Do Dogs Need DHLPP Every Year?

By Maya Marin

Between all your pets and their vaccinations, and those shots' varying schedules, it's hard to keep up with which critter needs what and when. Not all vaccinations are required on a yearly schedule. Many are. Whether you vaccinate your dog yourself or you have a veterinarian do it, be informed.

Alphabet Soup: DHLPP

DHLPP is actually several vaccines in one shot that protect against certain diseases. The DHLPP vaccination immunizes your dog against the fatal and near-fatal diseases of distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and the contagious parainfluenza which can cause a version of kennel cough. These vaccines are called core vaccines, according to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. The other two vaccines within the DHLPP are not considered core vaccines in all cases; vets recommend giving them only in consideration of the pet's potential exposure to the disease and geographic region. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you whether your dog needs these vaccines given the area you live in and your dog's exposure risk.

Variations on Distemper/Parvovirus Vaccinations

The DHLPP is a type of annual distemper/parvovirus vaccination. Some dog owners mistakenly use the name of one shot such as DHLPP when they mean the annual distemper/parvovirus combination. Not all annual shots vaccinate for the same diseases. Some may vaccinate for distemper and parvovirus only. Others may not include leptospirosis, since the disease may not be prevalent in some areas. Different combination vaccinations may include coronavirus, adenovirus-1, or protection against other diseases.

Why Vaccines May Be Harmful

While vaccinations protect dogs against diseases, over-vaccinating can cause problems, too. Dogs can have reactions to the vaccinations due to overstressed immune systems; they can even develop immune mediated hemolytic anemia. According to Dr. T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM on the petMD website, most dogs gain more than a year's worth of immunity when vaccinated. To complicate matters, the leptospirosis vaccine in the DHLPP vaccine doesn't cover all strains of leptospirosis. The vaccination is only effective on 50 to 75 percent of the strains, which won't necessarily prevent the disease should your dog come in contact with it. Leptospirosis vaccinations can cause serious reactions, especially in small-breed dogs and puppies younger than 12 weeks of age.

Three-Year Vaccinations

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends adult dogs be vaccinated every three years with core vaccines after receiving their first booster a year after their final puppy shots. Non-core vaccines are recommended only if there is a risk in the area or in the dog's situation. Those need administration once yearly.


Some veterinarians recommend testing for titers -- that is, the amount of antibodies against a particular disease. The theory is that if the dog has high titers for that disease, the dog doesn't need a vaccination to prevent that disease. Such testing is relatively inexpensive; it's worthwhile if you're the kind of pet owner who want to ensure your dog doesn't have to ingest toxins -- which vaccines are -- unnecessarily.

Your Choice

You need to protect your dog, but you also don't need to over-vaccinate. Talk to your veterinarian on what vaccination protocol makes the most sense for your dog and situation. Leptospirosis and parainfluenza within DHLPP require yearly boosters, but if your area does not have a high risk, you may not need to vaccinate your pet for it. A veterinarian who is up-to-date on the latest protocols will be able to tell you if an annual DHLPP is what your dog needs, if he needs another type of vaccination, or whether you can vaccinate every three years as both UC Davis and AAHA recommends.

By M.B. Lachlei


About the Author
M.B. Lachlei is an award-winning author of more than 30 pet and science-fiction/fantasy books. She is also the publisher of Sky Warrior Books.