If you are anything like me and millions of pet owners, you think of your pet as a family member. And you would only want the best care for your four-legged friend.
Are you tempted to leave all your pet’s medical decisions up to your veterinarian, thinking they’re the ones with all the expertise?
Well, hang on a minute – rethink that idea for vaccinating your pet. The traditional veterinary model of annual vaccination is being replaced by new recommendations.
Is your veterinarian advising a yearly set of injections for your pet companion? It may surprise you to learn it could increase the risks to your pet’s well-being.
Research is showing that giving our pets too many vaccinations has the potential to produce a variety of negative health effects.
Do Vaccines Improve A Pet’s Health
Many pet owners have the misconception that vaccines improve their pet’s health. Sometimes other illnesses such as periodontal disease and obesity do far more harm to the pet’s immune system.
And does re-vaccinating any pet with enough protective antibodies already, really help the pet?
I don’t believe it does, and there have been studies to show it does not help the pet gain any more immunity.
Since the goal of most pet owners is the safety of their pets, let’s talk about how you can protect them effectively. Not overburdening their immune system and putting them at increased risk for many health issues.
How Do Vaccines Work?
There are two different categories of vaccinations used in veterinary medicine. Modified live (MLV) and killed vaccines.*
Modified live vaccines use a changed, weakened form of the infectious virus or other microorganisms. While a killed vaccine uses an inactivated (dead) form of the virus.
Your pet has a vaccine injection. This stimulates their immune system to produce antibodies. Protecting them against any future contact they might have with the particular disease.
Could My Dog Be Receiving Too Many Vaccines?
Well, besides being unnecessary, often over-vaccination can overwhelm your pet’s immune system. Causing negative side effects.
For pets, already ill, or who suffer from a disease that involves their immune system, giving unnecessary vaccinations will place more stress on their bodies. Causing unnecessary further health problems.
Negative reactions from vaccinations can happen, from minutes to weeks or even months after taking the vaccine. According to Dr. Jean Dodds, a preeminent veterinary researcher in pet health concerning vaccination, hematology, and endocrine disorders.
The type and severity of the reactions can range from fever, hives, swelling, soreness, vomiting, and lack of appetite.
Over-vaccination is being linked to serious and unpleasant side effects. A leading immunology researcher Ronald D Schultz Ph.D.** stated that one round of vaccines, given as a puppy or kitten, would last for years. Even for the life of the pet.
As far back as 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) changed its vaccination guidelines. New guidelines recommend vets vaccinate adult pets every three years and no longer annually.
More aware vets adopted this policy and now prefer wellness exams every year and vaccinations every three.
Unique breeds can play a part in the response to vaccination. Some breeds are more susceptible to diseases that affect their immune system like chronic allergies. And so more likely to develop negative reactions from excessive vaccine administration:
• American Cocker Spaniel
• German Shepherd
• Golden Retriever
• Irish Setter
• Great Dane
• Kerry Blue Terrier
• Dachshunds (all varieties, but especially the long-haired)
• Poodles (all varieties)
• Old English Sheepdog
• Scottish Terrier
• Shetland Sheepdog
• Shih Tzu
As for cats, while vaccination reactions are not as common, they can sometimes develop cancerous tumors at vaccination sites, called injection sarcomas.
Are Vaccinations Necessary At All?
Yes! There’s no doubt that some vaccines, when given at appropriate times, are necessary for your dog. There are still many dangerous viruses in the pet population that could harm your pet.
Core vaccinations like the ones for deadly and contagious illnesses like Distemper and Parvovirus lay the foundation for your pet’s lifelong immune health. Here is a list of core vaccinations:
· Canine parvovirus (CPV)
· Canine distemper virus (CDV)
· Canine adenovirus (CAV)
· Feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1)
· Feline calicivirus (FCV)
· Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)
Dr. Dodds advises its essential for puppies and kittens to receive their initial core vaccinations around the age of nine weeks.
Antibody protection received from a mother fades. And the puppy or kitten is most vulnerable to contagious illnesses.
These initial vaccines are vital for protecting your pet during a time when their immune system isn’t mature.
Give rabies vaccination as required by local laws.
What about Those Other Vaccines?
You may also wonder about those ‘optional’ or ‘lifestyle’ vaccinations that your vet may have mentioned.
For dogs, these protect against diseases like Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and Kennel Cough, and for cats, Feline Leukemia virus.
The non-core vaccinations for dogs include:
· Canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
· Canine influenza virus (CIV)
· Bordetella bronchiseptica (one agent of “kennel cough”)
· Leptospira spp. (cause of Leptospirosis or “Lepto”)
· Borrelia burgdorferi (cause of Lyme disease)
· Crotalus Atrox Toxoid (CAT, or rattlesnake vaccine)
The non-core vaccinations of cats include:
· Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
· Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
· Virulent feline coronavirus (FCV, cause of feline infectious periodontitis or FIP)
· Chlamydia Felis
· Bordetella bronchiseptica (one cause of “kennel cough”)
The decision to vaccinate your pet for these diseases is one you and your vet can discuss.
Your pet’s risk of exposure to these diseases often depends on the region in which you live. And exposure to varying environmental conditions and situations.
The question you need to ask your vet is–what are the risk factors for your pet? Does it make the vaccine advisable?
Some important considerations:
Is your cat indoors only, for instance, or a regular outdoor wanderer?
Does your pet stay at a boarding kennel while you’re away?
Do you take them along as a trail buddy when you’re camping or hiking?
Does the area where you live to have a high recorded number of particularly contagious diseases?
All are important factors to consider before agreeing to these vaccinations.
How Do I Avoid Over-vaccinating My Pet?
There is no reason you cannot protect your pet from both contagious illnesses and the hazards of unnecessary vaccinations.
First, there are several alternatives to traditional vaccination schedules. These can help reduce the number of vaccinations that your pet receives. At the same time limiting the impact of those vaccinations on your pet.
It’s always an excellent idea to discuss all vaccination recommendations with your veterinarian. They can determine what your pet’s unique needs and risk factors are, and tailor a vaccination protocol to them.
For some pets, this may involve minimizing the number of vaccinations given at any one time.
Delaying vaccinations if a pet is sick or feverish.
Avoiding the administration of future vaccine doses if a pet has had a negative reaction to a particular injection in the past.
One solution to over-vaccination that’s effective and cost-efficient is antibody titer testing.
A titer is a simple blood test that measures your cat or dog’s antibody levels.
A titer test tells your veterinarian if protection continues against the ‘core’ viruses after vaccination. Helping you to avoid unnecessary booster vaccinations given to your pet.
The only exception is rabies booster vaccinations, which the law requires in every state.
Published studies about vaccine titer testing have shown over 92% of cats and dogs given vaccines form enough antibody titers. And these titer levels last at least 7-9 years, if not longer!
There are other, holistic ways to help support your furry friend’s health and immune system too.
Feeding your pet on a top-quality, complete, and balanced diet. Providing them with enough physical exercise and mental stimulation. Don’t ignore the benefits for your pet’s health, by giving them lots of love.
Remember that you are your pet’s owner, best friend, and best advocate. Take steps to be well-informed about their health care. The best way to ensure that you spend many happy, healthy years together.