Many of you will have been aware over several months of rumours about a radical shake-up in vaccination protocols for dogs. At GVH we have been closely examining the claims and counter-claims of the various vaccine manufacturers, and also the objective scientific evidence for these claims. Until now we have not felt that the evidence has justified any change to our previously-recommended protocols.
Recently, however, a new vaccine has become available which has changed our minds, and we are switching over completely to this new vaccine. There are some quite significant implications for you, our clients, so we’d like to take the time to explain the changes to you.
The first thing to say is that this new protocol applies to dogs only.
Our vaccination recommendations for cats remain unchanged.
In the past, adult dogs have had a C5 vaccination once every year; this is because the immunity to the diseases we vaccinate against has not reliably lasted for longer than that period. C5 can be thought of as comprising C3 (Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus) and KC (the two kennel cough organisms).
Up until now puppies have had a C3 vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks (this has often already been done by the breeder by the time you get your puppy), then a C5 vaccination at 12 weeks of age, then another C5 at 16 weeks. The reason for this is that they get some maternal immunity from their mother’s milk which interferes with the immune response to the vaccine. This immunity runs out by the time they are 16 weeks, and therefore it is not until the final (16 week) injection that the immunity will last a full year.
The new vaccine has some major advantages.
The first is that it overcomes the maternal immunity, so that the pup can respond fully to the vaccine as early as 10 weeks of age. So now a vaccination given at 10 to 12 weeks of age does not have to be repeated at 16 weeks. The pup just needs to come back after a year for its first annual booster.
The second advantage is that after the first annual booster vaccination (at 12 to 15 months of age), the C3 component of the vaccine lasts for 3 years. The KC component still only lasts one year. So your dog still needs to come in once a year, but the vaccination he receives will vary each year (one year C5, the following two years just KC, then C5 again). You don’t need to try to remember which one is due- our vet will know from your dog’s records.
We recommend that your dog comes in once a year for an annual health check in any case- this is equivalent to a person seeing their GP just once every seven years. If your dog has no health issues that you’re aware of, the annual health check can be combined with whatever vaccination is due.
We are aware that most vet practices have not yet switched over to the new vaccine. There are a number of reasons for this. The GVH vets have examined all the scientific evidence about the new vaccine and we believe that it is a superior product. We are therefore instituting it because we believe it provides a better standard of health care for your dog.
The new vaccine is substantially more expensive than the old one, and consequently we have had to increase the cost of vaccinations. However, in the case of puppies, the additional cost is still substantially less than the previous cost of two visits.
In the case of adults, the cost of the annual vaccination will be higher than it used to be once every 3 years, but in the other 2 years it will be less- so over a three year period the costs to you are substantially less.

One aspect that has concerned us as a potential problem is that there will now be some puppies that we will only be seeing for one visit early in life, whereas previously we would have seen them for at least two consultations. There are usually some very important issues that we discuss with owners at these consultations, especially when the client is a first-time dog owner or hasn’t owned a pup for some years.
We have therefore increased the time we allow for these puppy vaccination consultations, so that we have plenty of time to discuss with you all the general health aspects that we need to, such as worming, heartworm prevention, diet, training and behaviour problems.
We also strongly encourage you to consider bringing your pup along to our Puppy Pre-School classes; we have found these to be of great benefit, not only in getting the pups to socialise with others, but also for the owners to clear up any areas of concern they might have.
We also emphasise that if ever you have any queries one of our vets will be available to discuss any issues with you, either over the phone or in person.
Another aspect of the new vaccination you should be aware of is that the KC component is administered by dripping a very small volume of fluid into the nose. Rest assured that this is not distressing for the dogs- in fact, they don’t seem to mind it at all, and seem to prefer it to having another needle!
So…. To sum up:
If your pup has not had a temporary C3 vaccination at the breeder at 6 to 8 weeks of age, we still recommend that they have this. Then they can have full adult protection at any age from 10 weeks on, and will need one less needle than previously. A week after this vaccination, they may then go to the park and socialise with other dogs quite safely. They will need to come back after a year for their first booster C5. Thereafter, their annual health check visits will include a C5 vaccination every third year, and a KC vaccination in the other two years.
This new vaccine represents a huge innovation in the vaccination options we have for dogs, and we believe is a quantum leap forward for the health and well-being of your pet.
If you have any queries about our new vaccination protocols, please discuss them with any of our staff.