Veterinarians are divided on the subject of vaccinating senior dogs. The debate includes the DHPP combination normally given to adult dogs every three years as a booster shot. Before deciding whether to have your senior dog vaccinated, it is important to understand what the vaccine covers, why there is controversy and the benefits of continued inoculation.
DHPP is a combination vaccine for distemper, hepatitis, pavovirus and parainfluenza. Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system. There is no cure. Canine hepatitis attacks the liver, eyes and kidneys. Death can occur. Canine pavovirus is a viral disease that causes diarrhea and vomiting. It has a high mortality rate. Canine parainfluenza is a respiratory virus that causes coughing, fever, nasal discharge and lack of appetite. It is highly contagious.
American Veterinary Medical Association vaccine guidelines suggest puppies get a first dose of DHPP vaccine at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The vaccine needs to be administered again at 9 to 11 weeks and a third time at 12 to 14 weeks. Your pup should receive a booster shot every year for her first 3 years. The AVMA recommends vaccinating dogs older than 3 with the DHPP booster shot every three years after age 3. There is no recommendation to stop or continue vaccinations once a dog reaches his senior years.
Why Not to Vaccinate
Some veterinarians feel that senior dogs with a good history of vaccinations may have enough antibody titers against the viruses. To monitor your dog, you still would need to have blood titer testing, an expensive procedure. Homeopathic veterinarians and holistic practitioners argue that the vaccination does more harm than benefit because it creates a major assault on the body's immune system. This assault can manifest into chronic diseases. In addition, some senior dogs may have an autoimmune disease and should not have vaccinations because the vaccines will challenge the immune system to work harder.
Why to Vaccinate
Arguments for vaccinating include the fact that no specific dangers exist for vaccinating a healthy older dog and the possibility that older dogs may have weakened immune systems, making existing titers less resistant to highly contagious diseases such as canine parainfluenza. If your dog spends time in kennels or dog parks or is regularly groomed, or if you travel with your pet out of the country, you will need to provide proof of vaccinations. In fact, some municipalities require vaccinations regardless of the dog's age.