Warning: The magic method HM\BackUpWordPress\Notices::__wakeup() must have public visibility in /home/pbgv/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/backupwordpress.out/classes/class-notices.php on line 46

Warning: The magic method HM\BackUpWordPress\Path::__wakeup() must have public visibility in /home/pbgv/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/backupwordpress.out/classes/class-path.php on line 57

Warning: The magic method HM\BackUpWordPress\Extensions::__wakeup() must have public visibility in /home/pbgv/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/backupwordpress.out/classes/class-extensions.php on line 35
Puppy – PBGVCA Health Committee Reference Center

Using Canine Nomographs to Better Time Puppy Vaccinations


© 2017 Avidog International LLC


We were introduced to canine nomographs 15 years ago by Dr. Ronald Schultz from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Since then, we have used them to time our pups’ vaccinations. This simple, inexpensive tool has enabled us to overcome the two conflicting pressures that dog breeders face— how do we ensure every puppy is fully socialized during its first 16 weeks of age while keeping them safe from distemper and parvovirus?

Nomographs have proven to be the answer for us and thousands of our colleagues and students. So, with the help of Dr. Laurie at the Schultz Lab, we have written this ebook for other breeders. We hope it will be useful to you!

Like you, we are simply dog breeders so be sure to discuss this process with your veterinarians! Feel free to share this booklet with them.

Gayle, Marcy and Lise

Our thanks to the Schultz Lab, Dr. Ron Schultz and Dr. Laurie Larson for providing this invaluable service to dog breeders and puppy owners across North America!! Please visit the lab’s website for more information and details.



Nomographs are simple blood tests that estimate the amount of distemper and parvovirus antibodies passed from a dam to her puppies via her colostrum, or first milk. Nomographs are useful for breeders and puppy owners because they can help predict when pups:

  • are no longer protected by maternal antibodies and
  • will be able to respond to distemper and/or parvo vaccines.

During a puppy’s first 12 hours of life, its intestinal tract allows antibodies in colostrum to pass into the bloodstream and thus start protecting it from the diseases that its mother is protected from. As the puppy grows up, maternal antibodies break down in approximately two-week “half lives” until they are no longer present in the pup.

While a puppy’s maternal antibodies are high, they neutralize viruses such as canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus. This keeps the pup safe from these potentially fatal diseases. However, this same neutralization also blocks vaccines so the puppy will not able to be immunized.

Maternal antibodies against distemper and parvo are independent of each other; a bitch can and usually will have different levels of protection against these diseases. In our experience, bitches’ titers can range from as low as 4 and as high as 5280. These levels mean a pup’s maternal antibodies can disappear as early as a few days after birth to as late as 18 weeks of age! With these last pups, if we had stopped vaccinating them at 16 weeks, as is commonly done, the pups would not have been protected!

In fact, maternal antibody interference is one of the most common causes of vaccine failure in puppies! We usually give pups multiple doses of vaccine every two to three weeks during puppyhood because we don’t know their maternal antibody titers. So, we don’t know when a vaccine will be effective. Nomograph testing helps us understand the best timing of vaccination to ensure a litter will be effectively immunized with the fewest vaccines as early as possible in their life.

We can measure the antibodies that a bitch has to pass on to her puppies using antibody titers, a simple blood test. If that test is done at the Schultz Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School, a nomograph can then be run on those results, allowing us to predict the optimal time to vaccinate her puppies.

To use a nomograph to better time your litter’s distemper and parvo vaccinations, you will need to ship serum from your bitch to the Schultz lab. The ideal time for the blood draw is either two weeks before or two weeks after the puppies are whelped. You may find it more convenient to do the blood draw when your bitch is at your veterinarian’s for progesterone testing or a pregnancy ultrasound. Similarly, bitches that are bred more than once a year do not have to have a second nomograph that year. However, the further from whelping the blood is drawn, the more risk you take that your bitch has come in contact with distemper or parvo and mounted an immune response that won’t be revealed in her titer. You’ll have to decide how great that risk is based on your bitch’s activities and the amount of parvo or distemper in your area. Personally, we stick with drawing blood either two weeks before or two weeks after whelping.

Prepare and ship the blood according to the Blood Preparation Procedures in the next section and the Nomograph Submission Form on page 10. Follow the example submission form on page 11. It is particularly helpful to the lab if you provide your dam’s vaccination history. At a minimum, fill out her distemper (CDV) and parvovirus (CPV-2) vaccination history.

Nomograph Report. In about a week, you will receive an email report from the lab similar to the one on page 12. The report will give you your bitch’s parvo and distemper titers in the box, and then below that is the protective standard for this lab. A little further down the page will be the nomograph information for the litter, indicating the age at which the pups can be vaccinated and for which diseases. On these reports, D indicates a distemper vaccine, A indications an adenovirus-2 vaccine, and P indicates a parvovirus-2 vaccine. The report then goes on to give further information about confirming the pups’ immune response.

Pups’ “At-Risk” Period. Prior to the recommended vaccination dates, the pups are at risk for getting distemper or parvo if they come in contact with it. At the same time, it is critical that we fully socialize and develop our pups prior to 16 of age. So breeders must practice good biosecurity while still socializing puppies during the weeks prior to the vaccinations. If you want to know more about how to do this, check out Avidog’s Transformational Puppy Rearing video series (www.avidog.com/request-rbp-vod/).

Send Reports to New Homes. Provide a copy of the nomograph report with each pup’s vaccination record to its new owners so they can provide them to their veterinarian on the first visit. This enables the pup’s vet to tailor the pup’s vaccines to its individual needs.

Confirming Pups’ Responses to Vaccines. Every pup, no matter what vaccination protocol it receives, should have a confirmatory titer drawn to ensure that it is protected. We have personally bred litters that could and did not respond to the parvo vaccine until after 17 weeks of age. If their owners had stopped vaccinating at the typical 16 weeks, those pups would have been left unprotected against parvo. They would have had a good chance of coming down with the disease in their first year, since they were competition dogs and thus out and about.

You or your owners can use the Schultz lab for your pups’ confirmatory titers. Use the same submission form and blood draw instructions but this time, do not check the nomograph block. Attach a copy of the dam’s nomograph with the submission form. You will receive a report like the one on page 13.

If an owner doesn’t do a confirmatory titer after the puppy series, that pup should be vaccinated against distemper, parvo and adeno at a year of age, when all chance of maternal antibodies is gone.

High Risk Conditions. In high risk situations, such as kennels that have had parvo outbreaks, you should take the additional step of running a titer on at least one pup in a litter BEFORE vaccination is begun. The nomograph on the dam is helpful, but a pup’s actual antibody level provides even better information in this risky situation.

When Not to Use Nomographs. Nomographs are useful tools to help breeders predict when vaccinations can be successful in their pups. However, to successfully use nomographs to schedule a puppy’s distemper and parvovirus vaccines, that puppy must have ingested colostrum from its dam during its first 12 hours of life. If for some reason that did not happen, either due to issues with the puppy or its mother, then a nomograph cannot be used and the puppy should be vaccinated using the more standard vaccination protocols, like those recommended by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, which can be found at www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines.


☐ Plan to draw your bitch’s blood two weeks prior to or two weeks after whelping. Avoid drawing blood closer to whelping than these dates because the bitch’s body is creating colostrum and the nomograph will be less accurate. At the same time, if you draw her blood too far from whelping, you risk her coming in contact with distemper or parvo closer to whelping, which will change the antibody levels the pups get in her colostrum.

☐ Ship your bitch’s blood to arrive at the lab Monday through Friday. Drawing and shipping blood Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday is usually best.

☐ Collect 1 to 3 mls of blood from your bitch in a sterile, red top or serum separator tube and allow it to clot.

☐ Spin down to separate the serum. Send at least ½ ml of serum for the testing.

☐ Wrap the tube with the serum in padding, such as paper towel, and place it in a plastic zip-lock bag.

☐ Fill out the submission form (see sample form) and place it with a $25 check made payable to the University of Wisconsin in a SECOND plastic zip-lock bag. (Please note this fee is expected to go up at some point in 2017, so you may want to call the lab to ensure you send the proper amount.)

☐ Place both plastic bags in a sturdy shipping container, either a padded envelope or box. If the ambient temperature might go above 80°F during shipping, include a cold pack wrapped with some newspaper to keep it from crushing the serum vial. Freezing temperatures aren’t a concern when shipping separated serum.

☐ Send the shipping container via USPS 2-day Priority Mail to this address. Overnight shipping is not necessary.

Dr. R.D. Schultz Laboratory
4337 School of Veterinary Medicine
2015 Linden Drive West
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 263-4648

☐ The lab usually runs tests on Fridays and will send you and your vet a report via email (see sample report) that gives you the following, usually a week after receiving the blood sample:

  • your bitch’s quantitative titers for distemper and parvo,
  • an interpretation of these results for her, and
  • recommendations for which weeks to vaccinate her puppies.


American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. 2008. AVSAB Position Statement On Puppy Socialization. Available at http://www.avidog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/AVSAB-Position-on-Puppy-Socialization.pdf

Baker JA, Robson DS, Gillespie JH, Burgher JA, Doughty MF. 1959. A nomograph that predicts the age to vaccinate puppies against distemper. Cornell Vet. 1959 Jan;49(1):158–167.

Ronald D Schultz Lab. 2016. Canine Nomograph – What is it? Available at www.vetmed.wisc.edu/lab/schultz/canine-nomograph-what-is-it/

WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group. 2015. World Small Animal Veterinary Association 2015 Vaccination Guidelines for The Owners and Breeders of Dogs and Cats. Available at http://www.avidog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/WSAVA-Owner-Breeder-Guidelines-14-October-2015-FINAL-1.pdf


Avidog International provides continuing professional education for dog breeders based on current and past research, as well as over 60 years of joint breeding experience.  Visit our Breeder College for courses, products, ebooks and more.

Avidog International LLC
PO Box 959
Mattituck, NY 11952
(800) 305-2808 

(PBGVCA does not provide specific medical advice, but rather provides users with information to help them better understand health and disease. Please consult with a qualified health care professional for answers to medical questions.)

Share this...