The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recently released their revised Canine Vaccination Guidelines. The last time AAHA updated its recommendations was in 2007, and much has changed in the meantime, including the availability of some new vaccines and the withdrawal of others.


The report is 42 pages long, so I don’t have space to go into all of the details here, but I’ll touch on a few highlights.


Core vaccinations are those vaccines that every dog should receive. Exceptions should only be made when a serious health concern (e.g., a previously documented anaphylactic reaction) makes the risk of vaccination outweigh its benefits. Core vaccines for dogs include canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus type 2, canine adenovirus type 2, and rabies.


Noncore vaccines are those that can offer significant health benefits to some but not all individuals. The distinction as to who should receive a non-core vaccine and who shouldn’t is usually based on lifestyle (e.g., the amount of dog to dog contact). Commonly used and recommended non-core vaccines for dogs include parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine influenza virus, Borrelia burgdorferi (i.e., Lyme disease), and four way Leptospira interrogans.


The report also contains an elegant explanation of the different types of vaccines available and what that means with regards to when boosters should be given and how long it takes for a dog to develop protective immunity. For example, an infectious vaccine contains live organisms that can infect a host’s cells to induce a protective immune response, but the organisms have been modified so they cannot cause disease. One benefit of an infectious vaccine (e.g., parvovirus) is that immunity is more broad based and longer lasting, which means a single dose is usually effective in providing immunity for several years in an adult dog. Also, onset of immunity is rapid, typically occurring over the course of just three or four days.


A noninfectious vaccine cannot infect host cells. These vaccines do not stimulate as strong of an immune reaction as does an infectious vaccine, which explains why some contain adjuvants and why they tend to require more frequent boosters. Two doses at least two weeks apart are needed for most noninfectious vaccines to begin working in an adult dog (an exception is the rabies vaccine). Therefore, dogs can remain susceptible to the disease in question for three weeks or more after the first vaccine is given. Noninfectious vaccines also tend to be responsible for the majority of adverse vaccine reactions.


The report also discusses vaccine recommendations in the shelter situation, serologic testing, and adverse events associated with vaccination. For anyone interested in more information, I encourage you to take a look at the full report.


Dr. Jennifer Coates


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