Puppy Shot Schedule: Vaccination Options & Alternatives

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“..there is NO single, correct way to vaccinate a puppy” 

Nancy Kerns from the whole Dog Journal says it best, “Many people are surprised when they learn that there is NO single, correct way to vaccinate a puppy.” Seriously! Unlike humans, when it comes to dogs and cats, both vaccination combinations and the schedule for giving these puppy vaccinations is less clear. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) promotes vaccination guidelines, based on the work and recommendations of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The AAHA vaccination guidelines are the closest thing there is to a universally accepted canine vaccination protocol. There are many recommendations for what your puppy’s shot schedule should look like. This would also work well for cats. Below are a few of those recommendations via traditional veterinary practices.

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Table 1. AKC Recommendation Schedule

AKC puppy shot schedule recommendations

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Puppy Vaccinations: What We Are Really Saying

Another way of saying this, is there a more current strategy that will give my dog the general protection they need without excessive vaccines or in combinations that would less beneficial to my pet given their individual circumstances stances (e.g. breed, city pet, rural pet, sporting & performance pet). 

One of the key factors that is showing which strategy your veterinary care professional might swing (Old school vs New school) is their age. Not always true but for the rule of thumb definite shows this and is confirmed by the many educated pet parents revealing this fact. Not keeping up with proven research and changing times is a major point of contention in the Veterinarian-Patient relationship in North America and Europe.

If you look around any of the working dog groups on social media, you see the name “Dr. Dodd” or the “Dodd protocol” referred to as the more current and commonsense vaccination schedule for young pets. Dr. Jean Dodd is an esteemed veterinarian from California and is known for her sage advise along with her willingness to stay ahead of conventional pitfalls that place’s pet health first.

The Alternative Puppy Shot Schedule

The following vaccine protocol is offered for those dogs where minimal vaccinations are advisable or desirable. The schedule is one Dr. Dodd recommends and should not be interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended by a veterinarian would be less satisfactory. It’s a matter of professional judgment and choice.

9 – 10 weeks of age

Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV

e.g. Merck Nobivac (Intervet Progard) Puppy DPV

14 – 15 weeks of age

Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV

18 weeks of age

Parvovirus only, MLV

Note: New research states that last puppy parvovirus vaccine should be at 18 weeks old.

20 weeks or older, if allowable by law

Rabies – give 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines

Mercury-free (thimerosol-free, TF)

1 year old

Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV

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.

1 year old

Rabies – give 3-4 weeks apart from other vaccines

3-year product if allowable by law; mercury-free (TF)

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. Visit The Rabies Challenge Fund for more information.

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Puppy vaccinations keep this dog and owner happy

Tips & Recommendations from Dr. Dodd on Dog Vaccinations

  • An annual booster using distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, killed or modified-live virus parvovirus is given at one year of age. Thereafter, boosters are given every three years until old age. Beyond 10 years of age, booster vaccinations are generally not needed, and may be unwise if aging or other diseases are present. For animals at high exposure risk to parvovirus disease, an additional parvovirus vaccination can be given at the six-month point, if killed parvovirus is used. This extra booster is typically not needed if MLV parvovirus is used.
  • I use only killed 3-year rabies vaccine for adults and give it separated from other vaccines by at least two and preferably three to four weeks. A booster at one year of age is usually required, followed by every three years thereafter.
  • I do not use Bordetella, corona virus, leptospirosis, or Lyme vaccines unless these diseases are endemic in the local area or specific kennel. Furthermore, the currently licensed leptospira bacteria do not contain the serovars causing the majority of clinical leptospirosis today.
  • I do not recommend vaccinating bitches during estrus, pregnancy, or lactation.
  • I recommend that distemper-measles vaccine be given without hepatitis between six to eight weeks, because of the reported suppression of lymphocyte responsiveness induced by polyvalent canine distemper and adenovirus vaccines (Phillips et al., Can J Vet Res 1989; 53: 154-160).
  • For animals previously experiencing adverse reactions or breeds at higher risk for such reactions (e.g. Weimaraner, Akita, American Eskimo, Great Dane), alternatives to booster vaccinations should be considered. These include avoiding boosters except rabies vaccine as required by law; annually measuring serum antibody titers against specific canine infectious agents such as distemper and parvovirus; and homeopathic nosodes.

Note: This last option is considered an unconventional treatment that has not been scientifically proven to be efficacious. One controlled parvovirus nosode study did not adequately protect puppies under challenge conditions. However, data from Europe and clinical experience in North America support its use. If veterinarians choose to use homeopathic nosodes, their clients should be provided with an appropriate disclaimer and written informed consent should be obtained.

About Dr. Jean Dodd

W. Jean Dodds, DVM became a veterinarian in 1964 after graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College, and has spent more than five decades as a clinical research veterinarian. Dr. Dodds actively participates in the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation.