I wanted to do a wrap up of my series on pet vaccinations:
- Review and summarize important points.
- Answer questions that came up along the way.
- Share decisions we have made for our own dogs.
I think I accomplished what I set out to do with this series; not to discourage anyone from getting their pets vaccinated, but just to be aware of some of the issues surrounding vaccinations, and encourage everyone to talk to their vets about whether each and every vaccination being given is needed. I am not anti-vaccination I am just against over-vaccination. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
Review and Summarize:
- Yearly core vaccinations (those recommended for every pet) are a thing of the past, once your pet has had their puppy/kitten shots and first year boosters. The American Animal Hospital Association now recommends that after boosters, re-vaccination should only occur every three years. If your vet is still recommending yearly core vaccines, you should probably question it.
- These core vaccines are believed by some authorities to last longer than even the recommended three years; from 5-7 years at least.
- Core and non-core vaccines should not all be given at the same time (my opinion). They should be split up by 3-4 weeks. It’s inconvenient, yes, but other than that it is just being on the safe side. It took us years to try to figure out which vaccines our beagle Cricket was reacting to, because she was getting them all at the same time.
- Non-core vaccines should be considered based on lifestyle and geographic location (taking travel into consideration as well). If your dog may never be exposed to Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, or Canine Influenza, those vaccines may not be necessary. If your cat stays indoors, there are diseases they have little chance of being exposed to.
- Vaccines should only be given to healthy pets. Your vet should always examine your pet first, and vaccinate last.
- Vaccines should probably not be given to pets that have had previous reactions. If they are necessary, discuss preventative measures that can be taken with your vet.
- Anti-body titer tests are available to check if your pet is showing immunity to the disease they may or may not need to be vaccinated for. They can be pricey, so you may want to ask your vet about the prices first. These tests can be a good option if you adopt an older pet and you do not know their vaccine history (thank you, Kari, for that tip). However, bear in mind that sometimes the results of these tests are not clear cut.
- You should still visit your vet yearly for wellness exams, even if no vaccinations are needed at that time, and you should ask questions about vaccines. These same rules apply to cats as well as dogs, only the diseases they are being vaccinated against (other than rabies) are different.
For more details on any of these highlights, please visit the appropriate post below:
- Part 1 – Why I Questioned
- Part 2 – Safe Practices
- Part 3 – Titer Tests
- Part 4 – Rabies
- Part 5A – Non-Core; Leptospirosis & Bordetella
- Part 5B – Non-Core; Lyme & Canine Influenza
- Part 6 – Cats
I appreciate the fact that my readers cared enough to raise their own questions! Most of these questions surrounded the non-core vaccines and why they get more adverse reactions.
First I want to explain the differences in some types of vaccines, to the best of my understanding. Most non-core vaccines, as well as rabies, are known as “killed” vaccines. In a killed vaccine, the viral organism that causes the disease has been killed or inactivated. This is done so that there is no chance the vaccine can actually cause the disease. These vaccines need a helper – an adjuvant – to create the immune response needed.
Since these adjuvants can be powerful substances such as heavy metals like aluminum, and formaldehyde can be used to inactivate the viruses, this may be the reason these vaccines can get more adverse reactions. Live vaccines can stimulate immunity on their own, without these added substances. But that does not mean that they cannot cause adverse reactions as well: our beagle Cricket’s last reaction was to a core vaccine (DHPP).
Jodi, as far as I can tell, other than the one and three year attenuated (live) vaccine now available for cats, rabies vaccines are always killed. But I think the only way to know for sure is to find out from your vet what brand they use and if they know.
What We’re Doing for our Pets
Because our beagle Cricket has had numerous reactions (non-life threatening, but I fear escalation), the last one being to DHPP, but not always just that one, we are no longer getting her vaccinated. She is almost 11 years old and had consistent vaccines in the past, so we feel she is probably protected. We were able to get a medical waiver from our vet for the rabies vaccine (not all states have this exemption, however). If she were more active outdoors, hiking or hunting, if we traveled, or if she was in contact with other dogs often, we would get the titers done and decide again from there.
Sheba has survived cancer, and we feel her immune system needs to be strong to fight any future recurrences, she is also almost 11, so we will not get her further vaccines either (we still have to discuss the rabies with our vet to see if he will give her the exemption on that though). We will probably do titers on both girls once we get to the 5 year mark on any of these vaccines.
Luke had all of his core puppy vaccines and his first year boosters. Luke has an issue with strangers, and considers our vet a stranger, so getting him vaccines is challenging. For that reason we didn’t get him the Lyme this year. Lyme disease is in our area but it is also treatable in dogs so we try not to worry about it. When he is due for his next round of core vaccines…..well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. He’s not likely to let them draw his blood for titers either. We are also working on his stranger fears so hopefully in three years things will be different.
I think I summed up my feelings on this subject pretty well in my second post when I wrote:
“What I really discovered through all of this is that we have to be advocates for our own pets. Even if we trust our own vets, they are not experts on everything! Humans have to advocate for their own health as well – I don’t blindly trust everything my medical doctor tells me either. As much as we’d like to think that medicine is an exact science, and they have all of the answers, it is not. I experienced plenty of that when going through a migraine diagnosis and treatment. I had to do my own research to help myself in conjunction with a doctor’s care. If my doctor tells me I should have a flu shot, and I don’t agree, I don’t get one. So why wouldn’t I do the same thing for my pets?”
We have open discussions with our vet on this subject, and we don’t always agree. But he respects our right to make the decisions we feel are best for our own pets….and making the best decisions we can is all we can do. I hope you have that same relationship with your vet.
For further reading, these are some of the articles I used for my research:
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Vaccines for Dogs
- Healthy Pets: This Vaccine can Impair your Dog’s Immune System
- Healthy Pets: Pet Immunization: Far Riskier than you Might Think