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Hunting & Trialing Safety, Shawn K. Wayment, DVM

Current Field Dog Vaccination Guidelines

The excitement of the 113th running of the National Championship at the famed Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee draws attention to the tremendous athleticism and fitness of our canine athletes. Appropriate immunizations are as important as superb nutrition, proper conditioning, and thorough dental care to their overall health.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) assembled a group of veterinarians from veterinary schools, private practices and veterinary related industries to form a Canine Vaccination Task Force to aid veterinarians in the US and Canada on selection and use of canine vaccines. Members of this task force first met in 2003 and published a vaccination guideline for North America which has been updated and revised in 2006, 2007, and again in 2011. The complete 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines can be reviewed by clicking on the provided link and going to their website.

Veterinary medicine, like its human counter-part, is in an axiomatic tailspin of change. Current beliefs are constantly tossed out the window, so to speak, as we become more advanced scientifically and technologically. Several vaccines that were once recommended over the years have been discontinued and new ones have emerged onto the veterinary market. The ensuing paragraphs are a generalized summary of the 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines (PDF below). These guidelines are simply just that—guidelines or recommendations that are not rigid or set in marble. A thorough vaccination protocol/schedule for your own field dogs should be developed in conjunction with your family veterinarian. It is important to point out that animal vaccines in the United States do not have to go through the stringent system of approval through the FDA, but they must be licensed by the USDA. Animal vaccines approved by the USDA must provide sufficient evidence that the vaccine is safe and possibly affective to the specified targeted disease.

Canine immunizations are characterized as Core or Non-Core vaccines. Core vaccines are the immunizations that ALL dogs regardless of their geographical location and/or circumstances should receive. Core vaccines include rabies, canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus, and canine adenovirus-2. The Non-Core vaccines are those that are required by bird dogs whose geographical location, local environment or sporting lifestyle places them at risk of contracting specific diseases. A good example of the Non-Core vaccinations includes kennel cough (Bordetella), Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), Leptospirosis (Leptospira interrogans), canine influenza virus (please see previous Strideaway article on CIV), and Western Diamondback Rattlesnake vaccine (Crotalus atrox).

Vaccines can be categorized further as being Infectious vaccines vs Non-Infectious vaccines. Understanding these terms is important when trying to comprehend the recommended interval (how long between immunizations until the dog is re-inoculated) between vaccinations. Infectious vaccines (i.e. canine parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus-2) are ones that are capable of infecting the dog’s cells to induce an immune response. This literally means that the dog is given a modified-live virus that can induce the disease or disease like symptoms in them to stimulate an immune response. Infectious vaccines stimulate a much faster and greater lasting immune response then Non-Infectious vaccines. The Non-Infectious vaccines (kennel cough injectable, Lyme, Leptospirosis, CIV, rabies and rattlesnake) are inactivated or killed and they are incapable of infecting the dog’s cells. These vaccines rely on a large amount of antigen or killed bacteria to stimulate the host’s immune system; the response to the vaccine takes longer for the dog to build antibodies to the vaccination and does not last near as long as the Infectious ones.

Another perplexing topic to discuss is vaccinating puppies that have maternal derived antibodies (MDA). Puppies that are born to bitches that are in a great herd-health or husbandry program and receive the proper immunizations for their geographical location pass on antibodies to their progeny through the colostrum found in the milk when the pups first start to nurse. These maternally derived antibodies provide protection to the pups before their own immune system is fully functioning. It is thought that these MDA are protective for the puppies until they are about 12 weeks of age. MDA’s can interfere with non-infectious vaccines (Lyme. Lepto, CIV, Rabies, etc) rendering them ineffective.

The following paragraphs are the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines recommendations on when to vaccinate and how frequently to re-boost the Core and Non-Core vaccines.

Puppies starting at 8 weeks of age should be vaccinated with canine distemper virus (Core), canine parvovirus (Core), canine adenovirus-2 (Core) and an Intranasal Bordetella (Non-Core) in situations or environs where pups are at risk of exposure to kennel cough. The Core vaccines should be repeated at 3 to 4 week intervals until the puppies are 16 weeks of age. Rabies (Core) vaccine should be administered to puppies as a single dosage (no re-booster necessary) at >12 weeks. A single vaccination (no re-booster) of a 17-week-old puppy with an Infectious product is considered protective against those diseases. This means that if the puppy was not properly vaccinated from the 8 weeks to 16 weeks of age, a single vaccination with the Core vaccines is considered to protective against such diseases as parvovirus and distemper. 

Puppies should not be vaccinated for the Non-Core vaccines until they reach 12 weeks of age (because of the maternal derived antibodies), and they should be re-inoculated again at 3 to 4 weeks (with the exception of rabies where one vaccination is adequate for the first year of life in both Canada and the US because rabies vaccines have a huge antigenic dose). The Non-Core vaccinations are Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, injectable Bordetella, Parainfluenza, CIV, and the rattlesnake vaccine. Remember that these Non-Core vaccines are dependent on the lifestyle of your bird dog and the geographic location of where you live or where you’ll be traveling to compete or hunt. A dog that lives in Colorado and travels to the Pacific Northwest to hunt or trial does not need the Lyme vaccine but probably ought to be immunized against Leptospirosis. 

Adult dogs at one year and four months of age should be re-vaccinated for the Core vaccines and Non-Core vaccines.  Core vaccine (parvovirus, distemper virus, canine adenovirus-2 and rabies) immunity from this series of vaccinations should last for a minimum of 3 years and might even last up to 5 to 7 years. Rabies vaccine is strictly dependent on the laws of the state you reside in. For instance a state like Texas may require rabies boosters annually where as Colorado allows a 3-year vaccine schedule. The Non-Core vaccines (Lyme, Lepto, CIV, Bordetella, Parainfluenza and rattlesnake vaccine) are generally killed or Non-Infectious vaccines and therefore they do not last more than 12 months and must be re-administered annually. The AAHA Vaccination Committee recommended leaving Canine Coronavirus out of the equation because the vaccine does not provide any form of protection or decrease in shedding of the virus. 

One way to check how frequently to re-vaccinate your adult bird dog is to have serological testing (blood tests) to see how much protective immunity they have towards the core diseases. A blood sample can be sent to a diagnostic lab to see how large of an antibody titer they have towards the disease (i.e. parvovirus or canine distemper virus). The downside to these tests is the cost—they are rather expensive relative to the cost of simply re-vaccinating your bird dog. Rabies is a fatal zoonotic (all mammals are susceptible to rabies) disease. Because of the zoonotic potential, rabies vaccine (Core) titers here in the US have literally no meaning according to the laws and are not recommended in general practice.

Although AAHA did a very thorough job with their vaccination guidelines, you cannot fit each kennel or canine athlete into the same box.




Running Dog


Strideaway is an online publication founded in 2008. We are dedicated to promoting the great sport of American pointing dog field trials, in particular American Field sanctioned trials for pointers and setters. Our objective is to present the voices and ideas of experienced trainers, handlers, breeders and other knowledgeable participants and enthusiasts from the past to the present — amateurs and professionals alike. Whether All-Age or Shooting Dog, Horseback or Walking Trials, we place particular emphasis on wild bird field trials and the dogs that compete in them. We present richly illustrated articles and stories, podcast interviews and other types of media on a regular basis with the hope of providing an ever expanding, searchable archive of information relevant to pointing dog field trials.Read article

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