Vaccination Guidelines

WSAVA Guidance for Vets and 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.

The basic principles of these guidelines are:

  • 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 that animal.

  • 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 6 or 12 month booster injection following the puppy series, because the duration of immunity is known to be many years and may be up to the lifetime of the dog.

  • 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.

  • 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.

UK Core vaccines:

Every dog should receive vaccination against Canine Adenovirus (Infectious Hepatitis), Canine Parvovirus, and Canine Distemper. The latest advice is that the final dose in the puppy series of vaccinations is given at 16 weeks, so a typical schedule would be to vaccinate at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. A follow-on vaccination is also now recommended at 6 months, not 12 months. Adult dogs should receive core vaccines no more frequently than every 3 years and a titre test can be used to find out if an adult dog does actually require re-vaccination.

Important note re titre testing:

Titre testing (also called serology and antibody testing) is a simple blood test to determine if a dog continues to have protective immunity from its previous "core" vaccinations (distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus). It is a powerful tool for anyone wanting to avoid over-vaccination, as it enables veterinarians to judge whether a booster vaccination is necessary. Now that boarding kennels are being advised to accept titre tests in lieu of unnecessary booster vaccinations, it is worth noting the following paragraph from the WSAVA guidelines:

"The presence of antibody (no matter what the titre) indicates protective immunity and immunological memory is present in that animal. Giving more frequent vaccines to animals in an attempt to increase antibody titre is a pointless exercise. It is impossible to create 'greater immunity' by attempting to increase an antibody titre."

In other words, provided a titre test confirms that a dog is immune to the core viral diseases (distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus), then there is no need to re-vaccinate for those diseases.

Many veterinary practices now offer titre testing using VacciCheck test kits, which enable them to carry out the blood test in-house, giving very fast results and minimising the costs. This can make the option of titre testing financially more viable for owners who want to ensure their dogs are protected, but who also want to avoid over-vaccination. VacciCheck cannot be sold direct to pet owners, only to vets. One supplier of VacciCheck to vets in the UK is Complete Veterinary Care (CVC Group). Owners can email CVC either for details of their closest vet who offers VacciCheck, or CVC can contact their vet to discuss VacciCheck and/or arrange for the test to be carried out.

Please note: Titre testing does not apply to the 'non-core' vaccines (see below).

UK Non-core vaccines:

In the UK, almost all dogs should receive Leptospirosis vaccination. Kennel Cough vaccines may also be considered to protect against Bordatella and Parainfluenza.

Rabies is also not a core vaccine in the UK, but is required for travel under the Pet Passport Scheme.

Immunity from vaccines that protect against these non-core bacterial conditions has been shown to last for no more than a year and should therefore be repeated annually, if required, depending on the risk factors for each individual dog. These include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species; contact with rodents or other dogs. Owners should discuss the most appropriate course of action with their vet.