by Pat Rock
The latest estimate of greater than 60% of veterinarians giving more vaccines than their professional organization recommends is disgusting. Whatever happened to “First do no harm”? The only two reasons for possibly recommending yearly core vaccines are a) ignorance or b) padding the bottom line.
There is plenty of evidence via board-certified researchers that immunity is long lasting, up to 7 years and more for distemper and parvo. The rise of autoimmune disorders is far greater than can be explained by genetic susceptibility alone. Breeders could not have achieved these incidence levels if they had deliberately set out to select for susceptible genotypes! Even if only one autoimmune disorder so far (autoimmune hemolytic anemia) has been definitively shown to be triggered by vaccine the administration of unneeded vaccines is just wrong.
I believe in vaccination. Vaccination saves lives. But repeating vaccines over and over unnecessarily needs to stop.
The practice began in the 70’s. When Parvo first appeared we gave cat vaccines, then the first developed canine parvo vaccines. Some dogs failed to be protected. Not surprising; there was a rush to get something on the market. The vaccines got better, and could override maternal immunity. So vets encouraged their clients to give the vaccine over again to get the improved one, oh, and why not give the combo with antigens for everything but the kitchen sink?
Maybe the vaccines got too good
Some vaccinated dogs had higher titers that dogs recovered from the actual disease. (That’s not supposed to happen). And research brought to light that some highly susceptible breeds had immune system defects compromising the ability to mount a protective immune response. That led to administering vaccines over and over until the immune system matured enough for the animal to be protected.
The rabies vaccine seems to be the necessary vaccine that is most likely to trigger vaccinosis (delayed reactions to vaccines). Giving it as a stand alone immunization just makes sense; let the immune system react to one thing at a time.
Leptospirosis bacterin is the one most likely to result in an immediate type reaction. The strain included in the combo vaccines is not even one of the strains most likely to be encountered by dogs. If your dog is likely to be exposed you should use the vaccine with 4 serovars, and give it in the spring as research shows effective immunity only lasts about 6 months.
Another totally unprofessional attitude that is all too common in the veterinary profession is the attitude that if owners were not guilted into coming in every year for booster shots the dogs would not get needed physical exams. Seriously? A medical procedure with no proven benefit to previously vaccinated dogs given solely to obtain a check-up? Even if there were not the possibility of harm, that’s unethical.
In this author’s opinion:
The way to put a stop to the annual vaccination practice is for breeders to educate their puppy buyers. If necessary we need to guilt the pet owners into understanding that caving in to pressure from the veterinary clinic to give annual boosters could be harmful to their pet. Make sure you explain about titers to determine if the pet is protected. Explain in your Bill of Sale that the rabies immunization must not be given within 4 weeks of any other vaccine, or outline whatever vaccine protocol you adhere to with your own dogs.
Think of educating puppy buyers as self-preservation
Years down the road do you want to get a report from an owner that their dog went blind from autoimmune retinal damage, or at the age of 7 or 8 the dog began to have strange seizures, or developed polyarthritis? And have to wonder, is this condition genetic?