Do Two-Year-Old Pets Need Full Vaccines?


Recently I have been hearing a lot of controversy on how often dogs should be vaxed and what vaccines they really need. I have a 2 yr old Maltipoo who has all of his shots but is due for his boostsers. We do vax against bordetella every 6 months because it is wide spread here and we often go out to the park with other dogs.

Parvo is also very prevelant but since he is 2 does he need the distemper and the rest? I know a recent study states that you should only vax every 3 yrs after they reach adulthood but my vet wants to fully vaccinate him.

Last yr when he got his full vaccine he got sick to his stomach for a week and ran a fever and had a runny nose and cough. The vet treated him and said it was not related to the vaccines.

Salisbury, NC

The debate over frequency of vaccination in pets has raged since my first day of vet school. This debate is no longer as heated and fervent as it was in the past.

On one side of the debate are vets who point out, correctly, that annual vaccinations radically improved pets’ lives by preventing dreaded diseases such as feline panleukopenia (which is the original, and still the worst parvovirus) and canine parvovirus (which is believed to be a mutated form of the feline virus). If you doubt this, you have never witnessed either parvovirus wipe out a shelter or cat colony.

On the other side of the debate are the ever growing number of vets who agree that vaccines save pets’ lives, but who feel that over-vaccinating puts pets at risk of other problems without leading to significant health benefits. They point to numerous duration of immunity studies that indicate pets need their core vaccines (rabies and distemper/hepatitis/parvovirus/parainfluenza (DHPP) in dogs; rhinotracheitis/calicivirus/panleukopenia (RCP) in indoor cats; rabies where legally required in cats; RCP and feline leukemia in outdoor cats) at most every three years as adults.

Those who favor three year vaccines have grown in number steadily over the last decade. Most veterinary schools and well-respected organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners back three year vaccines. The preponderance of the scientific evidence backs three year vaccines. Virtually every veterinarian who graduated from vet school in the last 15 years (including yours truly) supports three year vaccination protocols (although any thoughtful vet will concede that protocols should vary based upon an individual pet’s circumstances and lifestyle).

Brenda, I have a few thoughts about your situation. First, you should be aware that the Bordetella vaccine is controversial. There are experts who feel that it is highly beneficial to pets. There also are experts who feel it is useless. Most vets, including me, believe that it can help to reduce the frequency and severity of kennel cough in dogs but that it by no means provides complete protection.

If your Malipoo had all of his puppy shots, then the chances of him ever contracting distemper or parvovirus are essentially nil. I see no reason for him to receive the DHPP vaccine annually. In my opinion a three year schedule is more appropriate. Talk to your vet about skipping add-ons to the DHPP such as coronavirus and leptospirosis as well. (Leptospirosis is contagious to people. The vaccine against leptospirosis is appropriate for some, but not all dogs.)

Finally, I believe there is a chance that your dog’s illness last year was vaccine-related. In my opinion it is a solid reason to push for a minimal vaccine protocol in your pet.

Photo credit: some person who names himself or herself only as “me”. Seriously, folks, how am I supposed to offer photo credits when that is all you give me?

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