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Canine Vaccination Guidelines for Shelters

The American Animal Hospital Association recently released its 2006 canine vaccine guidelines on its website, complete with a section specifically created for animal shelters. Recognizing the growth of shelter medicine and the unique burden placed on humane organizations with ever-changing populations of animals, AAHA compiled a series of recommendations designed to improve disease prevention.

Among the broader suggestions is a strong recommendation that shelters vaccinate dogs immediately upon entry as long as they are at least six weeks old (or four weeks old in the case of an outbreak). “Delaying vaccination, even by a few hours, may increase the risk of infection subsequent to exposure,” wrote the members of the Canine Vaccine Task Force who compiled the guidelines. “Failing to immediately vaccinate an animal on entry could compromise an effective disease prevention program and possibly lead to sustained, shelter-wide outbreaks of an infectious disease.”

Acknowledging that every shelter environment presents different challenges, task force members were careful to present the recommendations as guidelines, not industry standards. But a long-awaited document of this kind, created for the sheltering field by a national organization, will no doubt become the basis for helping local organizations develop veterinary-approved disease prevention protocols. The section for shelters includes recommended vaccine tables, optional vaccine tables, and schedules outlining when and how to administer doses.

The guidelines cover what to do when dogs arrive with a known vaccination history, what to do for dogs in long-term shelters, and how to handle vaccination of pregnant and sick dogs.

UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program Director Kate Hurley served as a Canine Vaccine Task Force member and helped write the recommendations. To download a free copy of the 28-page report, visit


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