Understanding Noncore Vaccines For Your Dog: How Does Your Vet Pick And Choose?

When you bring your puppy or adult dog to the animal clinic for a wellness visit, the topic of vaccination comes up in the conversation. You know that your furry friend needs vaccines to help protect him against some nasty illnesses, and you expect that he will probably need boosters on at least some of them during this visit.  Do you know which vaccines your dog should have? Find out about the different noncore vaccines, what they protect against and how your professional veterinarian determines which ones your dog needs and which ones he doesn't.

Canine Vaccination Guidelines

Periodically, the American Animal Hospital Association releases its updated canine vaccination guidelines. These guidelines provide important information for veterinary staff, such as the administration, scheduling, handling, storage and dosing of vaccines.

Vaccines are divided into two groups, which are the core vaccines and the noncore vaccines. Consider core vaccines as the required vaccines that all dogs receive, and they protect against the following:

  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

Noncore vaccines are not required for all canine patients. Noncore vaccines offer protection against the following:

  • Bordetella
  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine influenza virus H3N2
  • Canine influenza virus H3N8
  • Crotalus Atrox toxoid, or rattlesnake vaccine

How do you know whether or not your dog needs any noncore vaccines? By knowing what each illness is and how it is contracted, you will gain an understanding of how your veterinarian picks and chooses these vaccines.


Also referred to as kennel cough, bordetella is a bacterial bronchitis infection. Dogs contract the illness when they come in contact with the airborne bacteria that an infected dog has shed into the environment. The classic sign of infection is a cough. Kennel cough is treatable, but some cases can progress to pneumonia. Most boarding kennels require that all dogs must be vaccinated against bordetella before entering their facilities. You should schedule your dog to be vaccinated against bordetella before a planned boarding event.

Lyme Disease

Like their human companions, dogs can contract Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by an infected deer tick. The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include joint inflammation, lameness, fever, decreased appetite and a decreased activity level. You should consider having your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease if you live in a wooded or wetland area or if you plan to frequently take your dog along to such settings for outdoor recreational outings, such as hunting, hiking or camping.


Leptospirosis is another bacterial infection. Infected mammals, such as raccoons, squirrels, rats, and skunks, shed the bacteria in their urine. Your dog can contract the disease if he comes in contact with that urine. Leptospirosis is deadly if it is not treated as early as possible, and it is zoonotic, meaning that you could potentially catch the illness from your dog. Leptospirosis causes liver and kidney damage. There are many strains of leptospirosis, and the vaccine only protects against a small handful of them. The prevalence of leptospirosis cases varies from one geographic region to another. Discuss leptospirosis with your veterinarian, and alert him to whether or not you have wildlife that frequents your property or if you take your dog on outdoor excursions to other geographic areas. Based on the information that you provide and on the number of leptospirosis cases that have been reported and treated these areas, your veterinarian will determine if vaccination against leptospirosis is the right choice for your dog.

Canine Influenza Viruses

Commonly referred to as dog flu, canine influenza viruses H3N8 and H3N2 are most commonly spread in facilities where multiple dogs are kept together, such as shelters and kennels. The canine influenza viruses are shed when an infected dog coughs or sneezes. An unprotected dog can contract the illness either through contact with the aerosolized droplets or through contact with feeding bowls, toys and other objects that the infected dog had contact with. Canine influenza is treatable, but some cases can progress to pneumonia. Take note that although canine influenza H3N2 and human seasonal influenza H3N2 share the label, they are two different viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been no evidence thus far to support that humans and dogs can transmit their H3N2 viruses to one another. However, cats have contracted canine influenza H3N2 in shelter settings from infected dogs. You should consider vaccinating your dog against the canine influenza viruses if you plan to take your dog regularly to places where dogs come into contact with one another, such as boarding kennels, grooming salons, dog parks, doggy day care centers and group dog training classes.

Crotalus Atrox Toxoid

This vaccine offers protection against the deadly venom of such viperous snakes as rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and copperheads. The vaccine helps to neutralize the venom if your dog is bitten by one of these snakes, reducing its toxic effects. Your vet may recommend this vaccine for your dog if you reside in a geographic area where these snakes are prevalent.

There are other noncore vaccines that AAHA does not recommend at all, such as the giardia and coronavirus vaccines because the illnesses either have a very low prevalence or they are easily treated.

Noncore vaccines can be thought of as lifestyle vaccines. Your vet clinic like Rodney Parham Animal Clinic will determine which ones are necessary, based on where you live, where your dog goes when you take him away from home, whether or not he is exposed to other dogs and other risk factors, such as age or overall health condition. By having an informed discussion with your vet, the two of you can work together to come up with an individualized vaccination plan that will offer your canine companion the most effective protection that he needs to keep him healthy.

About Me

Pet Care 101: Tips For Pet Owners

Growing up in a house full of animals, I developed a love for caring for them all. I knew that working as a veterinarian would be too emotionally difficult for me to do. However, that didn't stop me from dedicating my adult life to learning all I could about animal care and treatment. Not only did that knowledge help me to take care of my own animals, it also made it easier to help my friends and family with their pets as well. I decided to create this blog to help others learn what I know. I hope the information here helps you to take better care of your pets.




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