Should I Vaccinate my Adult Pet?

Having read and responded to the comments on my last blog post concerning primary vaccinations, I thought it would be helpful to summarise my viewpoint on vaccinating adult or elderly cats and dogs.

As of 2010, it has been accepted that the duration of immunity (DOI) for core vaccinations (distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus) is in the region of 3 to 4 years. However, it must be said that there is some variation amongst different vaccination manufacturers, with some stating that they offer 7 to 9 years or even lifetime immunity.

So, what do you do as a pet owner? The answer is very simple: you ask your vet to do a blood titre (pronounced ‘tighter’) every 3 to 4 years which measures the level of antibodies present in your pet’s blood, to see if they are still immune to the diseases being covered. You can, of course, have these done more often if you are concerned, and it is good to know that blood titres can be used as proof of immunity for kennels and catteries.

The truth of the matter is that you should be making sure your pet sees a vet on annual basis, regardless of the discussion around vaccinations. You are your pet’s voice when it comes to overall health so seeing your veterinarian is a bit like taking your car to the garage for its annual checkup. Think of it as a ‘Pet MOT’. Similarly, your vet will also ask about…

Overall fuel consumption.

Is your pet eating and drinking normally? An average dog or cat will drink 60 to 100ml of water per kilogram of weight, per day, for example.

What’s the bodywork like?

Are there any abnormalities occurring with your pet’s fur or skin? When a pet feels ill, one of the first things to go is the natural sheen of a good coat for example. Are there any lumps or bumps that need monitoring?

Exhaust gas check.

Are your pet’s motions normal? Are they urinating normally (good flow, no straining, normal colour) and defecating ok (is it mucoid, blood stained, normal colour?). Has there been any vomiting or diarrhoea recently? Is worming and flea prevention up to date? Any unusual discharges noted?

Engine performance.

How are your pet’s activity levels? Are they slowing down due to arthritis perhaps? Any breathing problems associated with exercise?

Of course, these are just some of the questions your vet will ask – on top of this there is a full physical examination (equivalent to a 30-point car check!). There is also a very useful ‘wellness’ test for our older cars (I mean pets!) including urine and/or blood analysis, which gives an overview of kidney, liver, blood sugar and other organ functions.

So, finally, see your vet on an annual basis as this is the best birthday gift you can give it. Full stop. You can also use that time to discuss blood titre and/or vaccination frequency. Just do it. Simple really.

Andrew Bucher

Veterinarian and Co-founder of MedicAnimal

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  1. Our Vet told us that in the 10 years that he has been running his practice that he has only had 4 requests for titer tests, each of which came back requiring a full vaccination. Furthermore, a titer test at around £130 will only indicate the level of immunity for the following two months which is why all vets at the practice annually vaccinate their pets. The practice manager used to vaccinate his own pets TWICE a year because of what he was bringing back home with him that his own pets might pick up from his clothing. But he now vaccinates them only once a year as vaccines have improved over the years.

  2. It should, however, be made clear that titre tests only measure circulating antibodies – if the animal has not come into contact with the disease recently there is no reason for these antibodies to be circulating so a low reading might result. This does not mean that the dog is not immune to those diseases. The immune system also has memory cells, which hold a memory of previously encountered disease – these memory cells are long lived and can rapidly secrete antibodies against the recognised virus should the disease be encountered.
    Titres only measure part of the immune system. Testing is certainly better than blindly vaccinating, but the results need to be interpreted intelligently.

    1. Agreed, all factors (and not just an antibody titre result which does not reflect cell mediated immunity) need to be considered before making any decision to re-vaccinate. There has been some recent data to suggest however that circulating antibodies are an equivalent indication of cell mediated immunity.

  3. Mr Bucher.
    I found your recent blog on vaccinations very interesting , I totally agree with you every dog should have an regular check up just like humans. Vaccinations should be kept up to date and any signs of illness or different behaviour should be watched carefully and monitored if at all you have any fears something is wrong however small ( your pet as feelings and its their way of showing something is wrong , unfortunately they can’t talk ) seek help . My dog is part of our family and loved dearly sometimes I worry to much but she is worth it . I like to think I know the answers asked by our vet when required and the only way to be able to do that is to be aware of their behaviour after all isn’t that being a responsible owner.

    1. Hello Mr Hall for your comment and delighted to hear you take your dog for its annual MOT. The key to being a responsible owner is being observant and knowing what is normal behaviour (physical/mental) so that when something abnormal crops up, you recognise it and act upon it.

    1. My dog was due for her booster in April I always dread doing this booster as have heard and read it could have adverse effects and sometimes death. I am always relieved having had the booster that my little one has survivied ok.

      I am two months overdue and my vet tells me I should do this every year irrespective. What is Lepto 4. Is is the vaccine against the “rats” deasease that dogs can contact.
      I dont think if I asked him for a titre test he would approve.
      I have heard some vets dont do boosters at all as they believe the original vaccinations last a dogs lifetime. Is this true?

      1. Thank you for your commment. It is generally ‘fine’ to have your dog vaccinated every 3 years. You can always do an antibody blood titre on the third year to check whether your dog is still theoretically immune to the diseases being covered. Regarding lifetime vaccinations, I would be very hesitant to ‘assume’ this and would rather check/titre every three years to be sure.

      2. Hi. You can have dogs vaccinated 3 months over the initial 12 months. The Lepto 4 isn’t a yearly vaccination so my vet told me. It`s needed every 3 years however after reading all the reports on the Facebook site called “nobivac lepto 4 -our experiences” i will never will allow any vet to give any of my dogs this vaccination. They`ve been fine with Lepto 2 and that is all they shall be getting from this deplorable vaccine.

    2. Titre testing isn’t available at our Vet’s. The adverse comments re Lepto 4 led me to ask for Lepto 2 which was administered without further comment.

      1. My vets – Pets at Home Companion Care St Helens – will not administer Lepto 2….. THE REASON IS IT`S TOO EXPENSIVE!!! Pets at Home have 2 names for the vets practices, Companion care – is where it`s run and under 50% owned directly by a franchisee, then there is Vets for Pets who are fully owned by Pets at home. They administer Lepto 2. I was told i could transfer to another branch (Prescot) to get the Lepto 2 which is miles away. I have paid for 3 dogs to receive vaccinations for life. The contract clearly states that vaccinations are yearly and if not administered the contract will be void. Incidentally the 2 extra Lepto 2 strains were for Europe and have been available since 2013 there. Here in the UK i am told these 2 strains are NOT here in the UK. Maybe thats why so many dogs are dying and have permanent reactions to this vaccine.
        I am appalled at Companion Cares reaction as to choose not to administer the Lepto 2. My dogs have had this with no effect in the past. Advice needed please? :-/

    3. Lepto 4 is having a bit more press recently as it is relatively new on the market. As ever, do speak to your vet about it. Vaccinations are generally very safe indeed and done appropriately, the benefit:risk ratio is very much in the vaccine favour. It is also important to recognised that a good level of ‘herd immunity’ is needed in the dog population to avoid outbreaks.

    1. Hi Nemo. I can certainly understand how you feel this but once again, the key is the annual Pet MOT and this is a consult fee well worth paying in my view.

  4. I always go with the vets advice on vacinations. As I could not forgive myself if something happened to one of my darlings that I could have prevented.

  5. I have my cat vaccinated every year, as he loves outdoors, and comes into contact with other cats throughout the day. He never goes out at night, and doesn’t fight with other cats, so he’s not so likely to contact diseases from direct contact, i.e from bites, scratches etc, but I like to be sure he won’t pick up viruses, etc, which could be just as deadly. I know it costs a lot, and I also have him insured, and registered in case he goes missing etc., but I think if you don’t want to pay vet’s fees, don’t keep a pet.

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