Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Guidelines

Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Guidelines

Our experts at Ample Nutrition have written several articles about core vaccinations. Your dog has probably already had the canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV-2), and rabies, right? It is an area that most pet owners stay up-to-date with. What about lifestyle or optional vaccines? Is your dog protected against kennel cough, canine influenza, Lyme disease, or leptospirosis? You might be surprised to find out your dog is susceptible to these diseases depending on age, risk, health, lifestyle and geographic location. Several of these diseases involved can be self-limiting and respond readily to treatment. Others can have more serious consequences.

Your puppy generally gets the rabies shot between three and four months old and then a booster is required one year later. Rabies should then be administered every 3 years using a vaccine approved for 3-year administration. Puppies receive the Canine Distemper, Parvo and Adenovirus vaccines between six and eight weeks and then every month thereafter for up to three or four times.  Lifestyle or non-core vaccines are administered a bit differently based on a dog’s age, risk, health and exposure to infectious disease carriers.


Kennel or Canine cough is caused by one or more types of bacteria or viruses in the respiratory tract and is easily spread to other dogs as airborne particles or through contaminated material. Bordetella bronchiseptica and Parainfluenza virus are lifestyle vaccines that can help protect your dog against kennel cough. If your dog goes to a groomer, daycare, or boarding facility this vaccine is typically required. It is also worth protecting your dog if you frequent dog parks or compete in dog shows, field trials or other dog sports. Be sure to speak to your vet about vaccination based on risk exposure. 


Canine influenza or the dog flu vaccine is also a lifestyle or optional vaccine. Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that receive the kennel cough vaccine. Signs include upper respiratory symptoms including coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and a low-grade fever followed by recovery. A small percentage of dogs develop more severe signs like difficulty breathing, high fever, and pneumonia. Vets now offer vaccines for the H3N8 and H3N2 strains. Vaccines may reduce clinical signs and virus shedding in dogs infected by CIV. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine their dog’s risk of exposure to the canine influenza virus and if vaccination is appropriate for their dog.


Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and is primarily transmitted by the deer tick. Dogs in endemic areas may be at risk for infection and could benefit from vaccination. Dogs may be bitten by deer ticks during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, running through tall grass, or even while spending time in their backyards. Only about a tenth of dogs who come into contact develop clinical level symptoms but they may not show up for 2-5 months. The majority of dogs contracting Lyme disease respond to treatment with antibiotics. Experts agree that using a reliable tick-preventive product or collar and checking for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors can help prevent infections. Consult with your vet to see if vaccination makes sense for your dog. If you opt for the Lyme vaccine, it will take place four weeks apart. 


Leptospirosis is a serious disease that is not only deadly to animals but to humans as well. The bacteria passed between animals generally affects your pet’s kidneys and liver. It is typically a devastating disease that will cause your pet to die slowly. It is a good decision to give your pet this vaccine if the risk for exposure is high. For adult dogs receiving the vaccine for the first time, two doses two to four weeks apart and then once a year is advised.

Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator

The AAHA has developed a Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator ( to help dog owners determine what lifestyle or optional vaccines, if any, should be given. Vaccinating a pet is a medical procedure with risks and benefits. There are times when a vaccine may not be advised. For example, it would be unsafe to vaccinate if your dog is sick, pregnant, older, has an underlying medical condition (cancer, endocrine disorders, allergies) or a weakened immune system (auto-immune diseases). Toy breeds or smaller dogs can have adverse reactions to particular vaccines too. 

Nobody loves or cares about your dog as much as you do. It is important to work closely with a veterinarian who will take the time to do a risk assessment and design an individualized vaccination protocol based on your dog's lifestyle, health, and risk of exposure. 



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