Q: I’ve written to you before about the scoundrel veterinarians who’ve cheated the public. Like the veterinarian in the recent “20/20” TV segment, when we changed counties, that new vet wanted to vaccinate my dog all over again with vaccines I’d never heard of. And the “20/20” segment (broadcast Nov. 24) proved that dogs only need vaccines every three years. Don’t you think vets are vaccinating our animals to death? – V.C., Cyberspace

A: I absolutely do not think veterinarians are vaccinating dogs to death. Nearly all veterinarians follow vaccine guidelines suggested by the American Animal Hospital Association (for canines) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (for felines).

These guidelines offer veterinarians science-based reasoning regarding which vaccines to use, and how often to vaccinate. However, as the guidelines suggest, there may be reasons for veterinarians to use their own discretion. For example, the canine distemper vaccine may be suggested more often in areas where outbreaks occur, which may (or may not) explain why in the “20/20” segment you saw, the veterinarian suggested a distemper vaccine after only a year.

Besides, you don’t have the facts right in the first place. While some vaccines might be suggested every three years, others are only available on an annual basis, such as vaccines for leptospirosis or Lyme disease (both for dogs). These two vaccines are also examples of non-core vaccines, which are dependent on a pet’s lifestyle and/or geography. Some pets may need non-core vaccines, while others do not.

For example, dogs become infected with leptospirosis by drinking lake or river water, or even water from puddles contaminated with Leptospira organisms shed in urine by the local wildlife, ranging from raccoon to city rats and infected dogs. Leptspirosis can cause serious illness in dogs, and it can be transmitted to people. Wherever leptospirosis occurs, it’s important to vaccinate for it. Perhaps this is a vaccine you’ve never heard of.

Other vaccines, such as the one for canine distemper, are considered core vaccines, and are suggested for all dogs. A third category of vaccines are not generally recommended but still may be used based on veterinary discretion.

The guidelines (for both dogs and cats) are clear: Not all pets require all available vaccines, and certainly not every year, depending on the vaccine.

Here’s a link to the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Vaccine Guidelines for Dogs: Here’s where you can find the 2013 American Association of Feline Practitioners Guidelines for Cats:


Q: Call me cheap, but I’m not spending my hard-earned money any longer on pet books. You once mentioned on the radio a good, affordable e-book on dogs, available for Kindle. That’s what I want. What’s the title? – J.B., Cyberspace

A: Diamond Jim Brady, I have just the book for you: “Good Dog! Practical Answers to Behavior Questions.” The book, which I authored, includes the best of over 10 years of my Q&A columns. They cover everything from puppies to senior dogs, and behavioral issues including aggression, attention-seeking behaviors and separation anxiety. The price is only $2.99.

The introduction was written by the one and only Betty White, the foreword is from Victoria Stilwell, of “It’s Me or the Dog” on Animal Planet, and the preface is by Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a Chicago veterinarian and past-president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.

Call me old-fashioned, but despite having created this e-book, I still like books you can hold and smell!