Vaccines and Vaccinosis
Like many modern advances, vaccines have great benefits, but they also have a definite downside. While they have greatly reduced the number of deaths once common in our animal friends, more and more studies are making it clear that over-vaccination has brought on a whole host of health problems. Vaccination is an important medical decision to be made by you in consultation with Dr. Peggy or your regular veterinarian. We hope you will find this information helpful when it is time for you to make a vaccine decision for your furry friend.
As always, if you have any questions, just give us a call at (530) 346-6611.
Vaccines and Vaccinosis
Widespread vaccination has effectively stopped death from diseases that were once common, but we have also come to realize that over-vaccination has had a negative impact on the health of many animals. Here at SAWC we take a conservative approach to vaccines. We base our vaccine recommendations on each animal's age, state of health and potential exposure to diseases. Every patient is an individual and we work as a team to help you decide the best vaccine schedule for your pet, focusing on maximum health and avoiding over-vaccinating.
There was a time when multiple vaccines were given all on one day, every year, no matter what, but today there is a much better understanding of how vaccines work. Dr. Jean Dodds' and Dr. Ronald Schultz's research on vaccinations and vaccine titers (more on titers later in this newsletter) has revolutionized the view of vaccines in the veterinary world. Their research has been instrumental in changing the AVMA recommendations from annual vaccination for core vaccines to vaccination once every three years.
Currently, two parallel studies are in progress sponsored by the RabiesChallengeFund.org. They are looking at the efficacy of rabies vaccines once every five years and once every seven years. Depending on the final results it may be that most animals will only need to be vaccinated once or twice in their entire lives, a very exciting prospect to those of us concerned about over-vaccination. As Dr. Schultz, Principal Investigator for these studies says:
"Because it is almost always fatal, Rabies is the most important zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from dogs and cats to human beings. The most effective way to prevent this zoonotic disease is by vaccinating dogs and cats. Showing that a vaccine for rabies can provide 5 or preferably 7 years of immunity would have great significance not only in controlling rabies but more importantly in reducing the adverse vaccine reactions that can occur in dogs and cats after vaccination." If you’d like to read more about the Rabies Challenge Fund, click here.
Although the core vaccine recommendations changed to every 3 years in 2011, many well-intentioned people continue to follow the advice of some veterinarians and give their adult dogs and cats annual (or even semi-annual) vaccine boosters or give multiple vaccines all on the same day, or even when an animal is sick or on the day of surgery, practices which can truly wreak havoc with an already challenged immune system. This can result in over-vaccination and a variety of potentially damaging – and in some cases, even life-threatening – adverse reactions referred to as “vaccinosis”.
The list of potential adverse reactions to a specific vaccine is a lengthy one and when over-vaccination is involved, it becomes even lengthier. Some of the more common ones include injection site reactions such as pain, swelling and hair loss, temporary effects like fever and lethargy and allergic reactions which can range from mild and temporary to truly life-threatening. These risks are especially high for pets afflicted with immune-mediated disease, since over-vaccination places undue stress on the immune system and has been linked to autoimmune disease. Vaccines can even cause susceptibility to chronic diseases later in life. Over-vaccination has also been linked to the epidemic of hypothyroidism we are seeing in dogs.
We mentioned Dr. Jean Dodds work earlier. She is recognized as one of the top authorities on companion animal health and we are fans of her Pet Health Resource blog. She recently wrote a series of articles discussing vaccines, vaccinosis and how best to protect your furry loved ones. The series is called “Vaccines: When Too Much of a Good Thing Turns Bad”. To read more on her blog click here.
The truth is that once your dog or cat has completed his puppy or kitten series of the core vaccines, there is a good chance his body will maintain immunity to these diseases for life. What are the “core” vaccines? For dogs they are Distemper and Parvovirus which is a Modified Live Vaccine in one injectable, and Rabies, a killed vaccine. For cats they are Panleukopenia, Calicivirus, Rhinopneumonitits Virus commonly known as the FVRCP vaccine, and Rabies. Because felines have very delicate systems and are susceptible to fibrosarcoma, we use only the Merial Purevax™ Rabies, a recombinant vaccine. We generally use the vaccine protocols and schedules recommended by Dr. Dodds, but again, because each animal is an individual and has specific needs we do not make any blanket recommendations. To view the canine protocol click here. For the feline protocol click here.
Dr. Schultz’s research has shown some interesting results and he believes there is a strong possibility that just one Distemper/Parvo for dogs given at 16 weeks, or for cats, one FVRCP given at 16 weeks will provide 100% immunity for life. These would be followed by one rabies shot given at 20 or 24 weeks. We are looking forward to more research on this.
Vaccinations at the appropriate times, for the appropriate animals, in the appropriate circumstances are of the utmost importance to preserve health and well-being and have enabled us to safely and effectively protect our pets from many infectious diseases. But there is reason for concern about the overuse of vaccines in youngsters and adult dogs and cats, as well as to vaccines given to aged pets and those with already compromised immune systems. This is when you, as your companion animal’s trusted guardian, should understand what is appropriate and put the brakes on giving unnecessary vaccines.
But in the meantime, how can you know if your dog or cat really needs a booster? Read on to learn more about Titer Testing.