VACCINATION GUIDELINES FOR NEW PUPPY OWNERS
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has issued guidelines to
veterinary surgeons and dog owners which aim to ensure that dogs are protected from
infectious disease, while reducing the number of vaccines that are given routinely. Full
guidelines are available at this link: http://www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines
The basic principles of these guidelines are:
1. We should aim to vaccinate every animal with core vaccines, and to vaccinate each
individual less frequently by only giving non-core vaccines that are necessary for
2. Vaccines should not be given needlessly. Core vaccines are those that are required
by every dog in order to protect them from life-threatening infectious diseases that
remain prevalent throughout the world. Core vaccines should not be given any more
frequently than every three years after the 12 month booster injection following the
puppy/kitten series, because the duration of immunity (DOI) is known to be many
years and may be up to the lifetime of the pet.
3. The WSAVA has defined non-core vaccines as those that are required by only those
animals whose geographical location, local environment or lifestyle places them at
risk of contracting specific infections.
4. The WSAVA strongly supports the concept of the ‘annual health check’ which
removes the emphasis from, and client expectation of, annual revaccination and
suggests that vaccination (if required) forms only one part of an annual veterinary
visit that considers the entire health and wellbeing of the individual dog.
What this means in practice is that:
1. The WSAVA recommends that all puppies should have their initial vaccines against
the core diseases, which are distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis (also called
adenovirus). Note that in countries where canine rabies is endemic, rabies
vaccination is also considered core, even when it is not required by law.
2. The WSAVA also states that the last puppy vaccine against the core diseases
should be given at 14-16 weeks of age. This is because, before this time, the mother
passes immunity to her puppies, and this ‘maternal immunity’ can prevent the
vaccine from working.
3. A high percentage (98%) of core puppy vaccines given between 14-16 weeks of age
will provide immunity against parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus for many years,
and probably for the life of the animal.
4. All dogs should receive a first booster for core vaccines 12 months after completion
of the primary vaccination course. The 12 month booster will ensure immunity for
dogs that may not have adequately responded to the puppy vaccinations.
5. The WSAVA states that we should vaccinate against the core diseases no more
frequently than every three years. This is often taken to mean that we should
vaccinate every three years – but this is not the case. If the dog is already immune
to these three core diseases, re-vaccinating will not add any extra immunity.
6. The WSAVA supports the use of titre testing. This is where a small sample of blood
is taken from the dog and checked for the presence of circulating antibodies. The
presence of circulating antibodies indicates that the dog is immune, and
revaccination (with core vaccines) is not required. You may decide to titre test before
giving the 12 month booster, as this may show that boosting is unnecessary. New
in-practice titre-testing kits are now available which will allow your veterinarian to do
a titre test very quickly, without sending the blood sample to a laboratory.
7. It is important to give as few vaccines as possible, whilst also ensuring that dogs are
protected from life-threatening viral and bacterial diseases. The WSAVA seeks to
reduce the number of vaccines given as there is always a risk of adverse reactions
with any vaccination. The risk of adverse reaction is considered small and the
WSAVA asserts that the benefit of protecting your pet from life-threatening infections
far outweighs the risk of adverse reaction – although any reaction to a vaccine that
is not needed is unacceptable. The WSAVA has listed the types of reactions in its
vaccine guidelines (which you can see on the link given above). They range from
mild (such as fever, loss of appetite), through to severe (such as epilepsy, arthritis,
autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, and allergic reactions). The most severe adverse
effects can be life-threatening.
The non-core vaccines commonly used for dogs are for leptospirosis and kennel cough.
Of the leptospirosis vaccine, the WSAVA states: “Vaccination should be restricted to use in
geographical areas where a significant risk of exposure has been established or for dogs
whose lifestyle places them at significant risk. These dogs should be vaccinated at 12–16
weeks of age, with a second dose 3–4 weeks later, and then at intervals of 9–12 months
until the risk has been reduced. This vaccine is the one least likely to provide adequate and
prolonged protection, and therefore must be administered annually or more often for
animals at high risk. There are many different serovars (strains) of Leptospira in the world.
Leptospirosis in dogs is most often caused by one of a small number (four to six) of these
serovars. The vaccines available today contain the serovars that are most often the cause
of canine leptospirosis in a particular geographical area. This product is associated with as
many or more adverse reactions than occur for any other vaccine. In particular,
veterinarians are advised of reports of acute anaphylaxis in toy breeds following
administration of leptospirosis vaccines. Routine vaccination of toy breeds should only be
considered in dogs known to have a very high risk of exposure.”
Simply, this means:
1. The leptospirosis vaccine provides protection for a maximum of 12 – 18 months.
2. This vaccine can be associated with adverse reactions.
3. This vaccine should only be given if there is a real risk.
4. Leptospirosis may be relatively rare in your geographical area, so it’s also worth
asking your veterinary surgeon if he/she has recently seen any confirmed cases
locally. If not, and your dog does not lead a lifestyle which carries a risk of exposure,
you may decide not to vaccinate against leptospirosis.
5. Signs of leptospirosis may include one or more of the following: fever, joint or
muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea, discharge from the nose and eyes,
frequent urination, and yellowing of gums and around the eyes. If you observe these
signs in your dog, you should take him to your veterinary surgeon straight away.
1. In most dogs, kennel cough is generally a mild illness, similar to humans having a
cold or the flu. It is usually treated by keeping the dog quiet and giving throatsoothing
medications. Occasionally antibiotics can be given to treat bacterial
2. Kennel cough vaccines are generally only required by dogs in close contact with
other dogs – for example in boarding kennels. However, you should check with your
kennel because some will demand kennel cough vaccines, and others will not
accept dogs that have been vaccinated against kennel cough (due to shedding).
3. The kennel cough vaccines that are most effective should contain Bordetella
bronchiseptica and Canine Parainfluenza-5 Virus (CPI-5). These vaccines are
available to be administered locally (e.g. intranasal or orally) or parenterally. The
locally administered combination bacterial and viral products are considered most
effective. These vaccines should be administered initially between 3 to 16 weeks
and then annually.