless your dog was to become ill with one of the diseases which the booster protects against.
But remember, if your dog's immunity remains high due to already receiving the vaccs as a puppy, you are not leaving them vulnerable, you are merely not adding further chemicals to your dog's system where they are not required.
Kennel Cough Vaccination
Kennel cough is a common and contagious condition found in dogs. It is as life threatening to dogs as the common cold is to humans, which is to say it is dangerous only in very extreme conditions. Outbreaks tend to happen when many dogs are kept together in enclosed spaces, like kennels. You can see where the name came from.
The kennel cough vaccination (a scoosh up the nose) only protects against two strains and ironically can be accused of helping to spread those two strains due to inappropriate vaccination of dogs.
Many owners don’t realise that kennel cough vaccinated dogs are themselves contagious for several weeks afterwards by sneezing out doses of the virus everywhere they go, including on walks, when socialising with other dogs and when boarding either in kennels or home boarding.
Yup, that's right. Your newly kennel cough-vaccinated dog is actually spreading the disease for two weeks afterwards to all the other dogs he meets.
This is why we now insist that dogs who have been kennel cough vaccinated must not board with us until at least two weeks afterwards, for the safety of all our other boarders and our resident dogs. For this reason, we do not insist on dogs receiving the kennel cough vaccine before they come to board with us.
Kennel cough can only be fatal to the very young, very old or ill. Fit and healthy dogs do not require vaccinating as they have incredibly strong immune systems. If you decide your healthy dog should have it, you may in fact be adding to the endemic because the more healthy dogs who receive it, the further the virus will be spread via these dogs.
As mentioned, the Kennel Cough vaccine only claims to protect against two strains and this illness, like all viruses, continue to mutate and multiply into many different strains - we feel that the vaccine (when given to fit and healthy dogs) is really doing more harm than good.
Appropriate vaccinating is the future!
If you are concerned about dog vaccinations, take it up with your vet. They should have the time to listen and respond to your concerns, and we’d love it if you could pass on your advice to us so we can share with everyone.
Whatever you decide to do, it's important you are doing it fully armed with information, and not just following a crowd. We'd love to hear your thoughts, either below or on our Facebook page, on dog vaccinations.