Three Years Versus One Year: How Often Should You Vaccinate Your Pet?

Rabies is a frightening disease with no cure, so rabies vaccines are essential to keeping your pet healthy. For a long time, pets had to be vaccinated every year. However, new technologies and guidelines mean that some pets may only need vaccination every three years.In 2011, the American Animal Hospital Association changed its guidelines for vaccines. Previously, the organization recommended that owners get core vaccines for their pets every year, including the vaccines for rabies, distemper, parvo and adenovirus.

However, new vaccine technology, as well as greater research into vaccine efficacy, shows that three-year vaccines typically confer immunity for five to seven years – although this is still under some debate. Vaccines are very safe, but they are not without risks. Some dogs suffer adverse reactions that can result in excessive pain, tissue damage and even death in severe cases. These reactions are much rarer than complications or death from the actual diseases, but the AAHA is working to minimize them.


Despite these new guidelines, some veterinarians are slow to implement the changes. One of the biggest issues is state legislation regarding rabies. Rabies is the only vaccine required by law, and each state has specific rules about how often pets need it. Some states have accepted the three-year vaccine, but many still require a yearly rabies shot, and can ticket owners who do not abide by those laws. If their pets bite, the state may need to quarantine or even euthanize the animals.


Even in states that do accept three-year vaccines, some vets still hesitate. The reasons can vary, including fear of change or simple distrust of the new guidelines. Vaccines can also be a good way to get owners to bring their pets in for annual exams, which may preemptively catch other health problems. Regardless of the reason, it is always a good idea to ask your vet if you have any questions or concerns about the vaccine protocol she recommends.Veterinary medicine is constantly advancing, so having a good relationship with a trusted veterinarian is important. Even as guidelines change, it is important to remember that providing appropriate vaccinations is a critical part of being a pet owner.

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