There has been an explosion of vaccination in the veterinary community. There are several concerns that this raises.
Are Vaccines Effective?
Core dog vaccines typically include parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza in a combination 4 in 1. Often times one or many strains of leptospirosis are also in the core vaccine.
- Parainfluenza: It is designed to protect one of MANY respiratory pathogens that contribute to kennel cough. If this vaccination were protective, then why does your vet or boarding facility require a different vaccine to prevent kennel cough? The vaccine is ineffective at preventing disease. Disease, if acquired, is typically mild.
- Distemper, Adenovirus and parvovirus: These are devastating diseases and vaccination does provide excellent immunity. Puppies should be boostered at 8, 12, and 16 weeks. This is the time when our patients are most susceptible to disease. Their protection from maternal antibodies is waning and their own immune systems are not developed. They should be re-boostered at around one year from the final puppy shot to reinforce the animals’ adult immunity . This protocol provides long term immunity. Adult animals that have received this vaccine protocol are protected, in our opinion, for the life of the animal (there is research to support this claim). Subsequent exposures to these viruses usually result in clinically mild disease or no disease at all. One could consider re-boostering mid -life at around 5 years of age if they are uncomfortable never vaccinating again. In our opinion, the dangers of contracting disease outweigh the risks of vaccinating more frequently than this. See below “dangers of vaccine”.
- Leptospirosis: There are hundres of serovars of leptospirosis, and vaccination for one serovar does not necessarily protect against the others. It is also transmissible to people from their pets if infected thru infected urine. Leptospira organisms prefer warm, moist, alkaline environments. They are more likely to be found in stagnant or slow moving water. Lepotospirosis is a bacteria (not a virus) and bacterial vaccinations do not provide long term immunity. You must booster yearly. Some have suggested that the protective immunity against leptospirosis is even less than one year. Anecdotally, the leptospirosis vaccine is known to cause the most frequent and violent reactions. With these facts in mind, except in environments where leptospirosis is a severe threat, the benefits, in the opinion of Angryvet, do not outweigh the risks. Limit your pet’s contact with rodent populations and limit your pet’s exposure to stagnant water or flooded soil to minimize chance of infection. If there are known outbreaks in your area, you may re-consider. We don’t use this vaccination on our own pets and rarely recommend it to our patients.
- Lyme: Only consider in heavily endemic areas. Focus on tick prevention and removal (ticks must attach for 12-24 hours before infection occurs). Check your dog twice a day for ticks during tick seaseon. Lyme is a bacterin like lepto, so immunity is fleeting (less then a year). There have been reports of Lyme Nephritis, or renal failure induced from the vaccination. These reports have subsequently been largely discounted. We rarely vaccinate for Lyme in our practices unless the client demands it due to their circumstances.
- Giardia: Don’t use… doesn’t work
- Ringworm: Don’t use… doesn’t work
- Bordatella: Provides short term immunity and since so many organisms contribute to kennel cough its efficacy is hard to quantify. Disease, if contracted, is typically mild. Can use sparingly if required by a boarding kennel.
- Rabies: A nearly 100% fatal disease if contracted. Vaccine is effective. To contract disease, your pet must be bitten by a rabid animal. The disease if contracted is transmissable to people . State laws require us to booster every 3 years even though immunity is certainly far longer than this. Unfortunately, in most instances pet owners are required to follow state law.
- Coronavirus: Not needed, not recommended
the typical 3/1 vaccine given to cats contains:
- Panleukopenia: Very effective vaccine… deadly disease if caught and highly contagious. Cats should be boostered at 8, 12 and 16 weeks then boostered at a year and never again (especially an indoor cat).
- Calicivirus and Viral Rhinotracheitis: These are typically in the panleukopenia vaccine; so, if you want to give panleukopenia, often you have to give these. These are upper respiratory diseases. The vaccines DO NOT prevent infection and/or disease. At best they decrease the severity and course of the disease and reduce shedding in the environment. Again, two to three kitten boosters and one booster at a year after the last kitten booster. Merck does offer a panleukopenia vaccine that does not contain calicivirus and rhinotracheitis.
- FIP: Don’t give. Ineffective (our opinion based upon published data)
- Giardia: Don’t give Ineffective (our opinion based upon published data)
- Felv: Deadly disease and effective vaccine… but your cat needs to come in contact with felv + cat. Use only non-adjuvented vaccine. Vaccinate at 12 and 16 weeks and then at a year for OUTDOOR cats only or cats within a household that has a positive cat
- Chlamydia: don’t give… does nothing potentially dangerous (based upon published data)
- FIV: Don’t give. Ineffective or partially effective against only one strain of the disease. (based upon published data)
Vaccinations… THE DANGERS THAT NO ONE WANTS YOU TO KNOW
First let me say that we do believe in certain vaccinations in certain scenarios as stated above. Vaccinations can be a powerful tool in disease prevention. They are not however without significant risk.
- Vaccine Sarcomas: This is mostly a problem of our feline patients (although there have been reports in at least one dog). It is a well known phenomenon that is rare but does occur. Cats that have received (we believe) either ADJUVENTED feline leukemia and rabies are at risk. The sarcomas or cancer that develops at the vaccination sites of these animals are highly aggressive and require aggressive surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Often times we can’t cure these cats. If you are considering vaccinating your cat, limit to two or three kitten boosters and one year from the last kitten booster as recommended above.
- Immune mediated disease. Vaccination by definition stimulates an intense immune response. Often times this can result in the body’s immune response turning against itself. The rise of immune-mediated conditions such as thrombocytopenia (body destroying its own platelets), hemolytic anemia (body destroying its own red blood cells), polyarthritis, glomerulonephritis etc. have all been linked at times to vaccination.
- Allergies, licking paws, chronic puritis, and inflammatory bowel disease…all have a POTENTIAL link to vaccination. This has largely been disproven but more research needs to be done.
- Acute allergic reaction, fever, pain and swelling at injection site, hives, and DEATH are all potential consequences of vaccination.
- There are MANY diseases in people that are either known to be caused by or are speculated to cause a variety of diseases.
Vaccination has a place in veterinary medicine. Vaccinate minimally… general rule: three vaccines as pup/kitten betwen 8 and 20 weeks and then one booster at one year from that. Many advocate not vaccinating for more than one disease at a time. Don’t vaccinate for diseases where the disease itself is not that serious (coronavirus etc)…don’t vaccinate for diseases (lepto and lyme for example) unless there is a large endemic risk in your area and you have done your homework that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Focus on targeted vaccination ,good nutrition, good husbandry ( a clean environment for your pets) and minimal exposure to various disease carrying ectoparasites and rodents.
Understand that some veterinarians (who make their money by bringing patients in for “yearly vaccination”) and drug companies who sell the vaccines don’t readily disclose any of these facts and will often present only one side of an argument.