As a budding veterinarian my top concern is the health of our pets. ABC News recently ran a story titled “Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You?” In this story, a reporter took a dog to several veterinarians to see what each had to say about the health of the dog. With some of the veterinarians, the owner did not have proof of vaccinations and told the veterinarians the dog had not been vaccinated in over a year; of course the veterinarians then suggested they get vaccines.
My biggest concern with what was said during this report is about vaccinations. The former veterinarian featured in the story, Andrew Jones, said that you only need to vaccinate your dog every three years – this is NOT true. While some unpublished studies say that certain vaccines may give your pet protection for UP TO three years, there is still more information being gathered on the topic. The fact that these papers are ‘unpublished’ means the research is not complete- there is not enough proof to make a safe recommendation. Further research is needed to determine how long an animal will remain vaccinated. Things like dog size, lifestyle, and even breed can change the length of time a vaccine is effective.
Few vaccines have had enough research done to say that you CAN wait three years between booster shots. One of these is the Rabies vaccine for dogs. However, if it is the first time your dog has had the vaccine he will need another exactly one year later. After that he can get the vaccine every three years (And it must be the 3-year vaccine). This works because you build up the immune system. Imagine your pet as a home being built. The first vaccination puts up the walls, adds windows and doors. But the next vaccination gives you a barbed wire fence. Each year you make repairs to that fence so that nothing can get in to your home. If you wait three years between repairs you may end up with a hole in the fence that can let things in.
You should vaccinate your pet every year. Vaccines are not very expensive and can save the life of your pet or even yourself. Bringing your pet to the doctor once a year also helps the vet to give your pet the best, consistent, care possible.
Please speak with your veterinary health professional before making big decisions, like the decision not to vaccinate. Feel free to call other veterinary offices and ask their opinions. In some states vaccines are required by law. Research your state to find out its requirements.