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Core vaccines?

Started by Erica, February 12, 2022, 07:58:22 PM

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Hi Jo,
I am worried about Elsie not having adequate protection from the diseases that the core vaccines produce. She has only had the two core puppy vaccinations. She did have a leptospirosis shot as well.
We live on a 300 acre farm and keep cattle, winter sheep and I have horses.
The vet seems to think that vaccinating against these diseases outweighs the risk of an immune disease relapse. However, I don


Hi Erica

I have copied a reply that I once sent to someone with the same dilemma as you have with Elsie.  Forgive me for copying it but all the info that you need is there.

It is not always an easy decision, but it is one that only you can make.   Antibody titre testing can be very useful and also it will give confidence if the results show any level of antibody to those core diseases.


As for revaccinating, whilst he is on immunosuppressive drugs he shouldn't be vaccinated anyway  because his immune system is suppressed and this can be dangerous. The guidelines state that a dog should only be vaccinated if it is healthy and definitely not when it is on immunosuppressive drugs, but also he is a dog who is now known to have a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease and vaccinations are known to be potential triggers and therefore is not advisable.

I attended a seminar by Prof Brian Catchpole, at the Royal Veterinary College, and I asked him if a dog that has had an AI disease should ever be vaccinated again?  His immediate reply was "NO".  He went on to say that the decision to vaccinate should be based on a risk/benefit assessment, and for a dog who has a genetic predisposition to AI disease the risks of vaccination definitely outweigh the benefits.

I once had a conversation with a top orthopaedic veterinary surgeon who said that he had identified distemper virus within the synovial fluid of a dog with IMPA.  He said there was only one way that could have got there and that is through the vaccine.

I don't know what age you had him vaccinated but it is considered if a dog is vaccinated as an adult, or after the age of 16 weeks, to the core diseases (parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis) then it is likely they will have protective antibodies for at least 9 years and probably for life.  Antibody titre testing is a good idea if someone wants to know whether their dog is protected, and whether to vaccinate their dog again, but when you have a dog that has had an AI disease there are much greater implications.  It is now known that any evidence of antibodies, no matter how small,  correlates with immunity.   The WSAVA website is a reliable resource:

Lepto4 is more likely to cause an adverse reaction, or trigger and AI response in a predisposed dog,  because it is a killed virus vaccine  that needs an 'adjuvant' to be effective.  This form of vaccine can't provoke the production of  antibodies and this is why they say you should have it every year but the truth is it is only likely to be effective for 3-6 months, so for a good period of time the dog will not be protected anyway.
Leptospirosis bacteria has at least 250 serovars and the vaccine only claims protection for up to 4 of them. It is spread by rats (who have the lepto' bacteria) by urinating in water and the disease is contracted by either entry through a cut on the skin or the dog drinking infected water.  It is an uncommon disease in the UK and the decision to vaccinate should be based on potential risk for the individual dog.  Clearly dogs who are working in and out of rivers are at greater risk but not every rat will carry the disease.
I attended a seminar about vaccinations given by Prof Michael J Day, Chairman of the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Committee, and when the subject got around to the lepto vaccine he said 'Where is leptospirosis?'  He followed on by saying that because it is rare he would like to do a study on the incidence within the UK. He also said this is not a 'core' vaccine like parvo, distemper or hepatitis.
Decades of vaccinating dogs have done a brilliant job of reducing these core diseases and this is why distemper and hepatitis is never heard of these days but the advise of the WSAVA is to vaccinate more dogs (herd immunity) but those who are vaccinated should be vaccinated less often.[]

No one can tell you whether to vaccinate or not when he is better and off medication, but I suggest you do your homework so whatever decision you make you will feel comfortable with - and don't listen to the scaremongering that vets are often guilty of, many choose not to be informed because vaccination, preventative flea treatments and worming etc.,  are their bread and butter income.   A dog that is predisposed to autoimmunity should be kept as chemical and drug free as possible to limit the triggers.  Regular, unnecessary treatments and vaccines can do more harm than good sometimes.


I can understand your worry, I was in a similar position. Used to dogs having annual vaccinations I was advised not to have my AIHA dog ever vaccinated again. A vet told me that hepatitis is very rare and even distemper tended to be only in some (usually deprived) areas. There was still a worry about parvo and even bigger one about lepto. But even that has been exaggerated and as Jo says not every rat will have the disease.

Living on a farm I can see why you would worry about lepto more but you could try to reduce the risks by not letting Elsie into any streams, rivers or drink from any puddles, water outside where rats could have urinated. Also if you have any other dogs vaccinated keep Elsie away from where they urinate for a few days after their vaccination.

I must admit it was very difficult in the beginning thinking my AIHA dog was going to get all these diseases but she never did.

Even if your non-vaccinated dog became ill with one of these diseases I think, probably, they would have a good chance of survival with today's medication etc. Maybe the same could be true about if the vaccine triggered an AI disease, it would depend on which one. Bottom line though, in my opinion is that something triggered Elsie's illness and so she is vulnerable to it happening again so it is best to reduce the risks.

It is difficult when vets disagree. You could ask your vet, though how many confirmed cases of distemper, hepatitis, parvo and lepto they have had at their practice. Indeed, you may be able to ascertain some of this information from various vets/ organisations etc. about number of cases they have seen, in your area. This may help the decisions. I should avoid media information or any vet advertising, you really want, if possible solid facts.


My original post was clipped short.

I wanted to say that I haven't had any of my other dogs routinely vaccinated i.e. yearly.
They all had their puppy shots at 8, 12 weeks and another at 12 months. From then on I have only vaccinated if I was about to get a new puppy. So, my dogs haven't been vaccinated against leptospirosis on a yearly basis either. My farm cats had vaccinations for the first few years but they are all getting on a bit now and none have had any nasty diseases and they are rabbiting and mousing on a regular basis. We do control rats here too.
I don't tend to let my dogs mix with others. I walk on around our farm and also on Dartmoor.

Elsie had Nobivac DHP at 10 weeks and 14 weeks. I *think* she needs another for good immunity as scientific data suggests that she needs a shot for the core vaccines at over 16 weeks of age. I understand that the first puppy vaccination may not confer immunity because of the interference from mum's antibodies. The second shot does, theoretically. For an adult dog one shot of Nobivac gives immunity and it is thought that lasts at least 3 years. (The vets send yearly reminders for vaccinations...).
Are there notes anywhere about vaccinating dogs that have had an immune mediated disease? If Elsie had had a third shot I wouldn't be at all worried.


Aah...your longer post gives even more support (in my view) to not vaccinating Elsie again. As for worrying about her not having a third dose I would suggest you have her titre tested. One of my dogs had a bad reaction after the first vaccine dose so my vet suggested we have a titre test. It came back with all levels fine and some quite high. I do not think they did Lepto though, perhaps they are may have changed over the years. Anyway we did not give her any more vaccines, not even the second dose and she has been fine.



Your post seems to have been cut short again, Erica....