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Breeders Are Not a Credible Source For Vaccine Protocol Recommendations!

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Dog getting a vaccination from a Veterinarian. Yellow Lab

A dear client of mine was in the market for an uncommon breed called a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.  Since these dogs are not easy to come by, he finally found a breeder in Washington state that seemed to have a quality and healthy line and puppies available for sale, albeit with some very odd opinions about immunizations.


Wanting his new puppy to come to Florida with the necessary protection from diseases endemic to our state, he asked me to provide a list he would give the breeder of the protocol  I advise for puppies in Florida.  Before I continue, I want to make clear that I base my vaccine protocol recommendations on our industry’s two main governing bodies, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) who have done extensive research in the field of immunology and subsequent vaccine protocols.

The first premise AAHA and AVMA established is the difference between core vaccines and elective vaccines.  Core vaccines are for diseases that are endemic everywhere, such as rabies, parvo, distemper, and hepatitis to name a few.  Elective vaccines are geographic for locations where a certain disease is only endemic to one or a few locations, or for patients that may have a lifestyle that puts them at increased risk for certain diseases.  Examples of elective vaccines would be Lyme Disease, Leptospirosis, and Bordatella.

Based on AAHA and AVMA recommendations and protocols, as well diseases I know to be endemic to Florida, I advised the DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza) at 6, 9, and 12 weeks;  bordatella (kennel cough since this will be a dog that is regularly kenneled and groomed) at 9 weeks;  leptospirosis at 9 and 12 weeks; and rabies at 16 weeks.

According to my client, the breeder just about lost it when he forwarded my recommended protocol to her.  She stated that leptospirosis is so rare and the vaccine for it is so dangerous, that she refuses to let her vet administer it.  She also stated that no dog should receive rabies until 6 months of age, and that even the core DHPP vaccine should not start until 8 or even 10 weeks of age; and rather than give a second DHPP booster necessarily, run antibody titers for distemper and parvo prior to giving it…as an adequate titer would negate the need for booster, and if a booster is required, she would do it at 16 weeks, as this would be hitting the “bulls eye” for protection.

I read this e-mail in the midst of eating my lunch, which nearly came up as I kept reading.  If I may, please bear with me as I refute this breeder’s advice.

  • Leptospirosis is not a deadly vaccine, as it has a very low reactivity rate, as do most of the vaccines we administer to both dogs and cats. This is true to the extent that despite administering thousands of immunizations per year, my clinic may see a reaction once every couple of years.  These reactions are usually mild and easily treated with a steroid and/or antihistamine injection.  In the exceedingly rare cases when we see vaccine reactions, rabies is the one most commonly implicated, not leptospirosis.  Far more dangerous?  The 50% mortality rate of liver and kidney failure from leptospirosis infection, a disease transmitted through the urine of squirrels and readily remains stable for extended periods in fresh standing water (lakes, ponds, puddles, etc.).
  • Florida state pet law requires that any puppy or kitten is immunized for rabies by 4 months of age.
  • Countless immunological studies have proven that antibody titers (a measure of protective antibodies imparted from a vaccine) have limited value in adult pets, and are virtually useless in juveniles. Immunological factors, such as cell mediated immunity, activation of T-cells and immune messenger molecules known as cytokines and interleukins; are far more complex than a measure of antibodies.   We begin the immunization process at 6 weeks of age, as this is the time period where protective maternal antibodies originally received in the colostrum of the mother’s milk secreted in the first 24-36 hours following birth, begin to break down.  Since immune protection imparted from a vaccine can take as long as 2 weeks following the injection, starting the vaccine protocol at 6 weeks of age imparts protection by 8 weeks of age when few maternal antibodies are left..  Juvenile immune systems do not stimulate enough of an immune response to create a sustainable protective immunity with just one inoculation in many cases, hence the need for “booster” of many of our vaccines.
  • I cannot begin to understand what the breeder means by “hitting the bulls eye,” as this is not an immunological term I have never heard.

In my rebuttal to my client that he forwarded his breeder, she seriously questioned the risk of leptospirosis in Florida, as well as the safety of the vaccine (even though I have been practicing veterinary medicine in this state for 11 plus years and administer thousands of leptospirosis vaccine per year).  She also advised him that with regard to the rabies vaccine and Florida state pet law, she recommends a “catch me if you can” approach and wait until 6 months of age.  Of course, it concerns her not at all that my client lives in a rural area full of wildlife species that are most commonly implicated in rabies transmission, and that rabies vaccine at 16 weeks may be a good idea to protect not only his new dog, but his family and community.

I will concede, however, that breeders are not the only people to blame with regard to this sad state of affairs in their industry.  There are enough veterinarians out there that deem breeder business so important that they pander to their machinations and unscientifically based and even dangerous assertions.   These veterinarians impart a feeling of empowerment to these breeders that give them the self-reflective credibility to become even more steadfast and obstinate in their positions.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.

18 thoughts on “Breeders Are Not a Credible Source For Vaccine Protocol Recommendations!

  1. Haley says:

    You left out the part where Tollers are extremely sensitive to vaccinations–particularly lepto— and prone to autoimmune disorders. This breeder was talking about particulars relating to the breed–not giving blanket statements for vaccination of all dog breeds in general. Seeing as the Toller is a rarer dog breed, which you mentioned, I doubt you’ve had a lot of personal experience treating them.

    • Dr. Roger says:

      I have seen plenty of Tollers and have not observed an unusual intolerance to vaccines to any unusual predisposition to autoimmune disease. BTW, this dog is now almost 4 years of age, healthy and beautiful, with never a vaccine reaction or autoimmune disease.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Dr. Roger

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