Vaccine Update: AAHA Releases New Canine Guidelines


With almost twice the content of the previous version, AAHA’s revised and updated Canine Vaccination Guidelines include important changes and new recommendations important for all practitioners.

The American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Guidelines Task Force published its first Canine Vaccine Guidelines in 2003. Since then, the guidelines have been updated 4 times. The most recent update, published in the September-October issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and available online, contains important changes that will inform how veterinarians implement immunization protocols in practice. The online format enables the task force to provide “real-time” updates as new information becomes available and new vaccines are licensed.

Among the most significant updates in the guidelines is the recommendation for an optional 4th dose of a combination core vaccine (distemper-adenovirus 2-parvovirus ± parainfluenza virus) at 18 to 20 weeks of age. The 4th dose option is recommended for any practice experiencing confirmed parvovirus or distemper virus infections in young dogs despite having completed (by 16 weeks) a 3-dose initial series.


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According to Richard Ford, DVM, MS, DACVIM, emeritus professor of medicine at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine and lead editor of the guidelines, “Recent studies have shown that maternally derived antibody is persisting longer in young dogs than previously realized. The resulting interference with immunization may leave some pups, especially those residing in high risk environments, susceptible to infection if exposed.”

The 2017 guidelines also provide updated recommendations for immunizing dogs against canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), or “kennel cough.” Since publication of the previous guidelines, several new vaccines have entered the market, including oral Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccines and canine influenza virus H3N8 and H3N2 vaccines. Recommendations for administration of each of these vaccine types are provided, as are updates on the administration of Leptospira and Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) vaccines.

The 2017 guidelines contain almost twice the content of previous versions. Additional highlights include:

  • A new section dedicated to rabies immunization, with links that provide “must-know” rabies immunization information on a state-by-state basis
  • A new section offering recommendations for immunization of dogs that are overdue for vaccinations, may have been inappropriately vaccinated, or have an unknown vaccination history
  • Updated recommendations on antibody testing versus vaccination, addressing indications for the use of serology in assessing a patient’s response (or lack of response) to vaccination and providing a series of algorithms outlining patient management recommendations based on test results
  • A unique, “must-read” section on vaccine storage and handling, derived from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and modified for veterinary practices.
  • Revised and updated protocols for shelter-housed pets with input from veterinarians who specialize in shelter medicine and management
  • A section on therapeutic biologics that offers information on the emerging immunotherapeutic products that are now licensed for the treatment of canine disease (eg, lymphoma) versus prevention.

The vaccine guidelines are intended to advise clinicians in developing appropriate vaccine protocols for their practices, but the authors emphasize that vaccine recommendations should continue to be individualized for each patient, based on lifestyle, exposure risk, and life stage.

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