Are you Over Vaccinating your Best Friend?

Nick's right side showing the loss of hair from his constant licking, scratching and chewing

Nick’s right side (no, he wasn’t shaved) showing the loss of hair from his constant licking, scratching and chewing. This photo was taken on September 19, 2012, just before starting the Atopica.

Nick’s Story

Nick joined our household when he was a year old. That was in April 2011. Soon after he started having “allergies”. I won’t bore you with all the details, but for the past 2 years he has been miserable while I’ve tried everything recommended by my regular Veterinarian as well as the Dermatologist including the usual anti-histamines, steroids, steroid sprays, elimination diet trials, skin tests, blood antigen tests, allergy drops, all without relief.

Finally I was convinced to try Atopica. I was extremely uncomfortable with this decision as it is a serious immunne-suppressor and I knew it would cause as much problems as it “fixed”. But nothing was working and he was miserable. His itching did diminish, but at what cost? Was the short-term relief worth the long-term consequences? I couldn’t convince myself it was worth it.

At that point I had given up hope. I was discussing with Nick’s breeder about the option of taking him back for a few months to see if he did better outside of Southern California. I had taken him off the Atopica, Prednisone and allergy drops. Nick has having an issue with his back which I wanted to try to resolve first, so I had made arrangements for a massage and to see a Veterinary Chiropractor friend in Northridge. The massage therapist suggested I see a certified Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbologist she knew while I was in the area.

Nick with fur

Nick’s coat is looking good! This was taken on April 3, 2013, a month after we first met with the Chinese Herbologist. The hair is still short, but growing back nicely.

I was pleased to find my Chiropractor and the Acupuncturist worked together in the same clinic and I was able to make appointments to see them both—kismet! Nick has been seeing her regularly now for the past month. She has him on some herbal supplements and I can hardly believe how well it has worked. I am so relieved to finally see him comfortable! You probably can’t imagine the relief and joy I feel about his improvement. His hair is growing back and he finally looks like the healthy dog of 2 years ago!

I recently took Nick in for x-rays (his back is still an issue) and the Vet Tech said she didn’t recognize him at first as he looked so good and asked what had changed. I was pleased to report I had taken him off everything and just had him on some herbal supplements.

What Does this Have to Do with Vaccinations?

During our first appointment, the Herbologist asked about Nick’s vaccination history. When I got home, I went through all his records to confirm what he had received and when. I was shocked to discover that he received his rabies vaccination on July 25, 2011 and on the Dermatologist’s new client form, I had put down that his symptoms started around August 1st. I’m really disappointed with myself that I didn’t make the connection at the time. It would have saved Nick a lot of misery and us a lot of time and money trying to treat his “allergies” which I now believe is actually Vaccinosis. Vaccinosis is a term for when an animal has an adverse reaction as a result of being vaccinated or over-vaccinated. Allergies are one of the many possible reactions to the rabies vaccine. Nick is finally being treated for Vaccinosis and is responding very well. Something that wasn’t happening when treating him for allergies.

Some Background

Trevor headshot

When I started competing in dogsports, my Veterinarian recommended vaccinations every 6-months! This was supposed to protect them from the stress and being in close quarters with so many other dogs. Around that time, one of my Flat-Coated Retrievers had two seizures, both were within days of being vaccinated. I didn’t realize the risk until then. I can’t prove the connection between the vaccinations and his cancer, but I have to wonder. It was at that time I started doing titer tests instead of routine vaccinations.

I look back with regret at some of the things I’ve done in the past, especially regarding over-vaccinating. I’d always done what my Veterinarian recommended as I thought that was best for my dogs. Unfortunately I’ve learned that the two don’t always go together. I need to do my own research and sometimes question the recommended care. Most Veterinarians are great people who care about their clients and want to provide excellent care. Even the Vet who recommended vaccinating twice a year was doing what he thought was best at the time. It was what he did with his own dogs.

At this point all I can do is learn from the past and do better by my current and future dogs. I can also share what I have learned.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how accepting most of my Veterinarians have been to my decisions not to regularly vaccinate as well as my choice to feed a raw diet. My original Vet was not comfortable with titers instead of vaccinations and a few haven’t agreed with my feeding decisions, but haven’t challenged them either. But at least they are open to change and that is a start. I have heard horror stories from others who make these choices and how unsupportive and downright hostile some Vets can be. But I think more Veterinarians understand about the dangers and the tide is turning—I hope! Do your research and decide what is best for you and your pets.

Is your Dog Healthy?

Did you know only HEALTHY animals should be vaccinated? All vaccine labels and inserts state that vaccines are for use in “healthy dogs only“. How many times have you taken your dog in to see the Vet for some aliment and been reminded that they were due for their “shots”? Did you have the shots done at that visit? Was your dog healthy? If it hasn’t happened to you, maybe you have been in the waiting room and overheard this conversation with another client?

Your dog is not healthy if any of these apply: pets with autoimmune disease, pets undergoing chemo, radiation or surgery (even dental cleaning or neutering), cancer, severe allergies and skin diseases, pets fighting an illness or parasites, pets stressed from shipment or a move to a new home, malnourished pets and dying housebound pets. In addition to increasing the risks to the animal, vaccinating an unhealthy animal may not even be effective as their immune system is already taxed.

Veterinarians don’t always have the time to stay updated on the latest research or their education taught them to do things one way and they don’t question that or their clients want what is quickest and easiest for them or…? Whatever the reason, we need to be advocates for our furry friends and discuss treatment options with our Vet. If you do decide to vaccinate your pet, at the very least make sure they are healthy at the time and space the vaccines out as much as possible. Don’t just have all the shots at one time because it’s easier for you and the Vet. It increases the odds of an adverse reaction. Also make sure your dog really needs that vaccine and the benefits and risk of contracting the disease outweigh the risks. Find out how effective is the vaccine? How serious is the disease? Is it a disease of adults or just puppies? How common is the disease in your area?

For example, Bordetella is generally not serious, especially in healthy adult dogs. It’s just a canine cold. The vaccine is also not very effective and it is only designed to work on certain strains. Even facilities that require Bordetella vaccinations can have outbreaks.

Recommended Reading

I highly recommend reading these posts to learn more.

Interesting Facts

In 2007, the Center for Disease Control declared Canine rabies nonexistent in the United States. Dogs will not contract rabies from other dogs, but only from wild animals such as bats, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and foxes. Read more about rabies in the United States from the Center for Disease Control

How common is rabies in the United States? Rabies in humans average 2 a year and almost exclusively from bats. So I’d be far more concerned if I was bitten by a bat (or found a bat in the house) than I would by a dog.

What do I do now?

For many years now, I have not vaccinated my adult dogs. My puppies get the core shots, they are not vaccinated for anything else, including Bordetella. I have the vaccinations separated and spread out as much as possible. . Which unfortunately is not easy to do as the vaccine manufacturers, Veterinarians and public like to produce and give combo shots. I used to do titer testing, but after more research, I do not feel this is necessary on a continuing regular basis. I will be titering after giving the core vaccinations to confirm protection.

The only exception is the mandatory rabies vaccine. At this time, it is required every 3-years. I’ll be discussing getting an exemption from my Veterinarian for Nick due to his adverse reaction.

Rabies Challenge Fund

If you have read the recommended links, you will now know that vaccines can cause adverse reactions. Most of these are unrecognized and seriously under-reported. The rabies vaccine is one of the worst for adverse reactions. How many of you were informed of this when your dog was vaccinated?

It is believed the rabies vaccine provides lifetime immunity. There is a current research study to attempt to prove that the vaccine is good for at least 5 and then 7 years. Please check out the Rabies Challenge Fund for more information. They are currently funding year 6 of the study. Consider supporting this worthy cause.

4 thoughts on “Are you Over Vaccinating your Best Friend?

  1. Eileen Haworth, DC

    Leptosporosis is another vaccine with limited use. There are many varieties of Leptosporosis in the world, but only a small number are used in the vaccine. If your dog contracts one of the varieties not used in the vaccine, the vaccine is useless. The greatest possibility is that your dog would contract a variety not included in the vaccine. In addition, some Border Collie lines have a genetic problem with the vaccine.

  2. Tammy WilsonTammy Wilson Post author

    Thanks for the info Eileen. It’s really important to weigh the effectiveness/benefits of vaccines against the risk of getting the disease and possible adverse reactions.

  3. Anita Palmer

    Right now I’m reading Pukka’s Promise….have you heard of it? A lot of the same stats you’re referring to in your blog post.

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