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 necessary 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:

According to the VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) there are FOUR main diseases being targeted by core vaccinations in the UK:

  • Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

  • Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

  • Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis (CAV)

  • Canine Leptospira **

** The Leptospira vaccine is not always considered to be a core vaccination as its use depends on veterinary advice within different parts of the UK and on the environmental and lifestyle risks of individual dogs. 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.

Puppy Vaccinations:

Puppies are covered by immunity from their Mum until they are around eight weeks old, after which they will need immunisation usually by vaccination. They receive their first dose at around eight weeks old, although it can be any time from six to nine weeks old. The second vaccination is done two to four weeks later, typically at 11 to 13 weeks. Puppies are considered to be fully protected one to two weeks after their second vaccination (depending on the brand used). If intranasal Kennel Cough vaccine is given, this provides protection after three weeks.

The WSAVA suggests an additional DHP (Distemper/Hepatitis/Parvovirus) vaccine at or after 16 weeks, but this is rarely offered by UK vets unless there is a disease outbreak. (It is not advisable to delay the first vaccine just so the second can be after 16 weeks, as this severely impacts socialisation and the opportunity for puppies to explore new things at such an important time in their lives.)

A booster is then required at six to 12 months.

Booster Vaccinations:

After the 6 or 12 month puppy vaccinations, booster vaccinations for the core vaccines Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus and Canine Hepatitis should not be given more often than every 3 years. However, vaccination against Leptospirosis requires annual boosters. These authorised re-vaccination schedules are in accordance with WSAVA Guidelines.

Adult dogs should receive core vaccines no more frequently than necessary and a titre test (see details below) can be used to find out if an adult dog does actually require re-vaccination.

Leptospira (Lepto) Vaccination:

There is much debate over whether to give the Lepto 2 or Lepto 4 vaccine. The newer Lepto 4 vaccine protects dogs against two additional strains of the Leptospira disease that have been identified as an area of concern for higher risk groups of dogs or those travelling abroad. It can also be said that Lepto 2 still provides a suitable cover for most dogs, it just depends on what you, as an owner, and your vet think is the most appropriate vaccine to give for your dog.

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:

As well as the 'core' vaccinations, there are also ‘non-core’ vaccinations that are advised for dogs being exposed to certain situations. For example, being in kennels - it is advised that dogs have the Kennel Cough vaccination to protect against Bordetella and Para-influenza.

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.

For more information on all the diseases and vaccinations mentioned, click HERE.