Are we over-vaccinating our pets?

MADISON, Wis. - More and more pet owners and veterinarians are asking the question, "are we over-vaccinating our pets?" Annual vaccinations used to be the norm, but pet vaccine standards have changed.  

UW veterinarian Sandi Sawchuk has seen vaccine recommendations change over the years. "Since I was in vet school 30-plus years ago, we just used to just vaccinate everything, every year, " says Sawchuk.  She adds, "we're now recognizing that for most dogs, that's not required, we can get by on a less frequent interval."

Vaccines that every dog needs, regardless of their lifestyle would include rabies, which by state law in Wisconsin, is required every three years.  Distemper and parvo are also vaccines all dogs need though there now is some discussion about how often booster shots are needed for these two.  

Most major veterinary organizations say shots should only be given every three years, not every year, and even that may be too often for some animals.  Sawchuk points out that many dogs maintain immunity for life from the initial puppy shot and a simple blood test, called a titer, can determine immunity.

Cats are another story. Sawchuk says most indoor cats can probably get by with a limited number of vaccines.

A great tool to determine what shots your dog needs is the website for the American Animal Hospital Association. Simply enter your dog's breed and activity level.

The bottom line, according to Sawchuk is talk to your vet. If he or she wants to vaccinate every year and you're not comfortable with that: find a new vet.

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