Do you know the difference between so-called “Core” and “Non-Core” vaccines for your dog, and what those terms mean?

Do you sometimes wonder, “How often do I need to vaccinate my dog?” Or which vaccines are absolutely necessary and which are not? And what’s required by law?

It can get confusing. A lot of veterinarians give out misleading information to get you to keep vaccinating your dog regularly.

So we want to fill in the blanks and give you the information you need to make the best decision for your dog.

Then, when you get that card in the mail from your vet reminding you that your dog’s due for his annual physical exam and vaccinations, you’ll be prepared, knowing what your dog does and doesn’t need to remain protected from disease – and stay out of trouble with the law!

Core Vs Non-Core
All of the vaccines given to dogs fit into 2 categories: core and non-core vaccines.

Core vaccines are the ones most vets recommend your dog should have as a puppy. These vaccines all protect against dangerous viral diseases. They are:

Rabies ,Distemper ,Parvovirus ,Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis) ,The Non-Core vaccines include:

Bordetella,Lyme Disease ,Leptospirosis 4-way (this is sometimes included in combination vaccines with core vaccines, but it is a non-core vaccine and should be considered separately)

Several of the non-core vaccines (Bordetella, Lyme and Leptospirosis) are bacterial vaccines. Bacterial vaccines have low efficacy rates coupled with high incidence of adverse reactions. This means they should rarely be used, and then, only after careful consideration of all the risks of vaccinating vs not vaccinating against these diseases.

But if you do plan to give your dog any of these vaccines (or you already have), you’ll need to know how long they last and how to protect him after.

This is great, but it still doesn’t answer the question of which ones your dog needs. Don’t worry, I’m getting to that.

How Long Vaccines Last
We’ve created a downloadable chart that you can print off and take with you (or look at before you make an appointment). In it, you’ll see two parts, one for Core and one for Non-Core vaccines.

First, for core vaccines … you’ll see the Minimum Duration of Immunity of the Core Vaccines. Protection against disease from these vaccines has been proven by clinical studies to last from 7 to 15 years (depending on the vaccine). The core vaccine information in the chart is based on clinical studies by Ronald D Schultz PhD and you can read more about his work in this article.

If your dog has had any of the core vaccines at 16 weeks of age or older, he’s most likely protected for life and doesn’t need to be vaccinated again.

Your veterinarian may not agree with this. Unless your veterinarian is truly holistic, she will probably at least follow the AAHA guidelines.

Your veterinarian may imply that the core vaccines are required by law. But, except for rabies, they’re not.

Next, for non-core vaccines, you’ll see we’ve focused on the three main non-core vaccines that your vet’s likely to recommend: Bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis. Since we don’t advocate any of these vaccines, the chart lists some issues with these vaccines that you should consider before vaccinating your dog.