Smaller Vaccine Doses for Smaller Dogs?



Small dogs are more likely to have vaccine reactions than larger dogs. Is this because they’re receiving the same dose as their much larger brethren? Should a Great Dane and a Chihuahua get the same size vaccine?

I’ve heard of people asking their vets for smaller doses of vaccines for their toy breed dogs. I asked our vet what she thought and she replied that all dogs should receive the same dose. I worry about Mr. N potentially having a reaction but I’m not yet sure about him receiving a smaller dose.

I already take preventative measures and try not to have Mr. N overvaccinated. He actually hasn’t needed any core vaccines updated since we got him (he’ll need rabies later this year). If he needs more than one vaccine, I’ll have them staggered. I turn down non-core vaccines like bordetella and lepto and I’m considering getting him titered at some point (test that measures protective antibody levels for diseases). 

This is why I was glad to to hear about a group of concerned Maltese owners who got together and asked the AHVMA foundation (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) about studying the “efficacy of body-mass based vaccinations.” Dr. Jean Dodds agreed to conduct a small study exploring this topic and the AHVMA is collecting donations (the pilot stage is estimated to cost $5500).

Should dogs receive vaccine doses that correspond to their size?




33 Responses

  1. SlimDoggy

    January 31, 2014 1:12 pm

    I have never done ant research on this, but it sure seems logical that dosages should vary by weight. Meds are prescribed this way so why not vaccines?


  2. Cascadian Nomads

    January 31, 2014 4:07 pm

    My vet vaccinates according to weight… I get upset, though, when they don't do the weigh-ins before they draw up the dose. Wilhelm's weight can fluctuate by a pound or a pound and a half which is a HUGE percentage when his average weight is just 11lbs!

  3. Nailah Bone

    January 31, 2014 8:56 pm

    Very interesting. I've actually never though about the difference between vaccine dose and pet weight. Do us humans get different dose levels for our vaccines?

  4. Nola

    January 31, 2014 11:47 pm

    I think there should be different sized doses. Nola gets the last batch of core vaccines (aside from the 3 year rabies) this year, and that will be staggered. Dachshunds have one of the highest rates of vaccine reactions, so my crew always get benadry before going in.
    Nola's Mom

  5. SheSpeaksBark

    February 1, 2014 7:03 am

    Our Scooter is only 5 lbs on a good day, and I really don't feel that he should be getting the same sized vaccines as other dogs.

    We plan to have him titered and only get the state required rabies shot for now. I'll be interested to see how the study turns out.

  6. To Dog With Love

    February 2, 2014 6:40 pm

    Great topic. I've always had small dogs and it seems crazy to me that they'd get the same vaccine dose as a much larger dog. Other kinds of treatments — from heartworm to chemo — are measured by weight so why not vaccines?
    Diane and Rocco

  7. Jan K

    February 2, 2014 11:08 pm

    It makes sense that different size dogs should get different doses. Our 25lb beagle has had several vaccine reactions so this is a subject I have been researching a lot and discussing with our vet, especially with our new puppy. This is one thing we did not discuss though so I will definitely bring it up next time. We now stagger doses, only do 3 year vaccines where possible and carefully consider any non-core vaccines. I'm not sure about the titers yet. I plan to do a post on this subject at some point too.

  8. MattieDog

    February 22, 2017 2:35 pm

    Agree – and I know that small dogs shouldn't get the same vaccine measures. Spike did and he had a neurological reaction and long-term impact. Keep up the great work of advocating for Mr. N!

  9. Hindy Pearson

    February 22, 2017 5:56 pm

    To be honest the only vaccines I give my dogs are rabies, unless there's something specific they need for travelling. I would have imagined vaccine dose would vary by size, like flea treatments it seems odd to me that one size fits all.

  10. M Dawson

    February 22, 2017 6:53 pm

    We have to have our annual injections as it is part of our pet insurance policy but, we are cats and the doses are very specific (makes sense heh?). Why on earth can't smaller dogs have a smaller dose – it's a no brainer isn't it? I can understand the need for research but I would have assumed this to have been done long ago, hence my surprise!

    Marjorie and the Dash Kitten Crew

  11. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    February 22, 2017 10:04 pm

    You know, I've never thought about this before! But it makes sense that a smaller dog wouldn't need as large of a dose as a big dog. Human medications and even other pet medications change dosage based on size. BUT human vaccines are also the same no matter the size. I suppose human sizes don't have as much variance as dogs though. An interesting topic, and I look forward to hearing about the research!

  12. Bryn Nowell

    February 22, 2017 11:27 pm

    Thanks for writing about a very important subject. Bean has had reactions from a vaccine, so I'm hyper sensitive now on what she gets, and the timing (much like you). One would think that the body mass should play a role in doses, but I'm glad to know there's a study that will hopefully help to validate that claim in such a way where appropriate and safer changes can be made.

  13. Cathy Armato

    February 22, 2017 11:32 pm

    I do not understand how the same dose can apply to giant dog breeds and toy breeds. I think the entire vaccination scheduling should be updated and titers should be more accepted. Some Vets act like it's nothing to double dose on a rabies vaccine. I had that issue recently with my Vet after I moved. I told them in no uncertain terms that Icy had another year left on her rabies and that I did NOT want them to give her the rabies vaccination. What do you think happened? The two staff members I spoke to, one via phone when making the appointment and the other while we were waiting to be seen, never conveyed the message to the Vet. The
    Vet ended up giving her the rabies shot along with her annual shots! I'm now searching for a new Vet.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  14. Allison

    February 23, 2017 1:12 am

    Heartworm and flea/tick medication is given by size. Makes sense then that vaccinations would be given by size too. As with everyone else, I'll be interested to know the results of the study.

  15. Sweet Purrfections

    February 23, 2017 1:45 am

    Very interesting. I never thought about different dosages for different sizes. I'm very careful with vaccines with Truffle and Brulee since Truffle's brother developed a sarcoma from his vaccination.

    • Montecristo Travels

      February 23, 2017 2:54 pm

      even when they are due … I often ask for a titer test first to see how much of the vaccine is in the system. Sometimes even if they are due – there is still over 70% of it in their blood. So … no need for a vaccine. 🙂

  16. Montecristo Travels

    February 23, 2017 2:53 pm

    FINALLY! you would think this would seem obvious right? Our dude is 3.5 pounds and I wish I could do titer test all around. I do for ALL other vaccines but sadly because we travel internationally I can't do that for the rabies vaccine. Lot # is required for border crossings. So a smaller dose – even a tiny dose would be really great. I almost lost a cat to vaccines many years back – she was a pigmy size… so yes I do think size matters.


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