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Monday, 30 January 2012

In the dark about shots


Me and my wife have just got a Cockerpoo puppy and he had his first vaccinations at the breeder and his second lot when we had had him a couple of weeks. We're taking him to puppy classes and one of the other owners said dogs don't need annual vaccinations.

Please could you tell me if this is true?


Jim MacColl, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Vaccinations have brought us to today’s situation where the incidence of diseases which were the scourge of our dog population has fallen to a, thankfully, very low level. I remember when canine parvovirus was first identified in the UK, and the fear that it would wipe out our nation’s dogs. Thankfully, a vaccine became available, but not before many canine lives had been lost. I did see distemper in an unvaccinated dog whilst training during the 1980’s, but have not seen it since. In 1991, I battled unsuccessfully to save four unvaccinated farm dogs from leptospirosis.

In recent years, there have been localised outbreaks of parvovirus, and there really is nothing quite like the frustration at nursing a puppy with parvovirus, knowing that vaccination could have prevented it. It is a truly horrible illness to witness…

The annual vaccination visit is also an opportunity for your dog to be examined by a veterinary surgeon for health problems, and a chance for you to air any concerns you may have. There are many dogs who are fortunate enough to have only vaccination visits recorded, having not needed veterinary attention for illness, accidents or other reasons. These visits provide a baseline for health, with bodyweight recorded and monitored on an annual basis. I enjoy vaccination visits - you would be amazed what can be found by a veterinary surgeon of which an owner may not have been aware, such as dental disease, heart murmur, early signs of arthritis, and even obesity.

We are as a profession seeking to base our vaccination protocols on best research and also tailored to the particular life style of each dog, so that we do not over-vaccinate for an individual’s level of risk. The first annual vaccination, after your puppy’s first birthday, is now seen as an important part of the puppy vaccination course, providing a vital boost to that initial level of protection. Rather than worrying about other dog owners’ views, ask your veterinary surgeon for his or her opinion, either now, or when you see him at an appointment for something else, or at that first annual booster visit.

Our priority as veterinary surgeons is your dog’s health and wellbeing.

Richard Allport, vet, advises...

Quite true, Jim, the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) has published advice for dog vaccination which states categorically that for what are known as the ‘core vaccines’ (Distemper, Parvovirus and Canine hepatitis) dogs that have had puppy vaccinations followed by a booster a year later will have protection for many years and need revaccination only after three years or more. Also the advice states, equally categorically, that if dogs have had puppy vaccinations and a booster a year later, but no subsequent boosters, it is only ever necessary to give a single shot to achieve full protection and not (as many vets seem to suggest) another course of two vaccinations.

Vaccines for other diseases, such as Leptospirosis, Rabies and Kennel Cough do not give protection for as long, but are not classified as core (essential) vaccines. They should only be given to dogs at particular risk of these diseases.

Leptospirosis vaccine is particularly associated with adverse effects, doesn’t necessarily give protection for a full twelve months, doesn’t give protection against all types of Leptospirosis (there are many different strains), and is inadvisable to give to toy breeds unless they are in an environment of especially high risk.

Rabies, in the UK, is only given to dogs that will be travelling abroad. It is also a vaccine associated with a higher risk of side effects, and in my view it is far better to keep your dog in the UK than to risk not only side effects from the Rabies vaccine but also that of contracting unpleasant diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Ehrlichiosis which your dog can contract on the continent.

The Kennel Cough nasal vaccine is unpleasant to administer (it has to be squirted up the nose), often causes side effects (symptoms of coughing and sneezing) and isn’t guaranteed to prevent kennel cough occurring anyway, although it may minimise symptoms.

Do not, under any circumstances, allow your Cockerpoo to have a full booster every year.


  1. We lost a dog to something called leptospirosis, I think people can catch something similar from the sewers. This was following advice from a breeder who said dont bother with shots. My advice, speak to your vet or someone who knows what they are talking about and don't hesitate to question them.

  2. I have always had my dogs vaccinated. A booster one year a half booster the next. The half booster is for lepto as my dogs liked to go in water i wouldn't risk not vaccinating.
    I remember someone years ago of a lady near me who done obedience training with her collie, she got the vaccinations for her dog but never got the boosters. Her dog got distemper and kept having fits and had to be pts. She went to all the shows with this dog that could have infected countless dogs. Distemper and parvo were common a few years ago, because most owners vaccinate the rate is down thankfully. I know lot's of people dont agree to boosters, but i wouldnt put a dog of mine at risk by not vaccinating. Good luck with your Puppy :)


    1. Hi Jim, there is obviously more than one! And Jim's question is a good one so it's staying put. There's more than one Beverley Cuddy,too - strange as it may seem. There's almost no name unique. I just Googled and found at least three James Maccoll's in Chesterfield. If you want to be put in touch let us know! Cheers Beverley

  4. My dog had her puppy jabs and that's it. She is now 8 and hasn't had any problems with illness - and I regularly walk her in rural areas and she eats the most unpleasant fox and badger poo (but that's another story), and regularly mixes with lots of dogs - key reasons I have been given by vets I have spoken to as to why I should annually vaccinate my dog!

    I based my decision NOT to annually vaccinate my dog on two reasons:
    a) we never used to so why now? Either vets no longer have faith in the vaccinations they use or there's more of a drive to generate 'bread and butter' money!
    b) my mum started to annually vaccinate her dogs when it became the 'responsible thing' to do and she noticed a link between one of her dogs being vaccinated and him fitting. When she stopped giving him his annual vaccinations he never fitted again and lived to the good old age of 16 - none of her dogs before had ever fitted but they didn't have annual vaccinations, and none of her dogs since have fitted as she now will not vaccinate annually. All her dogs live to a good age and do not get ill (again she lives in a rural location).

    The only dog she had any health problems with was a King Charles Cavalier who she paid £650 for from a reputable breeder who has all her Kennel Club accolades(?!?!?) but the poor dog had autoimmune disease and had to be put down at 16 months old, but again that's another story/debate!

    All I can say is you have to do whatever you're most comfortable with but also remember that, at the end of the day, a vet practice is a business which wants to make as much money as possible like every other business, so will market themselves and their services/products as all businesses do - the psychology of marketing is based on exploiting people's emotions and fears - I'm not suggesting vets would intentionally exploit their customers fears but they are a competitive business and that is the essence of marketing.

  5. I would advise that if you have spoken to somebody who has some real knowledge on the matter (e.g. a vet, vet nurse, or similar) and do not feel the need to vaccinate annually then you at least need an annual titre test to check the levels of anti-bodies present in your dogs bloodstream. It is my understanding that as long as the anti-bodies are at the correct level, then another vaccination is not needed; however, my dog's insurance policy stipulates that he be vaccinated annually, and as I would like him covered were anything ever to befall him, I vaccinate yearly.

  6. I would advise you speak to your vet and do some reading on the internet. Many vets now recommend at least 3 years between boosters. I personally am happy to do puppy vaccinations, but no more than that. I live in an area with very few dogs, so there is very little risk anyway. My last two greyhounds had their vaccs before I adopted them, then no more. Neither of them ever had any illness connected to not being vax'd.

    There have been studies done on adult and elderly dogs, checking vaccination levels in their system. One dog, which had not been vax'd since a puppy, still had vaccine in its system when it died. I am happy to titre test my dogs, to check the same. But I will not put anything in their systems without making sure it is needed first. I'm of the opinion that a lot of vets recommend them every year simply to make money.