Friday, May 2, 2008

Over vaccination (why less is more)

(by Dr. Cara White)
I have not written a blog before so as they say ' there's never a good time like the present.' I was giving a talk to the Miniature Schnauzer Club last evening and when I brought up the topic of vaccines there seemed to be a lot of questions regarding what protocol is right for their pet. I know when clients come to see us they get a lot of information and handouts regarding diet and nutrition but we haven't put one together as of yet regarding the problems of over-vaccinating your pet.
By now most people are aware of the acute vaccine reactions that can occur in their pets such as swelling at the site of injection, loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy or even anaphylaxis but there are many more reactions that can occur 1,2,3 or more months after getting a 'shot'.
In a study done by the Vaccine Research Group at Purdue University in 1997 they found that vaccines might trigger dogs immune systems to attack their own bodies potentially causing a number of diseases such as Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia or Thrombocytopenia (destruction of red blood cells or platelets), chronic active hepatitis (inflammation of liver), Systemic Lupus Erythamatosus (inflammation and destruction of tissues), thyroiditis and other organ destruction.
Vaccines also cause inflammation, not only at the injection site but throughout the body.This can lead to arthritis, exacerbation of allergies or potential inflammation of the nervous system and can lead to nerve paralysis.
So how do we avoid these side effects? Another study published by Purdue in 2005 did find a correlation between vaccine reactions and other variables such as age , size and number of vaccines given.

  • Smaller dogs are more prone to vaccine reactions than larger dogs
  • Risk of reactions increased by 27% per each additional vaccine given per office visit in dogs under 22 lbs, and by 12% in dogs over 22 lbs.
  • Risk increased for dogs up to 2 years old then declined after.
  • Risk increased for pregnant dogs or dogs in heat.
  • Also more reactions were found in small dogs given Leptospirosis vaccine.

In a 2007 Vaccine Forum presented by Dr. Alice Wolf and Dr. Richard Ford they included updated duration of immunity information for the most common vaccines which reads minimum duration of immunity for Distemper/ Parvovirus and Adenovirus (modified live vaccine) is 5-7+ years. Also the Rabies vaccines have a duration of immunity of 3+ years. There is absolutely NO BENEFIT to immunize an animal that already has immunity to a virus. This will not add extra protection to your pet, in fact this may compound the bad effects of vaccines.

In looking out for the overall health of your animal you should advocate for fewer vaccines over the life of your pet with decreasing or eliminating certain vaccines as your pet ages.

  • Puppies should ONLY receive 1 vaccine at each visit and monitored for any reactions afterwards.
  • DO NOT re-vaccinate any dog that has had a serious life threatening vaccine reaction.
  • Vaccinate ONLY when your dog is healthy and free of skin/ ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, fever, has had or is currently being treated for ANY immune mediated disease or cancer.
  • Talk to your vet about what vaccines are necessary and do ONLY the vaccines that are absolutely needed.
  • DO NOT patronize any boarding facility, groomer or training facility that requires you to vaccinate your pet more than it needs.
  • We recommend not giving dogs under 22lbs any more than 1 vaccine per visit.

Don't get me wrong, there are benefits to having your dog vaccinated against common viruses and Rabies, it is just not necessary to give these vaccines on a yearly basis. We as humans get our childhood immunizations then are essentially good for life, the same should be said for our dogs.

So I hope this helps make sense as to why we as holistic veterinarians wish to minimize the sad effects of over vaccination in our pets and to educate you in order to be an advocate for your own pets health.

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