Degenerative Myelopathy and Annual Vaccinations

Posted on Jun 27, 2013 in Blog, Vaccinations

I was recently asked whether dogs with degenerative myelopathy should continue to receive their annual vaccinations and also flea and tick treatments and I think it’s a very good question and one worth discussing.  It’s something I’ve never thought about before because I stopped giving Wrangler his vaccinations before I found out he had DM and fleas and ticks have never been a problem in my area so I never had to treat Wrangler for them.

A few years ago I started to read a lot of information on how giving your dog vaccinations every year can actually do more harm than good.  Most pet owners I know have expressed the same concerns and have also stopped vaccinating their pets.  It’s my personal opinion that we over medicate and over vaccinate not only our pets but ourselves as well. However, having said all that there are still a few things that are worth discussing in more detail.

Physical Exam

The most important part of your annual visit to the vet is the physical exam.  Especially as your dog gets older.  There are many conditions that a physical exam can detect so that you can provide early intervention.  An annual physical exam becomes a little less important with dogs with DM but only because there always seems to be little things going wrong with our DM dogs and unfortunately it’s not uncommon to make frequent visits throughout the year to the vet.  It’s extremely important to have a good relationship with your vet so that you feel comfortable visiting your vet for any problem or question you might have.


In certain states and countries it is required by law to vaccinate against rabies.  So unless your vet has a specific medical reason not to, you may need to get this one.  However, there are now 3 year rabies shots rather than having to do it every year.  I gave Wrangler the 3 year shot before I found out he had DM and never gave him another.


DHPP or the distemper and parvo combination are viruses that can be carried into your house on your shoes so all dogs should be protected.  There are also vaccines that last 1 and 3 years, I again had Wrangler treated for DHPP before I found out he had DM with the 3 year vaccine.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm can be very dangerous and prevention is important in areas where they are epidemic.  Heartworm is spread by mosquito bites and can be deadly.  It’s important to talk to your vet about whether heartworm is problematic in your area.

Flea and Tick

In my personal opinion the chemicals in flea and tick applications are very dangerous on all dogs with or without DM.  Luckily fleas and ticks were not a problem in my area but if you have to treat your dog I recommend a natural preventative which can be much safer for your dog.

Annual Vaccinations and DM

It’s a personal decision whether to vaccinate your DM dog and you should do research on your own and talk to your vet to find out whether something like heartworm is problematic in your area.  The general consensus is dogs with DM are already under enough stress and vaccinating them could just add more stress to their already weak bodies.  However, always do your research and talk to your vet so you can decide what makes the most sense for you and your dog.

As always I welcome your comments on this as it’s something very important for all dogs and especially dogs with DM.