Vaccinating Your Boxer Puppy: A Complete Guide

There is no single, universally agreed way to best protect your Boxer from vaccine-preventable diseases and you have choices to make based on your dog’s individual risk profile.

While it’s been standard to vaccinate Boxer puppies using 4-in-1 jabs, given multiple times from the age of six weeks, modern vaccine protocols are able to take a more targeted approach.

The safest and most effective vaccine schedule for a Boxer puppy involves:

  • Waiting until the pup is at least 12 weeks old before giving the first vaccine
  • Using single (monvalent) vaccines rather than combination (polyvalent) vaccines that inject as many as four, five or six (or more) vaccines at one time
  • Conducting Titer (TIGHT-uh) tests to measure antibody levels

This approach avoids giving unnecessary shots when a dog already has immunity, either naturally developed or from prior vaccinations.

The key is to protect your Boxer — both from diseases, and from the lesser known dangers that can be associated with overvaccination.

Homeopathic nosodes are available as an alternative to traditional vaccines and, though not accepted by mainstream medical authorities, are being used and recommended by natural rearing Boxer breeders and holistic vets.

I am not a vet. This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer here.

What Vaccines Should My Boxer Puppy Get?

Just one vaccine is legally mandated in all 50 states:

  • Rabies

The rest of the canine vaccines are divided into two groups: core (essential) and non-core (optional).

What Are The Core Puppy Vaccines A Boxer Needs?

The only two vaccines that are considered by all vets to be core are:

  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus

(Keep reading to find out why hepatitis, also known as adenovirus, is not included here.)

All other vaccines are firmly in the non-core category, meaning they may be relevant depending on your Boxer’s lifestyle and geographical location.

Non-Core Vaccines For Your Boxer

A large number of non-core vaccines are available for your Boxer puppy, if you decide the threat posed by a particular disease in your area is serious enough to warrant their use.

Non-core vaccinations include:

  • Kennel cough (Bordatella)
  • Leptospirosis — bacterial infection affecting the kidneys
  • Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) — tick-borne disease, so exposure to wildlife can be a risk factor
  • Canine influenza viruses H3N8 and H3N2
  • Western diamond rattle snake (Crotalus atrox)
  • Coronavirus — intestinal virus but not as serious as parvo
  • Parainfluenza — a member of the kennel cough complex but on its own produces mild to moderate upper respiratory symptoms or no symptoms at all (designated as CPiV on vaccine record)
  • GIardia — intestinal parasite

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main vaccine-preventable diseases.

Informed choices about vaccines hinge on understanding how serious each disease is, how it’s contracted and what treatments exist.


The rules around rabies are strict because it’s a fatal disease and zoonotic i.e. it can cross the species barrier from dogs to people.

This fast-moving virus attacks the brain and central nervous system.

It’s carried in the blood and saliva of infected animals.

In the US, rabies is typically caught when a rabid wild animal like a fox, raccoon, skunk, coyote or bat bites or scratches a pet dog.

Symptoms go through a series of phases and include:

  • Restlessless
  • Behavioral disturbances including aggression
  • Drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death

Dogs confirmed to have rabies must, by law, be euthanized.

Medical exemptions from the rabies vaccine are possible in some states on the basis of your vet writing a waiver saying the vaccine will be harmful to your dog’s health.

A titer test showing existing immunity to rabies may be helpful in having the exemption granted.


Distemper is a severe, contagious and incurable disease that can be fatal.

You will see it abbreviated as CDV on your pup’s vaccination record.

The condition affects raccoons, skunks and other animals as well as dogs.

It’s caused by a virus that’s shed by infected animals and which attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems.

Distemper spreads through airborne transmission i.e. sneezing or coughing but also via shared food and water bowls or equipment.

Symptoms of distemper include:

  • Eye discharge
  • Nose discharge
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Twitching
  • Paralysis
  • Death (which is said to occur often)
  • Footpad hardening and thickening

There is no cure for distemper.

Rather, treatment is aimed at providing supportive care i.e. trying to prevent secondary infections and control symptoms like vomiting and seizures so the dog can survive long enough for his own immune system to fight off the virus.


This serious and highly infectious intestinal virus has a fearsome reputation amongst many owners because it can claim the lives of young puppies within two or three days.

Dehydration is the enemy and affected pups need to be kept warm, provided fluids and closely nursed.

Symptoms of parvovirus include:

  • Vomiting
  • Severe and often bloody diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss

Parvo is caught by direct contact with an infected dog, via contaminated objects, environments or people and through feces.

The virus is impervious to regular household cleaners and can persist on surfaces and in the environment for long periods.

There are various strains, some more virulent than others.

Medical treatment can’t kill parvovirus but aims to support the puppy until his own body can.

If your Boxer is vaccinated against parvo, you will see the letters CPV in the vet’s notes.

Hepatitis (Adenovirus)

Hepatitis is a highly transmissible disease of varying severity from mild to fatal, affecting the liver but also the kidneys, spleen, lungs and eyes.

Traditionally, hepatitis has been considered a core vaccine.

However, the most readily available data, publicised by veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds, reveals there was only one documented and isolated case of infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) in the US in the 15 years to 2017.

This low prevalence is why many vets, including Dr Dodds, no longer regard it as essential.

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • Slight fever
  • Congestion of mucous membranes
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
  • Stomach enlargement
  • Pain around the liver

Many dogs overcome the mild form of hepatitis but when severe, it can kill.

There is no cure, but the symptoms are treatable.

You will see hepatitis denoted as CAV2 (canine adenovirus-2) in veterinary records.

Kennel Cough (Bordatella)

Kennel cough is one non-core vaccine that is routinely recommended by vets.

This respiratory disease is highly contagious and fairly common, not dissimilar to the human cold in that it’s usually a minor and passing illness.

The classic symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • Strong, persistent cough with a distinctive honking sound, possible coughing fits
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Low grade fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Kennel cough is highly treatable in healthy dogs, which often recover within a week or two without any treatment other than rest.

As with other diseases, kennel cough can be more severe in very young pups.

Several different pathogens can cause kennel cough.

While most cases are due to the bordatella bacterium, various viruses can also be to blame, including canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza and canine respiratory coronavirus.

A mycoplasma bacteria can also be involved.

The kennel cough vaccine is directed at the bordatella bacterium and provides no protection against these other agents, which means your Boxer can still get kennel cough, even if vaccinated.

(It’s also not unusual for the vaccine, which comes in as an injection or a nasal spray, to actually cause kennel cough symptoms.)

Kennel cough is spread by airborne droplets, direct contact like touching noses and via contaminated surfaces like water bowls.

It’s commonly contracted in settings where large numbers of dogs congregate e.g. boarding kennels, vet clinics, puppy schools, daycares, dog parks, dog shows, pet shops, groomers, dog training classes.

If your Boxer is never exposed to large groups of dogs, then he may have very little chance of being infected.

How To Decide Which Vaccines Your Boxer Puppy Needs

Whether a vaccine is right for your Boxer will depend on his unique set of circumstances.

It’s important to keep in mind that, like any pharmaceutical intervention, vaccines come with risks and side effects and each shot exerts a toxic load on your dog’s body because of vaccine components called “adjuvants” which are chemicals including mercury and formaldehyde.

Except for the intranasal vaccines, vaccines enter the body via a very different route than that used by viruses and bacteria in nature.

Vaccines bypass the usual defences provided by the skin, mucous membranes and gut and injected directly into the tissues.

This mode of delivery delivers a shock to the immune system.

Some pups will have adverse reactions to vaccines that are usually mild and transitory but which can include sudden death.

More insidiously, vaccination has been implicated in the development long term health problems including serious autoimmune conditions and allergies, on the rise in the pet dog population.

This association is disputed by some conventional vets, but holistic practitioners including the respected homeopathic vet Dr Richard Pitcairn, who has a doctorate in veterinary microbiology and immunology, refer to a syndrome called vaccinosis, whereby vaccinated dogs can suffer cumulative vaccine damage resulting in a generalized loss of vitality and the onset of chronic disorders.

These problems often develop long after vaccines are given, without the dog having shown any immediate adverse reaction, in what’s known in immunological terms as a delayed hypersensitivity reaction.

This time lag often means owners and vets fail to make the connection between the vaccination and the itching, stomach problems or other unexplained symptoms that end up being deemed “autoimmune” or “idiopathic” (of unknown cause).

Because vaccines can do harm as well as offer protection, each vaccine you’re considering giving your Boxer needs to be carefully assessed in terms of its potential costs and benefits.

You will need to weigh up:

  • The severity of the disease (Prominent integrative veterinarian Dr Karen Becker advises that, to be worth the risk, any vaccine you give your dog should be for a life threatening disease, which she says rules out most non-core vaccines.)
  • How treatable the disease is if your Boxer gets it
  • Your Boxer’s likelihood of catching the disease which is a function of both the prevalence of the disease in the dog population where you live and your dog’s lifestyle i.e. whether it exposes him to other dogs or to the environments in which the disease is usually transmitted (If your Boxer doesn’t have any exposure to the disease, the vaccine is unnecessary.)
  • How safe and effective the vaccine is (According to Dr Karen Becker most non-core canine vaccines are not considered both safe and effective, especially the bacterins, which are vaccines directed at bacterial pathogens.)
  • What side effects and long term health impacts may be associated with the vaccine (Consider this both with respect to the particular vaccine and to the way vaccines are known to affect the body in general)
  • Your Boxer’s level of existing immunity or level of protection from the disease (Titer tests can determine this.)
  • Your dog’s health status and whether he’s already immunocompromised or sick in any way (This includes allergies.)
  • Whether your Boxer has ever had an adverse reaction to a vaccine (No dog that’s previously had a vaccine reaction of any kind should be vaccinated.)

Boxer Dogs That Should Not Receive Vaccines

According to Dr Karen Becker, a prerequisite for receiving any vaccine is that a dog should be 100 per cent healthy to start with.

Dr Becker, dubbed “the most followed vet in the world”, says a dog is not a candidate to be vaccinated if he has:

  • Allergies
  • Endocrine issues
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Cancer (Or has survived cancer)
  • Another pre-existing medical condition
  • Ever had an adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past

What Is The Best Vaccine Schedule For A Boxer Puppy?

The standard puppy shots schedule that most Boxers still undergo in the United States involves vaccinating repeatedly every three to four weeks from the age of six to eight weeks until 16 weeks.

It usually looks something like this:

  • 6 to 8 weeks — Distemper and parvovirus considered core (Bordatella considered optional)
  • 10 to 12 weeks (3 months) — DHPP 4-in-1 vaccine i.e. distemper and parvovirus repeated and hepatitis (adenovirus) and parainfluenza added (Influenza, leptospirosis, bordatella, lyme disease are considered optional, depending on lifestyle etc)
  • 16 to 18 weeks (4 months) — DHPP 4-in-1 repeated, which amounts to a third dose of distemper and parvo and a second dose of hepatitis and parainfluenza. Rabies also given at this age (Influenza, lyme disease, leptospirosis and bordatella as per lifestyle)
  • 12 to 16 months — Rabies vaccine and DHPP given again (This is the fourth dose of distemper and parvo, third dose of hepatitis and parainfluenza). Optional are coronavirus, leptospirosis, bordatella, lyme

This approach sees puppies vaccinated with some vaccines as many four times within the space of two months, many as 4-way combination vaccines, which amounts to 15 different vaccines in the first 16 weeks of life, to achieve protection against five diseases.

This doesn’t count the addition of any non-core vaccines.

Some pups even receive a 6-in-1 a DHLPPC shot that includes distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and coronavirus all at the same time.

Alternatives To Traditional Vaccine Schedules

Veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds’ minimal vaccine protocol is widely accepted amongst traditional vets as well as holistic ones.

It advises the following schedule:

  • Nine to ten weeks — DIstemper and parvo vaccines only
  • 14 weeks — Repeat distemper and parvo
  • 16-18 weeks — Optional repeat of the above
  • 20 weeks (or as old as possible and allowed by law) — Rabies
  • 1 year — distemper and parvo again and rabies, using the killed, 3-year vaccine product and administered three to four weeks apart from the distemper-parvo booster

Titering before and after any vaccine, to determine pre-existing immunity and whether the vaccine has worked, is the gold standard.

Better still is when the breeder titers the mother during pregnancy, enabling an accurate prediction of the ideal window for vaccinating the pups.

The most minimal use of traditional vaccines would be an even lighter touch, vaccinating just once, after 16 weeks of age, using single vaccines for distemper and parvo, given separately and spaced apart by several weeks.

This is what the AKC-registered, natural rearing Boxer “breeders of merit” Paula and Jeff Vandervoort, of Gentry Boxers in Texas, recommend, if you must use pharmaceutical vaccines.

The Vandervoorts personally give no traditional vaccinations to their Boxers, instead employing homeopathic nosodes and keeping pups away from places known to be high risk for parvo and distemper.

Another progressive Boxer breeder is the Michigan-based Newcastle Boxers, who keep their puppies until 12 weeks, provide minimal vaccinations and advise owners that pups may not be vaccinated before going to their new homes.

Homeopathic Nosodes: An Alternative To Vaccines?

Nosodes are homeopathic preparations made by highly diluting diseased products of biological origin such as blood, pus, saliva, tissue or excrement.

Though homeopathy is not given much credence by the mainstream medical establishment, respected holistic vets do recommend homeopathic remedies including nosodes.

Building Immunity Naturally In Your Boxer

Natural rearing breeders, holistic vets and engaged owners are increasingly educated about how to harness safe, natural methods to build immunity in their dogs through a combination of:

  • Homeopathic nosodes in place of pharmaceutical vaccines
  • Titer testing to detect when puppies and dogs are already immune
  • Feeding a fresh, natural canine diet to build vitally healthy dogs with strong immune systems resistant to disease
  • Gradual, short exposures to other dogs and environments as the pup’s immune system develops

Why Are Puppies Usually Given So Many Shots?

Not for the reason you might think.

Puppy vaccines are given so many times not because several doses are necessary to attain immunity.

Rather, vaccines are repeated so that one of the doses will coincide with the right window in the development of the puppy’s immune system and produce the desired immune response.

When’s the right window?

A vaccine will only be effective if it’s given after the pup’s maternal antibodies have worn off.

But you also want to give it before he’s exposed to the disease.

In the past, there was no way to pinpoint this window of opportunity.

Now, thanks to simple tests called titers, you can measure the levels of antibodies in the blood.

This way, it’s no longer necessary to take stabs in the dark.

A titer test can detect when the maternal antibodies have waned enough that a vaccine will be effective.

In other words, it’s possible to give just one, perfectly timed vaccine for each disease, instead of three or four.

When Should My Boxer Puppy Be Vaccinated?

To decide when to vaccinate your Boxer puppy, it’s worth understanding how dogs develop immunity.

Antibodies are passed from the mother to puppies both via the placenta while in the womb and, once born, in milk — especially the first milk known as colostrum.

These maternal antibodies protect puppies until their immune systems are capable of producing their own antibodies.

This is known to occur at about 12 to 18 weeks (three to four and a half months old).

In countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, many vets already titer puppies (and kittens) before giving the first vaccines, waiting until maternal antibodies have worn off.

Even without a titer test, by waiting until at least 12 weeks until you vaccinate, there is a better chance of generating a protective immune response.

But holistic veterinarian Dr Peter Dobias says even this may not be necessary if the dog has developed natural immunity by then.

In his over three decades of veterinary practice, Dr Dobias has seen dogs develop and maintain immunity to distemper and parvovirus without ever receiving a single shot.

He recommends owners titer test their new puppies prior to vaccinating to make sure they’re not already immune.

If the titer is negative, he recommends a single vaccine at 12 weeks and then titering for the antibodies a month later to confirm protection.

One of the problems with vaccinating early at 6 to 8 weeks, as many protocols still recommend, is the pup’s immune system is too undeveloped to produce an antibody response.

Worse, Dr Dobias says the vaccine antigen binds to the maternal antibodies, “using them up” and leaving the pup with zero protection.

How Common Are Adverse Vaccine Reactions In Boxer Puppies?

According to official records, the incidence of adverse vaccine reactions is low, ranging from less than one to 1.85 reactions per 10 000 doses of vaccine.

However, there is no legal requirement for veterinarians to report adverse events and it’s thought only a small proportion are actually registered.

As a result, there is no accurate log.

Michael J Day’s veterinary immunology text teaches veterinary students that vaccine adverse reactions are ”probably rare” yet acknowledges “accurate surveillance data of sufficient quantity and quality for meaningful analysis of the prevalence of companion animal vaccine reactions simply do not exist.”

Vaccine Side Effects In Boxer Dogs

Vaccine side effects range from mild flu-like symptoms to the worst case scenario of puppies dying on the table from anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction affecting the airways.

It’s usually the mild, temporary reactions to vaccines that vets mention to clients.

Things like:

  • Fever
  • Stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Sore joints
  • Anorexia
  • Abdominal tenderness

Other reactions possible at the time of the vaccine or within 24 hours to three days following vaccination include:

  • Hives (a rash of raised welts)
  • Facial swelling
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Hair loss
  • Vitiligo (loss of skin pigment at the injection site or in discolored patches)
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Oral ulcers
  • Rare complications including development of disease due to residual virulence of attenuated vaccine strains or batch contamination during manufacture

Onset can be as long as 10 to 28 days after vaccination in cases of delayed immunologic response or even later, as seen with the involvement of canine distemper antibodies in joint diseases in dogs

Other serious vaccine reactions include:

  • Granulomas (small areas of inflammation)
  • Abscesses (painful, pus-filled pockets)
  • Immunosuppression and susceptibility to infections and disease
  • Aberrant behavior including unprovoked aggression
  • Allergies including skin allergies
  • Increased sensitivity to environmental and airborne allergens (atopy or “doggie hay fever”)
  • Respiratory disease
  • Lameness
  • Allergic uveitis (eye inflammation)

The veterinary literature reveals that severe and long term vaccine-related illnesses can affect just about every part of the body.

The list of vaccine-induced illnesses is long and includes:

  • Glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation)
  • Myocarditis (heart inflammation)
  • Autoimmune diseases including blood disorders like immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), Immune-mediated ITP, irritable bowel disorders, lupus and pemphigus
  • Autoimmune arthritis
  • Polyarthritis
  • Neurological disorders including severe neurological disease
  • Seizures/epilepsy
  • Transient seizures in puppies and adult dogs of breeds or cross-breeds susceptible to immune-mediated diseases especially those of hematologic (blood) or endocrine tissues (e.g. IMHA, ITP, autoimmune thyroiditis)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) – acknowledged in the Merck Manual
  • Meningoencephalitis
  • Polyneuritis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (bone disease)
  • Thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism and thyroiditis
  • Chronic skin disease including allergic dermatitis and eosinophilic skin disorders
  • Cancers including lymphoma and leukemia
  • Markedly elevated liver enzymes
  • Organ failure including liver and kidney failure
  • Adrenal disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Collapse with autoagglutinated (clumped) red blood cells
  • Blood disorders including ecchymotic hemorrhages (splotchy blue or purple patches caused by blood leaking from a capillary, as in immune-mediated thrombocytopenia or ITP where blood platelets are destroyed
  • Generalized petechiae (tiny purple, red or brown pinpoint spots on skin that may resemble a rash, caused by bleeding under the skin) – from ITP
  • Icterus (jaundice) as in hemolytic anemia (AIHA or IMHA) where red blood cells are damaged and destroyed
  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Postvaccinal polyneuropathy (associated occasionally with distemper, parvovirus, rabies and presumably other vaccines) presents as muscular atrophy, inhibition of neuronal control of tissue and organ function, muscular excitation, incoordination, weakness and/or seizures)
  • Malignant injection site sarcomas (mostly in cats but occasionally in dogs)
  • Adenoviral-related “blue eye”
  • Cutaneous vasculopathy that may follow rabies virus vaccination in which immunohisto-chemical studies have demonstrated vascular deposition of rabies virus antigen and complement
  • Abortion in pregnant bitches
  • Infertility
  • Death

Risks Of Overvaccination For Your Boxer

Overvaccination refers to giving your Boxer more vaccines than are necessary for his health.

Excessive vaccine protocols take many forms including:

  • Vaccinating a puppy that already has natural immunity
  • Revaccinating a puppy that has immunity as a result of previous vaccine doses
  • Giving boosters to adult Boxers that are still protected from prior vaccines
  • Vaccinating dogs for diseases that are not severe or that the dogs are very unlikely to ever catch
  • Administering multiple vaccines in one go via “polyvalent” or combination vaccines that often piggyback non-core vaccines the dog doesn’t need on top of the intended core vaccine

Repeat puppy vaccinations using combination vaccines are not recommended in holistic veterinary circles.

Gentry Boxers’ Paula Vandervoort says, “Multiple puppy vaccinations have a bad reputation both in the science and holistic communities for potentially causing some very serious side effects, some of them life-threatening and long-term.”

While many of the effects of overvaccination remain unstudied, the existing evidence makes it clear that overvaccination stands to weaken, not strengthen, the immune system — without providing any additional benefit.

More than two decades ago in 1999, world-renowned vet and vaccine expert Dr Jean Dodds said:

“Veterinary clinicians are increasingly faced with patients exhibiting signs of immunologic dysfunction and disease.

In a troublesome number of cases, the onset follows a recent vaccination, therapeutic or preventative drug use, infection, toxic exposure, hormonal change/imbalance or stress event.

The evidence implicating vaccines as triggering agents in genetically susceptible individuals is growing.”

How To Reduce The Likelihood Of Adverse Vaccine Reactions

Research has shown that a dog’s risk of suffering a vaccine reaction within three days of receiving shots is heightened if the dog is:

  • Young at the time of vaccination
  • Of a small breed
  • Neutered/spayed
  • Receiving multiple vaccines in the same visit

Other studies have found that a dog is more likely to develop vaccinosis from vaccinations if he has:

  • Pre-existing allergies

You can reduce your Boxer puppy’s chance of suffering adverse vaccine reactions by:

  • Delaying the first vaccine until maternal antibodies have worn off, as shown by a titer test
  • Insisting on “monovalent” or single vaccines and vaccinating for different diseases at spaced intervals, not all at the same time
  • Adopting a minimal vaccine protocol e.g. rabies only and distemper and parvo if titers are negative
  • Not vaccinating if your Boxer falls into any of the categories of dogs unsuitable for vaccination on health grounds (See earlier list)
  • Using a homeopathic remedy post-vaccination to help detox the body (Thuja is used for all vaccines except rabies, for which Lyssin is the usual choice)

What Type Of Vaccine Is Best For Your Boxer? Single Versus Combination Shots

5-in-1 combination vaccines like the DHLPP for distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus), leptospirosis, parvo and parainfluenza are commonly administered, as are 4-in-1 DHPPs that drop the leptospirosis.

Vaccines are even given to dogs as a 6-in-1 DHLPPC shot that includes coronavirus.

It’s convenient for vets and owners, but combination vaccines load the body up in a way that is known to increase the chances of an adverse reaction.

In nature, dogs don’t encounter pathogens in this all-in-one fashion.

If you are vaccinating your Boxer, the safest way to do it is with “monovalent” vaccines that target just one disease at a time.

Most conventionally-trained vets don’t stock single vaccines, so there is a risk your Boxer will receive more vaccines than he needs — and than you’re aware of.

Your vet may need to specially order in the monovalent vaccines you nominate, so have the conversation ahead of time.

Ask to see the vial before it’s used on your dog, to make double sure he’s only receiving only one agent at a time.

The Rabies Vaccine And Your Boxer

The evidence suggests special caution should be exercised with the rabies vaccine because it presents the strongest “antigenic challenge” to the immune system.

According to veterinarians like Dr John Robb from Protect the Pets, the rabies vaccine is the worst of all vaccines in terms of triggering adverse reactions.

Its association with significant adverse neurologic and other immune reactions is documented in the veterinary literature going back at least as far as the 1990s.

The rabies vaccine can cause production of antibodies against the thyroid gland and other organs.

On his clinic website, veterinarian Dr Michael Dym describes a specific form of vaccinosis he’s seen result “fairly commonly” from the rabies vaccine.

He notes that many dogs exhibit one or more of the following strange symptoms that last more or less indefinitely after being vaccinated for rabies:

  • Aggression, suspicion, unusual fearfulness, lack impulse control
  • “Reverse sneezing”
  • Increased mounting seen in neutered pets
  • Restlessness
  • Avoidance of company
  • Unusual affection
  • Inability to be restrained
  • Self-biting
  • Gagging when eating/drinking
  • Staring eyes
  • Swallowing wood, stones, inedible objects
  • Destruction of blankets, clothing
  • Convulsive seizures
  • Throat spasms
  • Disturbed heart function
  • Excited, jerky breathing

Vaccination against rabies is mandated by law in the United States.

To minimize the risk to your Boxer:

  • Insist on the three-year vaccine (there is a choice between a one and three-year)
  • Use the homeopathic remedy lyssin afterwards
  • Have the rabies vaccine given no earlier than 4 months (16 weeks) and ideally closer to six months
  • Give the rabies vaccine at least three to four weeks apart from any other vaccine, as per Dr Jean Dodds’ recommendations
  • Remember that sick pets are eligible for a waiver as they shouldn’t be vaccinated against any diseases including rabies

Do Adult Boxers Need Yearly Boosters?

Yearly boosters are ingrained in the habits of many dog owners and the appointments provide a regular income stream for vets.

But annual revaccinations are now widely recognized as too frequent and unnecessary.

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association has issued a statement saying it no longer supports yearly boosters, instead pointing to a three-year timeframe.

The current best recommendation is to run titers every three years to check your Boxer still has immunity against distemper and parvo.

According to the world-leading vaccine expert Dr Ron Schultz, the practice of revaccinating dogs throughout their lives was begun without any scientific basis.

His findings indicate the distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis/adenovirus vaccines trigger an immunological memory of at least seven years and that immunity can last as long as a dog’s lifetime.

There is never any reason to vaccinate your Boxer without him first returning a negative titer test result that shows earlier immunity has worn off.

How To Titer Test Your Boxer Dog

Titer (TIGHT-uh) tests measure antibodies to assess a dog’s current level of immunity and whether he’s already protected or could benefit from a vaccine.

Since 2017, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has recognized titers are reliable indicators of whether a dog is immune to distemper, parvo and hepatitis.

Rules differ between states but a titer test is now generally accepted in lieu of proof of vaccination for the core vaccines.

The one exception is rabies.

Although titer testing exists for rabies, revaccination against rabies is required by US law in every state, regardless of whether a dog is already protected or not.

You can get a titer for rabies, parvo and distemper for $55 through Dr John Robb at Protect the Pets, an organization he founded to raise awareness of the dangers of overvaccination of dogs.

TIters can also be obtained through Hemopet, run by veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds.

There is sometimes confusion around the interpretation of titer test results.

A positive result, no matter how slight, means your dog is considered protected.

Can My Boxer Still Get Sick If He’s Vaccinated?

Vaccines do not guarantee your Boxer won’t get sick.

There is a difference between vaccination and immunization.

A dog is vaccinated if he’s received a shot, but he only becomes immunized if that vaccine “takes”, successfully generating antibodies sufficient to provide a protective immune response to the target disease.

Efficacy rates are never 100 per cent for reasons including:

  • Some dogs are non-responsive to vaccines
  • Vaccines don’t cover all strains of a particular virus.

How Much Does It Cost To Vaccinate A Boxer Puppy?

The average cost to vaccinate a puppy ranges from $75 to $100 for the core vaccines.

Rabies is usually $15 to $20

If you go down the vaccination route, you will find yourself outlaying far more in the first year of your pup’s life than in subsequent years once immunity is established.

Titer tests can be obtained affordably and will spare you the cost of vaccination if they show your Boxer is already protected.

Vaccinations And Vets

Vets differ in their attitudes to vaccination on the basis of their training, experience, whether they keep abreast of the latest research and to what extent they are holistically oriented.

Vaccine schedules vary and change over time.

Until 2011, core vaccines were supposed to be given yearly but since 2011 the official recommendation from the AAHA has been to give them at three-year or greater intervals.

The AAHA now recognizes that immunity lasts five years for distemper and parvo at least seven for hepatitis.

Official recommendations tend to trail the latest science, sometimes by many years — not least because of the conservative nature of the veterinary profession, which can be resistant to change.

Plenty of vets have spoken out about against outdated vaccine protocols, inappropriate vaccination guidelines and veterinary practices that run counter to the science of immunology.

If yours hasn’t kept up with the latest advances and is still advocating yearly vaccines throughout a dog’s life, or if they don’t discuss the risks of overvaccination and adverse vaccine reactions and refuse to consider minimal vaccine protocols, go elsewhere.

You can find a holistic vet near you through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

Some offer long-distance phone consults.

Give a wide berth to pet care providers like dog daycares and boarding kennels that refuse to accept titer test results in lieu of proof of vaccination.


Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccinating your Boxer puppy.

With the development of new technologies, improved understanding of how the immune system functions and increased awareness of the problems associated with overvaccination, dog owners have more choices than ever before.

Armed with the latest information, you can strike a balance between protecting your Boxer from vaccine-preventable diseases and avoiding the damage that can be done by heavy-handed vaccination protocols.


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