Vaccinations -- whether to give them, andf if so, how, how often and whether to give boosters -- have become a hot topic in recent years with many veterinary schools now recommending dogs only need puppy vaccinations, the first annual booster, then at MOST vaccines every THREE years. In some cases researchers believe a single initial booster will protect a dog (or cat) for life against a disease. To make things even more confusing for the pet owner, there is also clear evidence that annual vaccinations can actually weaken the immune system and in themselves, can cause serious health problems.

Although many of the leading vet schools in the US now recommend a three year vax schedule, veterinarians, kennels, pet insurance companies annd groomers generally require evidence of annual vaccinations still, leaving many pet owners in a quandary.

These are the key recommendations from two leading sources:

University of California, Davis Veterinary School (one of the world's leading vet schools):

The American Animal Hospital Association recommendations:

While not offering any definitive answers, this link provides an excellent overview of the evidence, the issues, the published research, the existing recommendations and the options. I strongly advise reading through this and deciding what is best yourself given your own situation.

Also this article directly addresses ALL the issues and takes toy breeds into special consideration towards the end:

Be aware that you will almost certainly encounter opposition from your vet to vaccinating to any other than a yearly schedule, as annual vaccinations are very much a part of an ingrained vax system still pushed by the vax companies themselves, and also, are part of the 'annual visit' regime that vets would like to maintain (it is of course a good idea to take an animal for an annual check-up; linking the visit to a 'required' vax has been a useful way of getting clients to make that annual visit). Younger vets who have been schooled following the later protocols, or holistic vets, are likely to be more supportive.

My own choice? Right now I am observing a three-year cycle for my dogs and cats. I give lepto annually to the dogs as they like to swim and risk exposure in Ireland.

On titers:

Some dog owners are big advocates of using titers to determine whether to vaccinate and write about this approach as if it is a highly reliable, well-established way of measuring immunity. They are not.

Responsible dog owners need to be aware that titers are still NOT considered an accurate way of measuring immune response and personally, I would consider them only a general indication. This is what breeder Laura Lang (Roycroft Cavaliers in Ohio, who is an advocate of minimal vaccination) says:

Titer tests (blood tests to attempt to determine the dog's level of immunization) are also becoming more common, but are inconvenient and expensive in some areas, and remain somewhat controversial. As yet, there is no consensus on the usefulness of titers. Critics point out that there have been no studies to determine what levels actually confer protection from disease, or if there is even a correlation between antibody levels and susceptibility to disease. Some maintain that there is a difference between protection from infection, and protection from disease. Also somewhat suspect is the lack of standardization for tests determining antibody concentration.

Dr. Richard Ford, of North Carolina State University, states, "The risk lies in the fact that a single serum sample divided three times and sent to three different laboratories is quite likely to yield three different titers, and quite possibly three different interpretations. What may be deemed 'protective' by one laboratory could well be labeled 'susceptible' by another. Furthermore, it is important to note that a vaccinated dog or cat that does not have a significant concentration of antibody may, in fact, have excellent immunity. A 'negative' antibody titer does not necessarily correlate with susceptibility to infection. Likewise, the presence of antibody, even at high levels, does not guarantee immunity subsequent to exposure. (6)

At this point, the bigest role of the titer may be merely to convince boarding clinics or show committees that the animal doesn't require its annual vaccination. It is likely that titer testing will receive greater utilization in the future, but further studies are obviously needed.
You can read more in her online cavalier care manual in the 'health' section:


Here are some additional links to read through so you can talk to your vet about these issues and decide what you feel is right for your cavalier:

Dr Jean Dodds article:

Letter from Dr Dodds on vaccination legislation: