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FAQ #6: Does my pet need vaccinations every year? – Memphis Pet Health

Posted 08.27.15 by David H. Wright, DVM


pet vaccinesAs our clients are trying to save money, which we understand, a popular question is “Does my pet really need vaccinations every year?”

Let’s break this down into three parts.  The science behind the question, what this all means, and what we recommend you do as a pet owner. 

The Science of vaccinations every year….

Pet’s have immune systems that do not have the lengthy memory that we humans have.  All diseases are somewhat different so it varies from vaccine to vaccine but, we have learned that pets are protected after vaccination longer than one year in many cases.  “How long?” is a simple question with a complicated answer because there are many factors influencing the length of protection from pet to pet.

Influencing factors include age, health, nutritional influence, immune status, among others.  One exciting development is the ability to run tests on individual pets to show vaccine titers for particular diseases.  The drawback is that the tests are far from inexpensive and more importantly the titer level does not necessarily correlate to clinical protection.  Thus, it is difficult to use this testing in a meaningful way since the test could show a significant titer for a particular disease, the doctor elects not to vaccinate based on this information, and then the pet ends up with inadequate protection.

Clearly, we want to avoid thinking a pet is protected when it isn’t and this is why vaccine titers haven’t seen widespread use.

What this all means…

The diseases we vaccinate for are devastating and the complications rare so the risk reward equation says, “Vaccinate!”.  Since we can’t depend on vaccine titers to tell us the level of protection each pet has for every disease, we need to vaccinate at reasonable intervals.  Each pet should be evaluated with regard to its current health and age, but also its lifestyle and environment.  Depending on a pet’s environment, some will need protection against diseases that others would have virtually no chance of contracting.

What we recommend you do….

Regardless of what vaccines are ultimately given to your pet, make sure to get a complete and thorough physical exam with parasite testing every year.  Then, talk to your veterinarian about his/her vaccine protocols and philosophy.  A lot of vaccines can be given every second or third year and a few must be given annually to provide protection.  Each year, on every pet’s annual exam, we evaluate what that pet needs and give only those immunizations needed to protect for the upcoming year.  We think that a custom immunization protocol for each pet is the best medicine and safest for your pet so that is exactly what we do here at The Pet Hospitals.

-Dr. Wright

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