Over-Vaccinating Cats and Dogs: Are There Options?

There is a debate raging about over-vaccinating cats and dogs. Most municipalities require an annual rabies vaccine but research shows that one rabies vaccine can last almost seven years. Vaccines protect our pets from deadly diseases but they also contain dangerous carcinogens and chemicals like mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde. These can cause neurological issues, inflammation of the brain, seizures, and cancer.

Puppies and kittens need their first set of vaccinations to keep them safe from deadly diseases like distemper.  These initial vaccines help them build up their resistance to these and other diseases. However adult cats and dogs apparently retain immunity to the diseases they were inoculated for. Studies have been done to prove this, thus raising the question: Are we over-vaccinating cats and dogs?

over-vaccinating cats and dogs

This sweet pup is getting an annual physical before also receiving an annual rabies vaccination. Image credit: US Marine Corps


Many vets give combination vaccines.  These can overwhelm the animal’s body and create immune system issues.  This is more prevalent in smaller to medium sized animals.  A rabies and Bordetella shot is a combination of eight vaccines!  The DALPPC shot is a combination of six vaccines for various diseases like parvo, distemper, etc.

Since vaccines can cause symptoms of the disease they are meant to prevent, many animals get sick after receiving a vaccine.  A dog or cat can develop a reaction anywhere from 24 hours to 60 days after a vaccination.  If this happens to your animal get them to the vet or the animal emergency as soon as possible. Common treatments for vaccine reactions are usually steroids and antihistamines.  If the vet wants to give your pet antibiotics, question it.  If the pet doesn’t have an infection, it doesn’t need antibiotics.


One thing that can be done to keep from over-vaccinating cats and dogs is to ask for a Titer test. A Titer test checks plasma cells to see if the dog or cat’s immune system has antibodies to defend against infectious diseases.  If you have an adult dog or cat and are concerned about over vaccinating ask your vet about doing a Titer test.

The problem with Titer tests is that municipalities don’t accept them in lieu of a rabies vaccine. This is a situation you need to discuss with your veterinarian. If you choose to do the Titer test vs. the vaccinations there are things to consider.

First if you board your pet while you’re on vacation the facility may require that your pet has vaccinations, especially Bordetella. My solution to this is get a good pet sitter.  This way your pets are comfortable in their own home while you’re away.

Second, if you take your pet to a groomer you might check with them to see if Titer results will be sufficient for them vs. a rabies tag.  If you have a good relationship with your groomer this shouldn’t be a problem.

over-vaccinating cats and dogs

This cat is getting his annual rabies vaccination. 1 – 2 – 3 – all done! Image credit: US Army


The frustrating part of this situation is that while many veterinarians are on board with Titer testing, politics in city governments still dictate that animals have to have annual vaccinations. I wonder how they would feel if the federal government suddenly ruled that their children are required to have annual vaccinations to prevent measles, polio, influenza, etc. Our pets hold that immunity after one vaccination much like we do. Therefore we are over-vaccinating cats and dogs.

Politicians don’t take into account the health of our animals.  They are busy covering their butts in case someone gets bit by a dog or cat. The tragic fact is that no state accepts a titer test in lieu of a rabies vaccine. Although repeated exposure to the toxins in vaccines can cause serious chronic diseases or cancer.

What you do depends on your lifestyle.  If you are out in public with your dog a lot or go to the dog park, you will likely need to vaccinate your dog.  If you just hang around your home and neighborhood, you could possibly get by with just a Titer test.  Some cities use the rabies tag as a license for a dog.  In this case you could get the dog a three year rabies vaccine.  Cats should be inside at all times so a Titer test should be good for them. Discuss this with your veterinarian.


There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a group in California that established The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust.  This group is working to change the way rabies vaccinations are administered so that we are no longer over-vaccinating cats and dogs.  They have done research checking the immunity of dogs vaccinated and have discovered that the immunity to rabies lasts from five to seven years.

The last five dogs we’ve had did not receive any vaccinations after the age of 10.  They also didn’t go to the dog park but walked in the neighborhood and stayed in their own ½ acre yard. Unfortunately, we lost two of our dogs to cancer by the age of 11.

While The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust works their way through all the government red tape, we need to do what’s best for our pets. You and your veterinarian can discuss what will specifically work for your pets.

















  1. In our county there are no regulations on cats but all dogs have to have their shots before you can get the dog tags. If you don’t you are fined something terrible. I think cats should be the same as dogs.

    • I agree that cats that roam outside should be vaccinated. The annual rabies vaccines should be re-evaluated as the vaccine lasts much longer than one year. Until this changes dogs and cats will continue to have complications from over vaccinating.

  2. I didn’t realize you could over vaccinate cats and dogs. I know our cats stay in the house at all times so I don’t worry about getting yearly vaccines, but the dog goes outside into the back yard and does get vaccinated because our state requires it.

    • Many people don’t even think about it, but if you compare the frequency of vaccines for humans vs animals it doesn’t add up. If the antibodies can stay in our bodies to fight diseases, why can’t the same thing apply to animals?

    • That’s the best and safest environment for a cat. I’ve had three dogs with cancer and I can’t say that the vaccinations caused the cancer but I also can’t say the vaccinations didn’t lead to the cancer.

    • That is great, Censie. I’ve been working with a local rescue group for 12 years and over-vaccinating has come up several times. I’m just glad now that there is a group, The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust, that is working to change the frequency of vaccines in cats and dogs.

  3. This is quite an issue especially if you’re a pet owner like me. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats at home and I want them to have a better future. I think it’s important that we consider how the vaccines will affect them and check for other options too.

    • AnnMarie, you and I are on the same page. Having dealt with three dogs dying from cancer I want to do everything I can to ensure my remaining pets can be healthy without being over-vaccinated.

  4. Having our pets to get proper vaccination is the owners’ responsibility. And also government’s. I have to be responsible as an individual to check my pets health to secure the safety of everyone, especially my children.

    • I agree that pets need proper vaccinations but the annual vaccinations create a build up of toxins in our pets systems that can have dire consequences. Children need to be safe but they also need to know how to properly treat animals so they won’t be bit.

  5. I’ve always felt a little weary for vaccinations. I have a dog and have her vaccinated but probably not as often as recommended, because I feel like it is a little bit for a money grab.

    • It is worrisome. I think the awareness is what made veterinarians create the “3 year rabies vaccine” which from what I understand is the same strength as the annual vaccine.

  6. Woah! I actually had NO idea that some places required rabies shots yearly! Very good to know since my hubby and son wants to get a dog. I will have to check my area to know if that is the case here.

    • Marielle, different parts of the country may be different. Here in the Kansas City Missouri area we have wooded areas and have a lot of small wildlife. Some raccoons and skunks can carry rabies. My dogs stay in their yard and don’t go into the woods so rabies vaccines aren’t really necessary especially since they are 11 and 13 years old.

  7. What an interesting post! I just got a kitten so it is great to see that there are options for vaccinating them!

  8. When we had a dog, we tried to update his vaccine shots on a yearly basis. Rabbies vaccine was the most important one 🙂

    • I didn’t know about this until just a few years ago and I’ve worked in animal rescue for 12 years. I’m glad to share this information because the rate of cancer in our pets has increased.

  9. Pingback: Affordable Medical Care For Pets - Is it Available? - Cats, Dogs & Polliwogs

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