cute dogs

The Truth About Dog Vaccines Every Pet Parent Should Know

cute dog

We over vaccinate our dogs (and cats) in this country. Plain and simple: Overvaccination and the horrible side effects of this practice has become an epidemic of alarming proportions. As a dog mom whose last Cocker Spaniel developed mast cell skin cancer at the site of yearly dog vaccines, I’ve made it one my life passions and missions to become a more educated and more informed pet parent. As a dog writer and blogger, I also share this information so that other dog parents are aware, know their options, and so they can be an active participant with the veterinarian in their dog’s care.

Dr. Jean Dodds is one of my favorite people in the world. We’ve written about Dr. Dodds here on Fidose of Reality and we named her a 2012 “Paw-er” Woman of Fidose of Reality. What makes her so special is her voice is mighty, her research is groundbreaking and bar setting, and her ardent fervor for animals spans a 50-year career. I follow her word like the gospel it is. Dr. Dodds gives lectures worldwide on variety of veterinary topics including clinical pathology, hematology, blood banking, immunology, endocrinology, nutrition, and holistic medicine.

jean doddsSave the Life of Your Dog: Know How Vaccination Protocols Have Changed

I attended a webinar for two hours last night, with Dr. Jean Dodds as the special guest. The seminar was called “New Life-Changing Vaccination Protocols: Safer and More Effective.” I was hooked. Here is a synopsis of what I learned, including an arsenal of information to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian. And if your vet is old school, won’t budge, isn’t into talking about your needs and desires, or won’t customize a protocol specific to your dog’s needs, honestly: Time to find a new vet.

Pros of Vaccines

Vaccines are not evil. According to research Dr. Dodds shared, thanks to vaccinations, historically more lives have been saved and more animals have been safeguarded than any other medical advances. The very first vaccines were against small pox, distemper, and anthrax.

Canine vaccinations have significantly reduced endemics of canine distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus but NOT in wildlife reservoirs.

So what’s the problem then? Well, vaccine companies make excellent products, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all for every dog.

Kennel Cough or Canine Influenza

A very important distinction was discussed between these two. Canine influenza looks like kennel cough early in disease. Canine influenza can become chronic pneumonia. Dogs with the “flu” will have a fever early on – whereas kennel cough is not associated with a fever. So learn to take your dog’s temperature, and at the first sign of a cough that lingers see the vet. Make note of any fever so you can report these findings and help cute dogyour vet in helping your dog.

What Vaccines Should Your Dog Have?

A goal needs to be for pet parents to work with their vets to understand informed consent is essential. Dog moms and dog dads need to talk to their dog’s vet about potential adverse reactions. You absolutely do NOT  need to re-vaccinate (give “boosters”) automatically.  All that might be needed is a titer. The bottom line is that Dr. Dodds recommends more titers for distemper and parvo for adult dogs.

Color Counts

As dog mom to a pooch with a lot of white in his coat coloring, I was surprised to find out that a dog with white or dilute coat colors has a higher propensity to reactions to things in general. Lighter colored dogs are more prone to chemical reactions beyond vaccine side effects – including flea meds and sulfonamides, etc.Use caution if your dog is white and/or is lightly pigmented, as my dog is.

The Good News

Vaccines are more potent and cleaner today than they were years ago – some companies advertise their vaccines are cleaner and don’t contain what used to be in them 10 years ago. That’s a good thing. But too much of a good thing is never a, well, “good thing.”

Dosage Dilemma

The same dose of vaccination that is given to a giant breed is the same one given to a toy breed: Why? Dr. Dodds is a pioneer in challenging this and also in the Rabies Challenge, which she and her organization insist (and rightfully so) that the rabies vaccine need not be given as frequently as current law and mandate dictates. You can learn more about the Rabies Challenge Fund and get involved. Fellow dog blogger, Roxanne Hawn, has a dog who has suffered severe reactions to a rabies booster. I’ve been following Lily’s saga and this only reinforces to me the need for the Rabies Challenge Fund and that times must change.

Side effects and reactions to vaccines tend to occur in smaller dogs and in dogs who are vaccinated with multiple vaccines together. Sadly, in a huge study that was released in 2005, evidence showed that smaller dogs were at risk and that too many vaccines cause major problems. Nothing has changed, and here we are in 2013!!!

What Should Dog Parents Do?

dr dodds vaccines

Pay close attention to the geriatric animals point: According to Dr. Dodds, don’t vaccinate older animals that have had proper vaccines in lifetime. By older, this is according to your dog, but in general, once dogs are about 10 years of age.

vaccination side effects

What is Titer Testing and Why Should You Have It (pre vaccination)?

Titer testing measures the exposure to the agent in the dog’s body. So basically, if your dog tests positive on a titer for parvovirus, you don’t need to vaccinate with a booster. If the titer comes back 1:8 or 1:64, it doesn’t matter. As Dr. Dodds says, “you can’t be a little pregnant!” Similarly, immunity is immunity, no matter what the ratio shows. Any ratio that shows immunity means the animal is protected.

Titers are not as expensive as one would think, and there is now even an in-office titer test your vet can do for your dog. The titers you need only test for are distemper and parvovirus, even though others are available. Discuss the information with your vet but make sure you don’t feel pressured to do what the vet says must be. Dialogue should be open. Dr. Dodds says that these are some reasons for vaccine titer testing:

titer testing

What if the Titer Shows Immunity Without Having Had Vaccine?

Interestingly, a dog’s titer test can show that the dog is effectively protected against a disease, such as parvo, and perhaps the dog hasn’t had a parvo vaccine since puppyhood. The reason for this is that the dog has been exposed to parvo in the real world – and that exposure created a natural immunity. “It doesn’t matter how it got there, as long as it’s (the immunity) there,” Dr. Dodds shares.

cute dog

Is There a Recommended Vaccine Protocol?

“I developed a unique , patented vet diagnostic tests to help pet guardian and dog/cat/horse breeders.  I started vaccine titer testing in the late 1990s in lieu of automatic annual booster vaccinations,” Dr. Dodds told me in an interview.

Dr. Dodds’ canine vaccine protocol can be found on her “It’s For the Animals” website, and hers is the one I follow for my own dog. Again, each dog is different. Dogs with immunocomprised systems or prior reactions to vaccines, those in heat or about to be, and those who are pregnant, amongst other categories, should not be vaccinated. This is why vets need to discusses changes of vaccinations and the need for a “vaccine checkup” and not a “mandatory vaccine appointment.” Still see your dog’s vet regularly – I do at least 2 visits a year with Dexter for wellness checks. Preventive medicine is key.

fidose of realityBe diligent, be your dog’s voice, and be a savvy dog parent who knows these things. Your dog’s life depends on it. Do you titer test? What are your thoughts? Bark at me below.

By the way, I am not alone in my quest to share information for and about pets. I am also participating in a “blog hop” of fellow pet bloggers today and here are a few of my “fur-ends” below:

Similar Posts


  1. I’m currently reading Pukka’s Promise, where the author spends time with Dr. Dodds and provides much of this information. I had read about her over ten years ago and stopped unnecessary annual vaccinations back then. Her work is important and should be read and considered by all dog owners.

  2. I’ve been questioning the vaccine protocol for years. In our state Rabies is every three, personally I’d like to see that upped to five.

    Besides Rabies, I vaccinate for Leptos, because we have a lot of wildlife in our general area. I do not vaccinate for Kennel Cough, I outright refuse. Sampson had the recommended shots and got KC three times.

    The first three times he coughs in the same day is the day he goes to the vet. It’s important that you know your dog and know when to go.

    I’m extremely lucky that my vet leans towards the holistic approach, after I discuss all of my fears and anxieties to her, my last question is “What do you give your dog?” And that’s what my dog gets.

    Last October when it was time for Sampson’s yearly exam he was fighting a bacterial skin infection. I didn’t want to give him his Leptos shot while his immune system was compromised. Yes, I spent money on three vet visits but it is worth it to me.

    Great post Carol and so important for people to know!

    1. Thanks a lot, Jodi. Dex only gets the KC intranasal and I learned last night there is an oral KC vaccine out now. Dex, too, contracted KC at the dog park and we no longer do dog parks. In any case, you are a great dog mom and are very diligent about what you do for Sampson.

  3. Great article. Glad it talked about how beneficial vaccines have been but that, like with anything, you can have too much of a good thing.

    While I’m a “western” veterinarian, we have two holistic doctors trained in eastern medicine, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies at our hospitals as well. I loved working with clients, who, just like you recommend, are the voice for their pet. Its so rewarding when my clients and I work as a team to make the best decisions for their unique pet.

    It is important for pet owners to know that there are not reliable titers for all vaccines. Distemper and Parvovirus titers are generally reliable. Rabies titers are also considered reliable (though many states do not accept them to meet legal requirements). However titers for many other vaccines (canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, lyme) may not exist or may not correlate with protection for our pets. How well a titer correlates with protection depends on the type of immunity a pet needs to effectively fight off a particular bug. Some bugs aren’t killed very well by antibodies (the things we measure in titers) and as far as I know, we don’t have a good way to test immunity against specific bugs via the cellular arm of the immune system. Pet owners should check with their vet to see if a reliable titer is available to replace that specific vaccine.

    I also was curious, Dr. Dodd says something counter to current recommendations (doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just means I want to learn more), which is that even low titers mean a pet is protected? Her slideshow showed some citations for some of her other recommendations – did she provide a citation for this, or was that from her personal experience?

    You said her analogy is that you can’t be a little bit pregnant. That’s true, but my understanding was that immunity is not on or off in the same way as pregnancy – there are shades of grey. The reason you can eventually end up with no readable titer is because antibody numbers in the body decrease over time if the body is not re-exposed (ie. booster). From what I understood, It is possible that your antibody levels get so low that your body is unlikely to recognize the germ in enough time to prevent disease. As far as I knew, no one knows how low the antibodies have to be for this to happen. Generally when titers are low, revaccination has been recommended to get antibody levels where we *do* know they are protective. I’d be curious to know if my understanding is off or if there is data I haven’t seen relating to this.

    1. Hi Cynthia and thanks for chiming in.

      Indeed Dr. Dodds stressed the two titers she did recommend are distemper and parvovirus, so I am glad to know you conclude that also. I wish more states had the rabies titers as acceptable. I am not certain if that was from her personal experience as to the low titers means pet is protected. You can check with her website or through Hemopet for that specific info.

      You can connect directly with Dr. Dodds, as so far as the titer explanation, I wanted to know about the ratios. Having gone down the titer road with my last dog, I recall levels indicating 1:32 and other times 1:64. For my own purposes, I wanted to know if efficacy and immunity varied depending on the ratio and if higher or lower.

      I hope that helps, and I greatly appreciate you visiting. Please come back!

  4. Such great information to know. I wonder if my Sephi passed on a little too young because of annual booster vaccines. Now my dogs only get vaccines every three years or so.

  5. I switched our dogs to an every 3 year schedule after they had their puppy vaccinations and year 1 booster. This year everyone will be going in – Blue for his 1 year booster and our littermates for their 3 year booster.

    Thanks for this great information. Very thorough.

    1. Sometimes, too, Kimberly the booster isn’t needed if they show immunity to distemper or parvo with a titer. 😉

  6. What I question is the CURRENT status of this information as the material was written in 2002. Has she written this currently. Our dog is 10 and I guess all I need to do is the rabies shot as that is required for licensing your dog each year.

    1. Hi Carolyn – I follow her advice to the letter but you can definitely check her website for all information and connect with Hemopet there directly, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.