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Vaccination Protocol Revised

2006 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Task Force Guidelines

In 2006, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released their revised Canine Vaccine Guidelines, which updates their groundbreaking 2003 Guidelines (see The Bearded Colleague, Fall 2003) and adds a suggested protocol for dogs in shelter environments. These guidelines were updated again in February 2007 to update new information about parvovirus and distemper vaccination. From the discussions on a few mailing lists, it became apparent that many people were still unaware of the Guidelines released three years ago and the major changes to standard vaccination procedures that it presented. Though the information was not actually new even in 2003, it had not previously been compiled in a single document, nor had a vaccination schedule based on the information been officially recommended.

Vaccine Groups
The most widely-accepted of the recommended changes is the categorization of vaccines. Instead of every dog receiving vaccinations for every disease, a dog should only be vaccinated for those diseases which are significant, and to which the dog is likely to be exposed. Vaccines are broken down in the three groups: Core (recommended) vaccines, those which are suggested for all dogs; Non-core (optional) vaccines, those which are given on an as-needed basis, depending on exposure risk and such things as location and lifestyle; and Not Recommended vaccines, those that have not been consistently effective in preventing disease, or those which are for diseases that are not clinically significant and/or respond readily to treatment.

Core Vaccines
Canine Distemper Virus
Canine Parvovirus
Canine Adenovirus-2
Rabies Virus

Non-core Vaccines
Distemper-Measles Virus (Never indicated in animals older than 12 weeks)
Canine Parainfluenza Virus (This is not the recently reported canine influenza virus)
Bordatella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
Borellia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease)

Not Recommended Vaccines
Canine Coronavirus
Canine Adenovirus-1 (The Adenovirus-2 vaccine provides cross-immunity to Adenovirus-1)

No Position
Crotalus atrox Toxiod (Rattlesnake)
Porphyromonas sp. (Periodontal Disease)

In 2006, these last two vaccines were added to the Guidelines, with the statement that “Because of a lack of experience and paucity of field validation of efficacy, the Task Force takes no position on the use of this vaccine. A reasonable expectation of efficacy does exist.”

Another major change, this one quite a bit more controversial, is the recommendation for less frequent revaccination. While veterinary immunologists have been stating that annual vaccination is unnecessary for nearly three decades, many veterinarians are still promoting yearly “booster shots”. The AAHA Task Force evaluated the data from a number of challenge and serological studies and, while noting that the core vaccines had a minimum duration of immunity of at least seven years, compromised in 2003 with the statement that “revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.” In the 2006 update, this was changed to “revaccination every 3 years or more is considered protective.”

Vaccination Dos and Don’ts
The 2003 Guidelines included a list of 14 “Important Vaccination Dos and Don’ts” – 13 of which were “Don’ts”. These include such things as:
Do Not Vaccinate Needlessly
Do Not Vaccinate Anesthetized Patients
Do Not Vaccinate Pregnant Dogs
Do Not Assume that Vaccines Cannot Harm a Patient
Do Not Vaccinate Animals on Immunosuppressive Therapy
Do Not Revaccinate a Dog with Vaccines Previously Known to Induce Anaphylaxis in that Dog
And the Do:
Do Make Sure the Last Dose of a Puppy Immunization Series is Administered at more than 12 Weeks of Age

Vaccinations for Shelter Dogs
The 2006 Guidelines also introduced recommendations for vaccination of dogs in shelter environments. Aside from the schedule, the biggest differences were the repositioning of the Bordatella vaccines into the Recommended category, and the Rabies vaccine into the Optional category, with the vaccine given prior to placement rather than immediately upon entrance into the shelter.

Comprehensive Individualized Care
An underlying theme in the AAHA Guidelines, as well as the AVMA’s policy on vaccination, is that there is no one vaccination protocol that will work for every dog. Decisions on which vaccines to use, and when, should be made based on a dog’s age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits. Vaccination should be only one component of a comprehensive preventive health care plan, and veterinarians and clients should work together to determine the vaccination protocol that gives the best chances of maintaining immunity while minimizing the potential for adverse events.

You may wish to read “Vaccinating Your Pet” from the AAHA Pet Care Library.

The entire 2006 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines Revised document can be downloaded.

Compiled 2007 [Lois Gaspar]


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Last revised: November 11, 2010