Routine booster shots are a scam. Period. They are not necessary for MOST dogs, yet they are recommended for all dogs. Unfortunately, boosting your dog regularly (in accordance with AKC guidelines) could be really harmful.
In order to understand why they could be really harmful, it is very helpful to know how vaccines work. According to the BBC, in humans, "vaccines work by showing the body a microbial mugshot of a microscopic perpetrator like a virus or a bacteria that poses a threat to the body." This causes an immunological fire drill against the perpetrator, which provides practice for when the body is fighting off a real attack. And if a real attack does happen, the body ideally is primed to respond much faster, quicker and more efficiently to the threat. The same is true for our dogs.
If you keep vaccinating your dog (according to the AKC recommendations), you will keep triggering your dog's immune system to respond, which can often put the body into overdrive and cause side effects. These side effects can be minimal or more severe or acute or chronic based on genetics, age, gender, pre-existing conditions and the health of the gut microbiome. These side effects or vaccine reactions are called vaccinosis, which is an adverse reaction to vaccines. You can read more on vaccinosis here.
Veterinary immunologist Ronald Schultz, PhD, chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin researched how long the immunity for the distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus and rabies vaccines last for. In the 1970's, his immunology research proved boosters are NOT necessary and immunity lasts far longer than pet parents are told.
According to his research, once a dog has received initial shots, they will continue to be fully protected without the booster. Dr. Schultz stated, "vaccines for diseases like distemper and canine parvovirus once administered to adult animals, provide lifetime immunity."According to his research, here's the minimum duration of immunity for canine vaccines:
- Distemper – minimum of 7 years and maximum of 15 years
- Parvovirus – minimum of 7 years and maximum of 15 years
- Adenovirus –minimum of 7 years and maximum of 15 years
- Canine rabies – minimum of 3 years and maximum of 7 years
You can read more about his comprehensive research here.
His research has also been validated by other immunologists and vets including Dr. Ian Tizard and Dr. Jean Dodds. Dr. Tizard concluded that by giving a booster, "the immune status of the patient isn’t enhanced" (Source: Dogs Naturally). Dr. Jean Dodds states that re-administration of distemper and parvovirus vaccines is not necessary because the "duration of immunity (is)7.5 to 15 years by studies. Probably lifetime" (Read more here).
In other words, vaccinating more often does NOT mean your dog will be more immune or have improved protection against these disease
This research has been around for over 30 years. There is literally no scientific evidence to vaccinate frequently. This isn't new information. So then why do vets recommend booster shots all of the time?
Well, for starters, the veterinary industry industry is monopolized by sugar companies like Mars Inc., and Nestle who are literally in the business of making money, which means keeping animals alive, but not curing them or keeping them healthy. Vet schools are funded by the dog food guy, the dog food guy is also owned by the vaccine guy and the vaccine guy makes the laws on what makes what legal and what is approved. The dog food guy is also friends with the vet board guy because the vet board guy is funded by the vaccine guy.
The VCA Hospital, which is owned by Mars Inc., states, "there is no evidence that annual booster vaccination is anything but beneficial to most dogs. Published research has shown conclusively that abstaining from some boosters can put your dog at risk" (Source: VCA). This is not at all surprising because the VCA is owned by Mars Inc. The same company that makes kibble, donates to vet schools and most probably sponsors vaccine companies in some way.
The VCA didn't reference any published research, so I did some digging and didn't find this magical research they were referring to. In fact, one study stated, "it is therefore possible that animals without or with low antibody titres are in fact protected" (Source: PubMed). In other words, it is possible for dogs with no antibodies or low antibodies against a certain disease to still be protected..
Further, this same study stated "serological tests are an option if owners are unwilling to have their animal boostered without evidence that it is needed. However, the cost of these tests is likely to exceed that of booster vaccination for the foreseeable future." In other words, administering titer tests to determine specific antibody levels before giving a vaccine is a good option, but will cost way more money.
At Bobzilla, we always recommend titer tests before administering a vaccine or booster. If your dog is sick or chronic condition, do not vaccinate after initial vaccines. Please refer to Bobzilla's recommended vaccination schedule here.