There seems to be little dispute that dogs are man’s best friend. When it comes to vaccinating them, however, opinions often clash between pet experts, breeders, pet owners, and veterinary professionals. That’s why AAHA recently released its newly revised Canine Vaccination Guidelines, an online educational resource designed to provide measured leadership on this topic and help further support veterinary teams and the clients they serve.

Published in the September/October edition of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA), these revised guidelines offer important updates to the 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines that will help practicing veterinarians meet patient and client needs in a complex infectious disease environment.

Here are seven ways you can easily implement the AAHA 2017 Canine Vaccination Guidelines and online resources into your practice:

Revisit your vaccination schedule. According to the guidelines, core distemper/adenovirus-2/parvovirus vaccines should continue to be administered every three years; however, this does not need to pose a challenge when it comes to encouraging annual and biannual visits. Tailoring vaccination protocols to individual patients’ risk factors can help, as noncore vaccines such as Lyme, leptospirosis, influenza, and Bordetella should be given annually.

The Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator is designed to help familiarize both team members and pet owners with these factors and promote conversations between clients and the veterinary team. Have staff members practice using it by entering their own dogs’ age and lifestyle to see which noncore vaccines are recommended. Have the calculator available on a tablet and encourage pet owners to fill it out while they are waiting in the exam room.

Talk about titers. There are many scenarios in which performing antibody titers in lieu of vaccinating for distemper/adenovirus-2/parvovirus may be indicated. Due to concerns about “overvaccination,” pet owners may have heard the term, but have questions about cost and accuracy. Be sure your team is familiar with the in-hospital and commercial lab tests available and understand the limits of the results. Visit the “Antibody Testing vs. Vaccination” section of the guidelines for more information, paying special attention to the indications for testing.

Establish an “overdue” protocol.  It is not uncommon for dogs to present overdue for vaccines, either as puppies late in starting in the initial series or experiencing an extended interval (more than 6 weeks) between doses, or as older dogs with no prior vaccination history, an incomplete or inappropriate vaccination history, or simply overdue for a scheduled booster. Until now, there hasn’t been much information on how to manage these scenarios. Do they need to start the entire series over again? Will one booster vaccine suffice? The “Overdue for Vaccinations” section provides guidance on how to advise your clients when this occurs for puppies less than 20 weeks of age and dogs over 20 weeks of age.

Be aware of rabies laws. Veterinarians have significant discretion on how to vaccinate pets against most diseases—except rabies. Local and state laws govern this vaccine and the laws can often be confusing. In the new “Rabies Vaccination” section, AAHA has compiled the most current resources consistent with the Compendium on Animal Rabies Prevention and Control and the recommendations of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.

Be familiar with the FAQs. One of the most popular features of the AAHA 2017 Canine Vaccination Guidelines is the Frequently Asked Questions section.  This list has been compiled by AAHA’s Canine Vaccine Task Force, as they were often the experts to whom general practitioners and the public reached out to with questions. This section includes answers to common questions, such as:

  • Should a small breed dog receive the same volume of vaccines as a large breed dog? (#4)
  • When should the last dose of core vaccines be given during the initial (puppy) series? (#14)
  • What is the duration of immunity conferred by the various B. bronchiseptica vaccines? (#28)
  • How long can a reconstituted modified live virus vaccine remain at room temperature without losing activity? (#1)
  • Does a “positive” rabies antibody test result correlate with protective immunity? (#4)
  • What are the most common indications for assessing the antibody response to vaccination (CDV-CPV-CAV2)? (#5)
  • Does cross-protection between strains occur with the canine influenza virus vaccines? (#33)

Update your toolbox with therapeutic biologics. While these may seem like vaccines, the novel class of therapeutic biologics are not. They are specifically designed to elicit an immune response that may alter the course of a disease, like cancer, or modify the patient’s response to an immunologically mediated disorder, such as atopic dermatitis or osteoarthritis. Learn more about these new therapies by visiting the Therapeutic Biologics section and speaking to your local veterinary specialist.

Alert the authorities to adverse reactions. As a reminder, veterinarians are encouraged to report adverse events. The section on Vaccine Adverse Reactions provides examples of the types of reactions that can observed, as well as how to report them to the USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics (US) or the Canadian Centre for Veterinary Biologics.  Empower your team to take this responsibility seriously.

Access the full guidelines online at aaha.org/caninevaccinationguidelines.

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