Home Dog Health Over Vaccinating Dogs: Prevention and Real Dangers of Puppy Vaccines

Over Vaccinating Dogs: Prevention and Real Dangers of Puppy Vaccines


s pet owners, we all know how important vaccinating our dogs against certain diseases is. 

We should all know the big three – rabies, distemper, and parvovirus

But do you know how often you need to get your dogs vaccinated? 

Do you know about all the dangers of vaccines for dogs and how to prevent over-vaccination in dogs?

How to Prevent Over-Vaccination in Dogs

Sadly, some vets do an abysmal job educating dog owners on the dangers of puppy vaccines and teaching them how to prevent over-vaccination in dogs. 

There are even vaccines many dogs are allergic to, yet several veterinarians stay quiet about this.

This article will cover the most critical topics pet owners need to know about vaccines, vaccinating their puppies and adult dogs, and doing it safely. 

I will look at the current state of canine vaccine research and what science has to say about the danger of vaccinating puppies.

I strongly recommend you visit all the links I've added to this guide.

They provide much more thorough and accurate information about puppy vaccines and preventing over-vaccination in dogs, including the most recent studies and scientific literature.

over vaccinating dogs

Science of Vaccinating Dogs

Vaccinology and vaccines are preparations that provide immunity for dogs against certain diseases. 

In the most basic sense, when a puppy is vaccinated, he receives a disease-resembling organism. 

This stimulates his body's immune system and “teaches” the dog's body how to fight those diseases in the future.

Science on over vaccination in dogs

Effective veterinary vaccines are relatively recent as compared to human vaccines. 

Still, they're already significantly impacting our canines' health and welfare, both good and bad. 

In the past decade, vaccines for dogs, in particular, have improved substantially and decreased the risk of vaccinations.

The most thorough scientific literature review of veterinary vaccines has been done by Els N. T. Meeusen et al., which you can find here.

In the review, the team looks at the current state of canine vaccines and how vaccination affects dogs and many other pets and animals.

This meta-review concludes that SOME vaccines are essential for dogs to prevent future diseases. 

But other common canine vaccines need further research and often result in several serious side effects in dogs

Unfortunately, veterinary vaccine standards appear laxer than human vaccines.

What I mean is that many antigens used in vaccines are kept as proprietary information and not disclosed:

The use of adjuvants in veterinary vaccinology is much less restricted than that in human vaccines, and a large number of different types and formulations of adjuvants are currently used in licensed veterinary vaccines, compared to only three adjuvants licensed for human vaccine use.” [Clin Microbiol Rev. 2007 Jul; 20(3): 489–510. PMID: 17630337]

Pet owners must be aware of all the potential dangers vaccines can cause to their puppies or adult pets and how to prevent over-vaccination in dogs.

Vaccinating all dogs - yay or nay

Vaccinating All Dogs – Yay or Nay?

First of all, it must be noted that not all vaccines should be avoided.

The big three most popular vaccines for dogs are parvovirus, canine distemper, and rabies. 

All three are extremely important and are proven to be safe. 

But what about all the other canine vaccines our veterinarians offer nationwide?

What about the ones given without a second thought or consideration for side effects?

It turns out that not all vets are aware of the severe dangers vaccines can cause to dogs.

It's not surprising to me how many pet owners are confused about vaccinating puppies and how to prevent over-vaccination in dogs.

Sadly, it's a complex issue with a lot of misinformation out there.

And believe it or not, it can be very easy to over-vaccinate your puppy. 

This can lead to various health problems, some severe or even fatal.

If you aren't sure what's suitable for your dog, do a little research before seeing your veterinarian. 

Start by reading through this guide and the linked studies and other articles I've pointed out about vaccinating puppies. 

Be open with your vet about your concern about over-vaccination in dogs, and discuss the options with them.

READ THIS: Dog Vaccination Schedule – These Are the Shots All Puppies Need

How to Prevent Over-Vaccination in Dogs

How To Prevent Over-Vaccination in Dogs

How often should you vaccinate your puppy?

Most of the time, your veterinarian will send you an annual postcard reminding you to bring your pup in for their yearly vaccinations. 

These vaccinations may include everything from rabies to Lyme disease.

However, several studies have shown that yearly vaccinations for a large majority of vaccines are not needed and can put an unnecessary burden on your pet.

So what should you do as a dog owner in this case? 

Do the research yourself, as all good quality information is freely available. 

Start by taking a thorough look at the vaccines available and see which ones might be needed every year or every few years.

In the above-linked study, scientists have shown that once an adult dog is vaccinated against certain diseases, including distemper and parvovirus, they have immunity for life.

Immunity for life makes yearly vaccines a burden on your wallet and your pet's health. 

In this case, even a vaccine every three years is unnecessary. 

Forget about it.

However, most veterinarians will still recommend you proceed with these excessive vaccines.

This may be because they are unaware of modern studies and current research on puppy vaccines. 

Or maybe they provide vaccines as a business tactic to make money or do it to avoid running other, more expensive tests to check for canine diseases.

Can You Over-Vaccinate A Puppy?

Yes, especially if you aren't educated. But don't worry, that is what this article is about.

Some dogs can become overly sensitive to food or water because of over-vaccination.

They can also become aggressive to people and animals as well.

We will provide resources, so you can decide when a veterinarian recommends an unnecessary vaccine.

How do you know if your dog needs a vaccine?

Over-Vaccination In Dogs

The above points should not be your concerns as a dog owner. 

Instead, you need to worry about how to avoid over-vaccination in dogs to keep your Fido healthy.

So how can you prove your pet is still correctly vaccinated? 

There's an antibody titer test, and Dogs Naturally Magazine has published a great guide on how to use this antibody titer test.

An antibody titer test will show the number of antibodies in your dog's blood against certain diseases. 

It's a simple blood test usually done at the clinic.

Antibody titer tests may be more expensive than a single vaccine, but they will be safer for your dog's health and cheaper in the long run. 

If your dog still has appropriate antibodies against the disease, then they don't need the vaccine booster. 


RECOMMENDED: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure – For Dogs

Vaccine Types. What vaccines for dogs are out there?

What vaccines for dogs are out there?

To understand over-vaccination in dogs, you must understand the different types of canine vaccines available. 

In addition to the biggest contenders I've already mentioned above, there are plenty of lesser-known puppy vaccines that your vet may suggest on your next visit.

Some of the better-known, well-researched canine vaccinations may include vaccines for:

Your vet may offer a single vaccine that includes all of these in one shot, but your dog may not need them

Some diseases are rarer than others, and some will only be prevalent in certain areas. 

For example, Lyme disease is a disease spread only by ticks.

Lyme disease over-vaccination in dogs

As the evidence-based article on NextGen Dog explains, Lyme disease is only prevalent in some regions of the country, including lower New England and parts of Wisconsin.

In most other states, the chances of getting this disease are meager. 

It's even lower if your dog spends most of his time indoors or walking on clear trails.

In these cases, your dog doesn't need a vaccine!

Another example is the bordetella vaccine. 

Bordetella, or kennel cough in dogs, is a disease often transmitted in low-quality doggy daycares, dog groomers, dog kennels, and other similar “public” places. 

Generally, bordetella disease is not something your dog will likely catch at home or even when chilling at the dog park.

If you are attending a clean, well-ventilated kennel, it should be rare for your pup to get kennel cough disease. 

If your vet suggests a vaccine for kennel cough annually and your pup is rarely boarded, don't worry about it.

You should have no qualms about giving them a polite but strict “no, thanks.”

The bottom line is to do your research and talk to your vet to see what vaccinations your pet needs. 

This can help you to avoid over-vaccination in dogs and avoid serious health issues and potentially fatal side effects for your canine.

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Vaccine Side Effects. What can happen?

Vaccine Side Effects: How will this affect your dog?

The biggest problem with over-vaccination in dogs is the possible side effects. 

These can be mild (a rash, swelling, or area pain) to severe (trouble breathing, seizures, or arthritis) and sometimes even fatal, as I've indicated above.

Severe side effects from over-vaccinating dogs may be infrequent. 

Still, the more often you vaccinate your canine unnecessarily, the more risk he has 

for experiencing them.

One of the worst parts about vaccine side effects is that they don't always happen right after an injection. 

Some of the more severe side effects of over-vaccination in dogs can occur years later

This is because of the strain it can put on your pet's health over time.

Have a serious talk with your veterinarian

So, with all these things to remember, how do you take charge of your pet's health? 

The first step is going to be talking to your veterinarian

They are going to be the ones to recommend vaccines for your pet.

Before you even go to your vet appointment, prepare by learning as much as possible about canine vaccines. 

Look at the scientific studies I have linked above, and also do more of your own reading and researching. 

You can even print some studies to bring with you.

Make a list of your pet's previous vaccines, or even better, collect the medical records of a prior vet, the shelter, or the breeder.

Having this information ready to go shows that you are serious about your pet's care and that you are knowledgeable on the subject of over-vaccination in dogs. 

When you and your pup head to the appointment, be prepared to be assertive, stern, and confident.

Remember, many veterinarians will push for vaccines. 

As I said, this is done for several reasons, but the biggest one is to avoid liability to their practice

Just be prepared to say no if you don't agree with any of the treatments, and remember that you can leave at any time. 

You can always find another veterinarian.

Whether for humans or animals, vaccines are a touchy subject in today's society. 

And with more scientific research emerging and freely available online, pet owners are becoming more skeptical and educated on this matter. 

Be one of them.

Don't forget that choosing to vaccinate your pet (beyond the standard puppy shots, first adult vaccines, and regular rabies vaccines) is a personal choice. 

No one should make you feel bad about your decision, whichever way you choose to go.

READ NEXT: Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine (EBVM) vs. Holistic Medicine

Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.