The yearly check up

The other day I went to do a follow up on an old dog who has some mobility issues. I had seen this old girl about 2 months prior and started her on some supplements and a homeopathic remedy. According to the clients her energy had increased but she was still quite lame.
In the course of checking in, it came up that they had received a notice that the old dog was due for her yearly vaccines. Being conscientious dog people, they diligently went in and had their dog examined and vaccinated.
My heart sinks when I hear this. As a profession we are taught to do no harm. Do vets still believe that giving yearly vaccinations – a combo of puppy diseases – is necessary for a 14 year old dog with health issues that has already been vaccinated every year of her life?
I graduated from vet school in 1997 and I remember my professor of immunology telling us that he vaccinated his dog as a puppy and that was all. He admitted that there was no proof that the vaccines would hold for the dog’s life, but obviously he felt that the risks were low enough to outweigh the possible harm of continued vaccination.
The questions remain unanswered: do vaccinations harm the immune system? Are they necessary every year, every 3 years, every 10 years? Should we be doing blood titre tests to check on antibody protection?
One thing I do know: We humans don’t go to our doctor for a yearly check up to get a shot.
People can learn to bring their animal friends in for a yearly check up. As vets we need to trust that we can transition to this practice and assess each animal individually as to whether they are at risk for these (predominantly) puppy and kitten diseases or not, and what the risks of a vaccine in a dog with an already stressed immune system might be.
Ask your vet: do you vaccinate your dog or cat yearly? Is my pet still at risk for these diseases? What are the risks of the vaccine? And perhaps most importantly: Can I have an annual check up without the vaccine this year?

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