The first and foremost rule is DO NOT allow your vet to bully you into more vaccines. Most vets don’t breed dogs and even fewer raise them naturally. Puppies have a tremendous vulnerability to vaccine damage, as documented by studies, and any vaccines must be carefully considered.

Vaccines are given on the basis of being a) safe and b) effective. How you feel about them depends on how true you feel that statement is. Many vets fall into the totally safe and totally effective camp. Vaccines are believed in to the point of ridiculousness, even when every study on outbreaks of disease show that there are many, many vaccinated people or animals that get the disease (sometimes even to the point of outnumbering the unvaccinated). They also believe that they are totally safe, though it is undeniable that documented side effects are many and serious.

Then of course there are those who are totally anti-vax, who believe that they are neither safe nor effective. However, in this case they are also ignoring evidence, that vaccines prevent some diseases very well, address some others pretty decently, and lessen an outbreak’s effect in most cases.

I tend to fall somewhere in between. What I try to weigh is the chance of a vaccine reaction, either short- or long-term, against the chance of my dogs actually getting the disease, and how serious the effect would be in each case. So, for example, I will not vaccinate for the mild, self-limiting diseases – corona, kennel cough, parainfluenza. I also won’t vaccinate for diseases that the vaccine is largely ineffective for and for which the vaccine is known to be very hard on the puppy with major side effects – leptospirosis and Lyme disease. That, for me, leaves parvo and distemper, adenovirus and rabies. These are the “core vaccines” that every puppy should get.

Your puppy got her first vaccines at a few days shy of 8 weeks. She should get her next shot at about 10 weeks.

She was vaccinated with Recombitek Parvo+Distemper vaccine. The proper vaccine to use for the next shots is either a MLV (modified live virus) or (what I prefer) a recombinant vaccine. Recombitek by Merial is my first choice right now.

Your puppy can either alternate between single shots of parvo and distemper every two weeks, so he will get parvo at 10 and 14 and distemper at 12 and 16 – that means a total of four shots – or you can use the core combo shot (parvo/distemper/adenovirus) at 10 weeks and at 12 or 13 weeks. If you are using Recombitek vaccines, you do not need to keep going after 12 or 13 weeks. If you are using MLV, you may wish to hedge your bets by giving an additional shot at 16 weeks or so.

Then you will wait as long as you possibly can for the rabies. My goal is twelve months. So while I’m not asking you to break the law, I do ask you to wait as long as you can.

After twelve months the immune system is mature. Any vaccinations given after that point should be effective for the life of the dog, so after twelve months you will give one more distemper and one more parvo (or one more core-combo). That’s all the vaccines, aside from rabies, your dog should ever need. If you are pressured to give more combo shots, remember that there is NO shot that is legally mandated except the rabies. Rabies vaccines are the tough ones, of course, since you are supposed to have them done regularly, even though there is NO data to indicate that revaccination is necessary (trust me, I’ve read the studies). Ask your vet if he or she can do a titer test on your dog, an antibody check that measures circulating antibodies to rabies. If the titer is adequate, your vet should write an exemption letter, stating that the dog is immune, and your town hall will accept it. There are also holistic vets who will write exemption letters even without titers—if your vet is uncooperative I will do my best to find you another one. However, you shouldn’t have to worry until the dog is at least two, since the first rabies vaccine is done at age one.

If your vet wants to know the name or the source of your vaccine protocol, let me know and I will forward you lots of literature. What I recommend is not freaky or odd; it’s the newest best-practice protocol from top (mainstream) vaccine researchers. So don’t be ashamed of sounding weird to your vet – you’re in the right on this one.