A nomograph is an estimate of the amount of antibody passed to a litter of pups from the mother via her colostrum. During the puppy’s first hours of life, its intestinal tract is able to allow colostral antibody to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This passive antibody helps to protect the newborn from all the diseases that the mother is protected from. As the puppy grows up, maternal antibody breaks down in approximately 2 week “half lives” until it is no longer present in the pup. While this antibody is at higher levels, it is able to neutralize viruses such as canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus. Because of this neutralization, puppy vaccine can be blocked. Maternal antibody interference is one of the most common causes of vaccine failure to immunize! The reason that puppies are given multiple doses of vaccine is because most of the time we don’t know what their maternal antibody titers are, and so don’t know when the vaccine will be effective. Nomograph testing helps us understand the best timing of vaccination to assure a litter will be effectively immunized. Because the nomograph is limited by the ability of the dam to make colostrum and for the pups to receive it, nomograph results should not be used as a definitive indication of protection from disease. If you are a breeder who is experiencing a disease outbreak, please contact us prior to submitting a nomograph.
A video “walk-through” of example nomograph and puppy follow-up reports is linked in a separate tab and is about 30 minutes long. This video is geared toward a general audience, but may be of interest to veterinary practitioners as well.
How well does the nomograph work? Results of a recent study (link below) of follow-up testing of 506 puppies which had a nomograph completed for their dam showed rates of immunity that did not differ significantly from a group of more than 5,000 adult vaccinates. A cohort of slightly older vaccinated dogs under one year of age which had not had a nomograph completed for their dam were significantly less likely to be protected against distemper and parvovirus than the adult group.
(Reference: Baker, Robson, Gillespie, Burgher, and Doughty. A nomograph that predicts the age to vaccinate puppies against distemper. Cornell Veterinarian, Aug 1958, page 158-167.)
(Reference: Carmichael, Joubert, and Pollock. A modified live canine parvovirus vaccine. II. Immune response. Cornell Veterinarian,1983 Jan; 73(1):13-29.