Are We Over-Vaccinating?
By Dr. Annette Richmond, DVM
At one time vaccines were considered the most important treatment to keep our animals healthy; an impermeable shield that would protect them lifelong. Accepting this theory, pet guardians assumed less responsibility in maintaining the health and longevity of their animals and relied heavily on the multiple vaccines their pet received. However, over time there has been a shift of focus from relying strictly on vaccines to depending on a combination of lifestyle choices; proper nutrition, stress-free environment, judicious use of pharmaceuticals, and a vaccine protocol tailored to a pet’s specific needs.
It has been standard procedure for veterinarians to give multivalent vaccines that protect against several diseases at one time. There is controversy about whether this may be overloading and confusing the immune system or actually stimulating the immune system to be more effective. Holistic veterinarians feel that administering multivalent vaccines, and giving vaccines too young and too frequently throughout life, all have adverse effects on the immune system. Though vaccines have reduced the prevalence of many devastating and even fatal diseases like parvovirus and distemper, over-use of them has also contributed to a rise in signs referred to as “vaccinosis.” These signs include allergies, severe skin and gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, cancer and many other severe illnesses that may last lifelong. The immunologic tolerance of young animals is often poor, and in certain instances an animal will display signs of illness within a few hours of the vaccine being administered. Injecting our pets with a syringe full of vaccines under the skin does not guarantee that a pet is automatically immune – each animal responds differently to a vaccine based on their genetics and current health status. Vaccines can be important and beneficial, but they must be tailored to the individual animal and administered with utmost care.
Ideally animals should not be vaccinated too young. Veterinary immunologists agree it is best to give the first vaccines around nine to ten weeks of age, and not at six or eight weeks of age. Vaccines that protect against only one or two viruses at a time are preferred, and there should be adequate time between vaccines to allow the immune system to function properly. The rabies vaccine is given in accordance to state law, but in terms of which other vaccines to give, it is important to take into consideration the pet’s lifestyle to design a specific vaccine protocol for them.
Vaccinating yearly is a widespread practice with little scientific basis, as the immune response to many vaccines are proven to work up to seven years! Vaccinations are unnecessary for pets who have reached geriatric age and for those that are dealing with chronic illnesses. Guardians need not blindly vaccinate as instructed; instead, a simple blood test called an antibody titer test can measure the immunity level against many viruses including parvovirus, distemper, coronavirus, adenovirus, and leptospirosis. Results of the titer test for distemper and parvovirus correlate very well to the level of protection that the animal has, and therefore guardians can feel confident that their pets are well protected when results reveal high antibody levels in the blood. High antibody levels can indicate that a dog has developed immunity to a viral disease by receiving a vaccine or by actually being exposed to the disease in the natural environment. Either way, the animal is protected against the virus tested. This information is a much better indicator that a pet is protected than simply vaccinating repeatedly.
If your dog needs a vaccine, there are ways to decrease the toxic effects and improve the body’s immune response. Insist the vaccine has few viruses per injection, ensure your pet is healthy at time of vaccination, feed them a high quality diet on a daily basis, allow them to rest several days after the injection, and support the body using herbal and homeopathic detoxification remedies. There are several natural remedies that can be given before and after vaccination to help reduce the toxic effects. For more information about detoxification remedies, please call Natural Veterinary Therapy or your holistic veterinarian to assist you in keeping your pets strong during time of vaccination.
Dr. Annette Richmond is a doctor of veterinary medicine, earning her degree from UC Davis in 1997. She is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist, and is currently being certified as a canine rehabilitation practitioner. She opened Natural Veterinary Therapy in 2007. Natural Veterinary Therapy is located at 510 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. Let us help your animal heal from within. Call 655-0501 or visit www.naturalveterinarytherapy.com.