One of the most critical kinds of care a veterinarian offers is to protect your dog’s health by administering appropriate vaccinations at appropriate times. Vaccinations such as rabies are required by law – every three years in most states. Others, such as those for bordatella, DHPP, DHLPP, or canine flu are required by daycare or boarding facilities, and are meant to protect the health of dogs in shelters where they are are in close confinement. As a dog ages, however, vaccinations can present challenges to health that you will want to avoid, if possible.
The bordatella vaccine provides a good example of the controversy and the potential side effects of a potentially unnecessary vaccination. Information on the canna-pet site lists these side effects of the bordatella vaccine: sneezing, persistent coughing, nasal discharge (3 – 10 days), anaphylactoid reaction, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite. Further, they state: “While these side effects are ultimately not very serious, they can be uncomfortable for your dog, and since many would argue that the vaccination is unnecessary in the first place, it will be up to you and your veterinarian to decide whether or not it would be a good idea to give to your dog. This will depend entirely on your individual circumstances, such as how much time the dog will be spending in the company of other dogs, especially in overnight situations in kennels”
If it’s necessary for you to board or use daycare for your senior, you will have to comply with the facility’s requirements. If your senior often goes to a dog park, your veterinarian will advise the appropriate vaccinations, which will reflect any area-wide occurrences of disease. But, of course, if you don’t board or use daycare or take your dog to a dog park, these shots won’t be necessary. Confer with your veterinarian to evaluate the likelihood of your dog’s being exposed to disease. When it comes to rabies vaccinations, depending on your state, it’s possible your veterinarian may be able to obtain a medical waiver if your dog has certain health challenges. Your veterinarian can order a test called a titer , which can indicate whether your dog is protected. Here is a good explanation of immunity and titer testing….
A special caveat if you have a small dog: If your senior is small (under 20 lbs.), tell your veterinarian you would like to avoid having the dog vaccinated with more than one type of shot in any one visit. According to petmd, “Research has shown that the risk of mild vaccine reactions in dogs (lethargy, soreness, fever, etc.) does increase when multiple vaccines are given at the same time, particularly in dogs that are young adults, small breeds, or neutered.” It might be less convenient to return to the clinic more than once for different shots, but worth it to avoid the potential for harm.
Click here for further information and discussion about deciding which vaccines are appropriate for your dog
Two world-renowned giants of veterinary vaccine research — Dr. W. Jean Dodds of Hemopet and Co-Trustee of The Rabies Challenge Fund and Dr. Ronald Schultz of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine — joined together to devote their time over the course of many years to study the long-term effectiveness of the rabies vaccination in order to determine the best policy for its administration. The studies were financed by The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust, a tax-exempt organization founded by Kris L. Christine of Maine in 2005. Kennel clubs and private individuals also donated to support the research. Their research was aimed at establishing how best to determine safe and effective timing for rabies vaccinations, and whether, in fact, revaccination is necessary in most cases. Vaccine manufacturers and veterinarians have been known to be resistant to changing the existing protocols.
The history along with a blow-by-blow description of the study and its results are now summarized: The Rabies Challenge Fund
Another veterinarian, Dr. John Robb, founder of protectthepets, is an outspoken advocate for the responsible administration of vaccinations. He has criticized the practice of automatic administration of vaccines without considering whether an animal already has an adequate level of antibodies. He recommends the practice of titering to establish antibody level and suggests that your veterinarian establish a relationship with Kansas State Veterinary Lab, where it’s possible to order titers at a reasonable cost (e.g., $47 instead of $350 that some veterinary clinics charge). More information on ordering titers from Kansas State Veterinary Lab…….
Antibody titers — blood tests that detect the presence of antibodies to diseases — are performed to determine antibody levels. However, a low level of antibody does not necessarily mean that a dog is not protected. Another problem with titers is that different labs have been known to report radically different results when testing the same blood specimen. Learn more about titering…..
Effectiveness of Rabies and Other Vaccinations May Last Much Longer than Assumed….Annual Boosters May Do More Harm than Good
Due to the incidence of illnesses in companion animals that have been linked to vaccinations, the practice of giving annual vaccinations began to come into question many years ago. A protocol from Colorado State University, which is based on solid scientific research, advised some time ago that vaccinations be given only every three years (except rabies, which depends on state laws). A quote from the protocol: “We are making this change after years of concern about the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and the increasing documentation that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects. Of particular note in this regard has been the association of autoimmune hemolytic anemia with vaccination in dogs and vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats — both of which are often fatal.”
Any vaccine package will carry the warning that it is to be administered only to healthy animals. Thus, if your dog has a systemic ailment or disease (e.g., cancer), your dog SHOULD NOT receive any vaccination.
Also important to note is that small dogs (under 20 lbs.) are generally more prone to adverse reactions to vaccinations. One of the reasons may be that the same dose is given to dogs of all sizes. Adjusting the dosage for small dogs is not recommended, however.
We all want our pets to be safe from infections and potentially fatal diseases. However, vaccinations, as recommended by vaccine manufacturers are not based on any studies showing their necessity. In fact, as the Rabies Challenge Fund research and other studies have shown, an animal’s immunity to disease is NOT enhanced by re-vaccination and, given that all vaccinations have the potential for side-effects, can actually be harmful to an animal.
More information on how to safely vaccinate (or avoid revaccination) at DogsNaturally magazine — 12 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely
Want to stay current on recalls of medications or newly approved drugs? Get the latest updates from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine by logging onto their site: FDA/CVM.