Vaccine Protocol

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.


We recommend vaccine protocols that are created specifically for each animal. Animals that are living indoors are less likely to need certain vaccines. Animals that have had repeated vaccines are less likely to need certain vaccines. ALL animals that have acute or chronic diseases should not be vaccinated. This includes animals with disorders such as food allergies, skin allergies, chronic bouts of diarrhea, chronic eye and ear infections, and any immune or autoimmune associated disorder.

Do not vaccinate any animal with any acute or chronic disease! Vaccines can cause great harm in sick animals. Even animals with "minor" issues such as diarrhea should never be vaccinated during the illness. No pregnant or lactating bitch should receive vaccinations

NOTE: While this schedule is the one I recommend, there is considerable controversy within this evolving field of vaccinology. Until we have more information, vaccine protocols will remain a matter of professional judgment and choice.

General Vaccine Guidelines For All Animals:

  1. When possible, give individual vaccines, not combinations (some vaccines only come as combinations, and there is no option to give separately)
  2. Never give a vaccination while other procedures are being performed, such as dentistries, surgery, grooming and boarding (these situations are already creating stress to the immune system)
  3. Never vaccinate a sick animal, no matter how mild the illness
  4. Never vaccinate a pregnant animal
  5. Do not vaccinate at too young an age as they still have maternal immunity which prevents the vaccine from working



Rabies vaccine is licensed by the Federal Government to be effective for at least three years. We recommend that you always keep your animal's rabies vaccine current as required by law. In most states, rabies vaccines are required in dogs and cats. The first vaccine should be given after twelve weeks of age and before six months of age. One year after the first rabies vaccine is given, a second rabies vaccine is required. Thereafter, rabies vaccines should be given as required by the laws in the state in which you reside (generally every three years).



Rabies vaccine as required by law

Feline Panleukopenia vaccine (Feline Distemper)

Although somewhat controversial among conventional doctors, a considerable body of evidence has led researchers to believe that feline distemper vaccine, once given as a kitten, provides lifelong protection in almost all cats.

We recommend a series of two shots. The first vaccine is at 8-9 weeks of age, and the second is given at 12-13 weeks of age.

We do not recommend yearly Feline Distemper vaccines. The Association of Feline Practitioners recommends Panleukopenia every three years. For cats in high-risk situations, we recommend a Blood Titer Test to check levels of immunity every three years.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline Leukemia Vaccine is controversial in that the vaccine is extremely ineffective, especially when compared to the effectiveness of other vaccines. Kittens are at greatest risk, and the best protection you can give a kitten is to keep the kitten indoors for the first year of its life.

The reported vaccine effective rate varies from 0% of vaccinated cats protected to 67%. One of the more interesting studies involving natural infection (as compared to a lab setting) showed no protection.

Feline Leukemia was first recognized as a disease in the late 1970's. It was not around before then. Since then, the incidence of Leukemia in cats has rapidly decreased. Today, the disease can be considered to be rare. What is the reason? Naturally acquired immunity! It is well known that almost all cats that are immune competent (their immune system is working at normal levels) and are over 10 months of age, once exposed to the Feline Leukemia Virus, develop resistance, remove the virus from their body, and become immune to future infection. Since the vaccine has such a poor rate of success, and since natural immunity protects almost all cats, there are few cats with leukemia now, entirely due to natural immunity.

Other than a few instances where the risk of contracting feline leukemia is at a very high level, we do not recommend leukemia vaccines.

The reasons are:

  1. The vaccine does not protect cats well
  2. Repeated vaccines do not improve its effectiveness
  3. The vaccine causes incurable cancers (fibrosarcoma) in roughly 1 in every 2,000 - 5,000 cats
  4. The vaccine can cause vaccinosis (a homeopathic term that means the animal develops a relatively permanent degradation of their vital health)
  5. All vaccines can degrade health, so any vaccine is a risk vs. benefit assessment
  6. Use of the vaccine gives the caretaker a false sense of security, when the caretaker should instead be aware of the more important methods they can employ to protect their cats (keeping the kitten indoors for the first year of life)

Feline Upper Respiratory Diseases

In general, feline upper respiratory diseases are relatively mild and self-limiting. The potential vaccines include:

  1. Calici Virus Vaccine
    Comes as a component of the feline distemper vaccine, and is highly effective, probably lasting for the life of the cat
  2. Rhinotraceitis Virus (Herpes Virus)
    Comes as a component of the feline distemper vaccine, but it is important to understand that it does not prevent infection; however, it may lessen the severity of the disease
  3. Chlamydia
    We do not recommend this vaccine in almost all situations
  4. Bordetella
    We do not recommend this vaccine in any situation
  5. Feline Infectious Peritonitis
    This vaccine has not been shown in any study to be effective, so we do not use it
  6. Sick cats (even minor illnesses, such as diarrhea)
    No sick cat should receive any vaccines
  7. Pregnant and lactating
    No pregnant or lactating cat should receive any vaccines
  8. There is no evidence to support a repeated vaccine prior to breeding
  9. Multiple vaccines
    should not be given at the same time. We recommend that the rabies vaccine be given at a different time than the distemper/calici/rhinotracheitis vaccine
  10. Indoor only cats
    Indoor only cats have almost no chance for exposure to diseases, and they can safely recieve fewer vaccines than those that go outside. Consider distemper vaccine as kittens. Rabies vaccines are still required by law in most states for indoor cats. Although there is little chance for exposure to a rabid animal, an indoor cat is not completely risk free and should be given rabies vaccine as kittens. Talk to your holistic veterinarian about titer tests for rabies after the initial vaccine.

Vaccines can be life-threatining; do not simply vaccinate because you do not know about past vaccines. Revaccination, a blood titer can be taken to check if the original vaccine is still protecting your cat.

Remember, Rabies is the only vaccine required by law and we recommend keeping your cat current on its Rabies vaccine.


  1. Rabies
    Rabies vaccine last for several years, certainly more than the three years it is licensed for. However, you should keep your dogs current with state requirements
  2. Canine Distemper/Parvo Vaccines
    For most animals, we recommend vaccinating for the two most serious diseases, Distemper and Parvovirus. Most vaccines come in combinations of several diseases in the same shot. If you select a combination vaccine, we recommend the one with the least number of diseases in the vaccine; that would include Distemper, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Adenovirus ("Hepatitis")
  3. 9 weeks: MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only

    Less than 12 weeks: MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only

    16-20 weeks: MLV Distemper/Parvovirus only

  4. One year later, we recommend serum titers preferably, or repeat these vaccines
  5. From then on, we do not believe dogs need further Distemper/Parvovirus Vaccines; however, high-risk animals could have titer checked. If a titer ever shows a protective level, these vaccines are certainly good for life; no new titers need be taken.
  6. We do NOT recommend Bordetella, Corona virus, Leptospirosis or Lyme vaccines. In rare situations, one or more of these vaccines might provide limited benefits.
  7. Giardia Vaccine

    Studies show that their mother and/or the kennel environment have exposed essentially 100% of all dogs to Giardia, almost always from birth.

    It makes no sense to use a vaccine when the primary infectious agent has already been seen by the dog's immune system (the Giardia).

    Thus, we never use this vaccine



In short, there are NO vaccines that are appropriate for psittacine (parrot type) birds.

Let's look at the vaccines that are available:

  1. Polyoma Virus Vaccine
    One vaccine that is rarely recommended as a routine vaccine in pet birds is the Polyoma Virus vaccine.
  2. The Myth: In reading about Polyoma virus, some fear-based articles discuss how so many species are susceptible to the disease, and how the number one symptom that your bird might develop is sudden death; they simply look fine one day and die the next with no warning.

    What they fail to mention is that these birds that die suddenly are nestlings, or, more rarely, fledglings. By the time they have fledged and developed into young birds suitable to leave the aviary, they are no longer at risk for the virus.

    There are a number of other symptoms attributed to this virus, including the nebulous concepts of "chronic subclinical illness", and "carrier birds". Again, lets look at the facts. If a bird is a carrier, then no vaccine will change that, and the bird will, in all likelyhood, remain healthy for life. And since adult birds almost always develop immunity, the rest of your flock is safe from the carrier.

    The vaccine is claimed to be "95%" effective (a figure that is pulled out of thin air, by the way). So, why not vaccinate your birds on a yearly basis?

    The Fact: Polyoma is entirely a disease of immature birds (nestlings; before they have grown out their feathers). Adult birds are completely resistant to the disease, and don't benefit from the vaccine. Self-protection, being nearly 100%, is far better than anything the vaccine can offer.

    The Polyoma "epidemic" has come and gone entirely on its own. Improved sanitation and breeding techniques have produced healthier birds. These birds don't ever develop overt disease if exposed to Polyoma Virus. As an Epidemiologist by training, I can assure you that there have never been enough birds vaccinated for Polyoma virus to even slightly dent the incidence of Polyoma virus disease. The disease, like most diseases, is simply going away due to a bird's natural ability to develop self-immunity.

    The rare case where an adult bird might develop this disease would be in a bird already immunologically compromised to the point that the vaccine would not alter the course of the disease. Even in aviaries, the vaccine is extremely questionable since very young birds (the most susceptible to the disease) can't respond to the vaccine. By the time these fledglings can respond to the vaccine, they likely can or have developed natural immunity! The window of opportunity that the vaccine might help is so small as to make it impractical in most aviaries.

    In over 20 years of practice and far more years as a bird owner, I have never seen an adult bird develop Polyoma Virus. Any reasonable analysis would decide that the risk of adverse effects from the vaccine far outweigh any potential benefit.

    Finally, lets look at the concept of yearly vaccination for Polyoma virus. Leaving aside the fact that the vaccine has no place in medicine (again, adult birds are completely resistant on their own to the disease), IF the vaccine was so effective, then after being given once, there would be no reason to continue to vaccinate a bird. Effective viral vaccines provide protection that lasts a lifetime.

  3. Pacheco Virus Vaccine
  4. A second vaccine that is rarely used is the Pacheco Disease, also called Herpes Inclusion Body Hepatitis vaccine. Herpes viruses are known to be exceedingly difficult to vaccinate for. Genital herpes in people, for example, has proven completely resistant to the development of an effective vaccine. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that the Pacheco Virus vaccine provides any significant protection. This vaccine has shown a high rate of mortality immediately after the vaccine is given. We do not recommend its use.

  5. Pox Virus Vaccine
  6. A final vaccine to consider is Pox Virus vaccine. While there is no Pox Virus vaccine available for parrot-type birds (hookbills), several species of birds do have Pox Virus vaccines available for use. In species for which there are vaccines available, the protection is poor following vaccination, but may be warranted in limited situations.