Vaccinations are an important part of preventative healthcare for our pets.  However, they also have the potential to cause adverse reactions and are sometimes over-used (at the expense of your pet’s health and your wallet).  There are still some veterinarians practicing under outdated vaccination guidelines so it’s crucial for guardians to be informed on the topic and advocate on behalf of our furry friends.  No two animals are identical, so discuss your pet’s age, health, environment and lifestyle with your vet and find a vaccination schedule you’re BOTH comfortable with.


How often are they needed?

In 2003 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) updated their vaccination guidelines.  They now recommend core vaccinations for adult dogs every 3 years rather than on the previously recommended annual basis.  (This recommendation is also supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association).  Animals that are vaccinated when they already have immunity can develop hypersensitivity to vaccine components or it can cause hypersensitivity disorder.  (Rabies and lepto are the two most reactive vaccines.)  The annual recommendation on vaccine labels was not based on any scientific studies.  Most studies performed by vaccine makers are to determine the minimum guaranteed effectiveness of their product to provide immunity to an animal.  Companies don’t have any incentive to determine the maximum duration of immunity because long-term studies are expensive to run, and the longer their products work the less people need to buy.


Which ones are needed?

There are 2 types of vaccines, “core” and “non-core.”  Core vaccines are the ones every dog should receive because they provide protection against infections that are life-threatening and globally prevalent.  According to the AAHA guidelines, core vaccines include: canine distemper (CDV), canine parvovirus 2 (CPV-2), canine adenovirus 2 (CAV-2) and rabies.  (Note: Some prominent immunology experts no longer recommend the CAV-2 vaccine.)   

Non-core vaccines should only be given to dogs that are at a high risk of contracting an infection specific to their geographic location or their lifestyle.  Non-core vaccines include: bordatella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) & para-influenza, borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme) and leptospirosis.  It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of non-core vaccines with your vet and to determine your pet’s risk of exposure.  The 2006 AAHA guidelines do not recommend the caronavirus vaccine (CCV) due to low prevalence of confirmed cases, or the giardia vaccine.


When should they be given?

No vaccines should be given before 5 weeks of age.  Ideally, the first round of shots for core vaccines (CDV, CPV, CAV) is given at 8-9 weeks, with the 2nd round given at least 2 wks but preferably 3-4 wks later.  The 3rd round is given at least 2 wks later, but preferably 3-4 wks after the 2nd round.  Three rounds are given because it’s unknown when the maternal antibodies are low enough not to block the puppy’s immune response.  A “booster” is recommended 1 year after the series is complete, and then a minimum of every 3 years after that. 

Note: neither the bordatella nor lepto (non-core) vaccines actually prevent the disease, they simply manage its severity if the animal is infected.  In addition, immunity for each is often less than 1 year because they are bacterial diseases (rather than viral).  These two need to be given at least yearly in order to be effective.


The rabies vaccine:

Rabies is the only vaccine mandated by law, and laws vary by state.  Despite studies showing the rabies vaccine provides immunity for at least 5-7 years, the USDA has only approved its duration for 3 years.  The first rabies vaccine should be given once no earlier than 12-16 wks but preferably after 20 wks if local laws allow it, and then 1 year later.  Most states require it every 3 years thereafter, but a few still require a rabies vaccine annually or biannually so check local laws to be sure.  It should be given on a different date from the other 3 core vaccines and injected in a different part of the animal’s body. 


Titer Testing:

Titer testing (aka serological testing) is a measurement of antibody to a specific virus, and it is determined through a blood sample.  The best use of titers is a couple of weeks after a dog completes its puppy series of core vaccines to see if it is, in fact, protected.  Some breeds, especially Rottweilers, have relatively higher numbers of dogs that fail to form an immune response to vaccines.  For vaccinated dogs over 16 weeks in age, the presence of any antibody for parvo, distemper or adenovirus means he is still protected against these viruses and doesn’t need a booster.  Many prominent researchers have data showing dogs often have immunity for life against CDV, CPV and CAV after the initial round of vaccinations.  Some cities will exempt dogs from a revaccination requirement for rabies if an owner provides proof the dog is still protected.  It can be more costly up front ($80), but it eliminates future vaccine costs, and your pet’s potential for adverse reactions.    


Helpful Tips:

  • Although it can be tempting to get everything done at once, don’t vaccinate animals on the same day that they are getting spayed or neutered.  Give them ahead of time in case they have a poor reaction.  In addition, anesthesia may affect the immune system’s response.
  • Avoid giving the combination vaccine that has parvo, adenovirus, distemper and para-influenza all in one shot.  Find a vet who will give the vaccinations separately on different days.
  • For dogs whose vaccination history is unknown (like many rescue dogs) titer tests can prevent unnecessary vaccinations, especially for adult animals.  Otherwise, one dose of the core vaccines is considered protective for animals over 16 weeks.
  • Don’t vaccinate when your pet is ill or their immune system is already compromised.

Keep in mind, it’s still important to take your pet to the vet for annual wellness visits even if they aren’t in need of any vaccinations.  Regular check-ups are key to monitoring your pet’s health and maintaining a good relationship with your vet.  However, if your veterinarian is still recommending core vaccinations to be given on an annual basis, consider finding another veterinarian.  If the doctor hasn’t stayed up-to-date on the AAHA’s vaccination recommendations, they might not be current in other areas of healthcare either.




Burbank Pet Plaza – 818-557-0144

VCA Animal Hospital – 818-845-7246

1st Care @ Centinela Feed Burbank – see website for dates

Vetco @ Petco Burbank – 818-566-8528


Sun Valley:

FixNation – Walk in low cost vaccine clinic for dogs and cats 818-524-2287


Culver City:

Sepulveda Animal Hospital -  310-397-0774

Center Sinai Animal Hospital -  310-559-3770 


Los Angeles:

Mid-Wilshire -  Ambassador Dog and Cat Hospital -  213-384-1255

Larchmont -  Larchmont Animal Clinic @ The Barking Lot (once a month) -  323-464-3031

W. Hollywood -  VCA Miller-Robertson Animal Hospital -  310-657-7050

Mar Vista -  Mar Vista Animal Medical Center -  310-391-6741


Santa Monica:

VCA Animal Hospital (20th & Broadway)-  310-453-5459

VCA Animal Hospital (on Wilshire) -  310-828-4587



Offers low cost vaccines at Petco stores. Find a location near you on


PAWS/L.A. -  323-876-PAWS;

Provides free essential animal care services in and outside of the home to disenfranchised pet owners. Assists the elderly and those with disabling illnesses. 30 day wait from day of filing paperwork.


Low Cost Pet Vaccines of Los Angeles:

Sepulveda Basin Dog Park

One Generation Parking Lot

Every Sunday 3:30 – 5:00pm

17400 Victory Blvd.                      

Van Nuys 91406


Red Barn Feed & Saddlery

18601 Oxnard Street                

Every Saturday  3:30 – 5:00pm



Silver Lake Dog Park*          

1850 W Silver Lake Dr                     

2nd Saturday Every Month 3:30 – 5:00pm

Los Angeles  90026                         


Whitnall Dog Park                 

5801½ Whitnall Hwy                        

3rd Saturday of Every Month 3:30 – 5:00pm

North Hollywood  91601                   


Malibu Feed Bin**                

3931 Topanga Canyon Blvd.             

1st Saturday of Every Month 3:30 – 5:00pm

Malibu  90265                                


*Silver Lake Dog Park RAIN OR SHINE