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Vaccines - Cats & Dogs

Vaccines consist of weakened or dead antigens which should not cause the disease, but should cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies against the disease. (CDC)  Antibodies often disappear once they have destroyed the invading antigens, but the cells involved in antibody production remain and become "memory cells." Memory cells remember the original antigen and then defend against it if the same antigen attempts to re-infect a person, even after many decades. This protection is called immunity.

In American culture, it once was common to give dogs and cats annual re vaccinations. There appears to be no scientific basis for annual vaccinations. Some veterinarians claim the annual vaccines give pet owners reason to bring their pets in for the more important physical exam.

During the past 10 years, groups representing veterinarians have introduced reduced vaccine schedules for adult cats and dogs.


  • Vaccines for viral disases - including the common 4 or 5 way vaccines for Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis / Adenovirus, Parainfluenza - provide protection for multiple years, and perhaps a lifetime
  • Vaccines for bacterial diseases - including

Adult Cats

American Association of Feline Practictioners - 2006

  • Core Vaccines (excluding Rabies) no more frequently than every 3 years
  • Rabies as required by law

Adult Dogs

American Animal Hospital Association - 2006

  • Core Vaccines (excluding Rabies) no more frequently than every 3 years
  • Rabies as required by law

Lifetime Protection?


I no longer revaccinate my adult dogs at all, other than for rabies, as required by law. I am convinced that they have lifetime protection against all the viral diseases (Parvo, Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis/Adenovirus and Rabies). Challenge studies have been published for Parvovirus, Distemper, and Adenovirus (the others have not been studied) showing that protection lasts at least seven years; serology (titer) tests show duration up to 15 years (see Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and Don't Know and full text). These studies are ongoing, meaning the duration may be even longer; none of the studies have shown immunity to wear off. I did titers the first year, for peace of mind, but no longer do them, as I'm satisfied my dogs are protected and do not need to test them to reassure myself.

The 2003 Report of the AAHA Canine Vaccination Task Force says, "Dogs have been shown to maintain antibody titers to the core viruses CDV [distemper], CPV-2 [parvo], CAV-1 [adenovirus] and CAV-2 in viral-free environments for many years. In a study reported in 1997, dogs vaccinated with a product containing CDV and then place in an environment without CDV maintained antibody titers for at least 10 years. In a more recent controlled study of puppies vaccinated at 7 and 10 weeks of age (and housed with unvaccinated dogs to ensure CDV, CPV-2, CAV-1 and CAV-2 were not present), it was shown that vaccinated dogs maintained antibody titers for more than 4 years. . . . We now know that booster injections are of no value in dogs already immune, and immunity from distemper infection and vaccination lasts for a minimum of 7 years based on challenge studies and up to 15 years (a lifetime) based on antibody titer."



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