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by Dr Kevin Cruickshank

3 Year Vaccinations for Dogs

Is your dog being over-vaccinated? For a number of years pet owners and veterinary researchers have questioned if dogs truly need a full five-in-one vaccination (C5) every year, or if the protection perhaps lasts longer? The concern is that vaccinating more than is necessary may over-stimulate the immune system and may be involved in the development of certain immune mediated diseases. Of course, the converse is true, too: If we don't provide adequate vaccination then our pets will not be protected against several serious and life threatening diseases to which they may then succumb.

Australian and international research over the last few years has shown that with newer technology in vaccine production, certain brands of vaccines are able to offer protection that will last up to three years against the key core diseases against which to vaccinate dogs – parvovirus, distemper and infectious canine hepatitis.

The Australian Veterinary Association has reviewed this information and released guidelines. The primary consideration is to reduce the risk of adverse reactions and to avoid giving vaccine doses that are not necessary. A popular spin-off of this, which has been highly publicised in the media, is the reduced overall cost to pet owners, an important step in keeping pet health care as affordable as possible.

However, only certain brands of vaccines have been shown to provide three years of protection (triennial vaccines) and dogs still need a vaccination each year against parainfluenza and bordetella. Also, the annual vaccination visit to your vet is the time when your pet has its comprehensive annual health check and possibly an annual heartworm injection. Remember, a year to a dog is like seven years to us, and so an annual health check for them is like us only seeing a doctor once every seven years!

So it's still important to see your vet at least once a year, and together you can decide which vaccines are appropriate for your circumstances. Although annual C5 vaccinations are still widely used in Australia, progressive local veterinary clinics are now offering the triennial vaccinations and some have even adopted these as standard.

It's important to be aware of these products and to ask your vet if he or she offers triennial vaccinations: They provide quicker protection, are safer for your dog and cost you less over the three year cycle. There is, of course, still a place for annual vaccinations, such as for older dogs that may not be expected to live another three years, or in particularly high risk areas where one may need higher than average vaccine protection by boosting every year.

So when your dog's booster is due, do the best for your friend and ask your vet for a triennial vaccination and reduce the chance of your dog's immune system being over-stimulated.


With the two types of vaccines now available, there is a greater chance for confusion as to what booster your dog needs. It's important to keep your dog's vaccination records safe and up to date, especially should you move and have boosters at another clinic.

Whilst we'd also wish to reduce vaccination frequency in cats, unfortunately none of the feline vaccines available have been proven to provide protection for more than 12 months, and so, for now, cats still need a full vaccination each year.

Dr Kevin Cruickshank is a South African trained and qualified vet living and practicing at the Gold Coast Vet Surgery in Queensland.

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Posted by Dr Kevin Cruickshank
02 Jun 2010

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