Vaccinations have become quite a hot topic to debate these days. There are a number of veterinary schools in the US, which have gone to giving the vaccinations every three years instead of giving them yearly. Some veterinarians in Canada have also taken this approach. Why? There is more evidence now that was once considered a benign procedure, can be potentially harmful. It was arbitrarily decided some time ago by the veterinary community (according to Ronald Shultz, a veterinary immunologist in Wisconsin) that yearly vaccinations should be done, and the habit caught on. There was never any proof that vaccination was needed on an annual basis. The advantage that most veterinarians saw by this was that physical examinations, which often precede the vaccination, would benefit the pet and thus reveal a number of early conditions that were treatable.
There are growing numbers of veterinarians now who believe that these yearly vaccinations may, in fact, be hurting your pet. There are a number of well documented side- effects to vaccinations, such as immune hemolytic anemia, vaccine induced fibrosarcoma, anaphylaxis, and a number of less well-documented or suspected conditions to pets from over vaccinating such as skin allergies, chronic upper respiratory conditions, behavior problems etc. From a homeopathic perspective, vaccination can actually trigger latent disease (a disease that emerges after a trigger such as a vaccination known as Psora).
Should I vaccinate my pet?
Firstly, you should find out as much as you can about each of the diseases you are thinking of vaccinating against and the risks associated with them. Next, you should know about the potential risks of vaccinating your pet. These decisions may be difficult and you should seek advice from a veterinary practitioner you trust.
Over the years, I have seen my share of contagious disease. The most common illness in dogs is Parvovirus. By far, the majority of cases were in young dogs between the ages of six and twenty weeks that were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated as puppies. I have seen about a dozen cases of distemper in the dog and again, these were unvaccinated young puppies as well as rescue dogs. As for Feline diseases, I have seen a numerous cases of distemper (panleukopenia) in kittens as well as Feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and Feline AIDS (FIV). The numbers of Rinotracheitis and Calici viral infections we have seen is staggering. Besides Feline leukemia and FIP, the other diseases are generally diseases of young kittens that are unvaccinated. The exception is that the rhino and Calici can affect vaccinated adult cats as well as young unvaccinated kittens but appears to be less severe.
As time has progressed in my practice, I have seen a number of animals who at young ages developed recurrent skin infections, ear infections, stiffness and arthritis, seizure disorders and on and on. In looking at the patients, a portion of these problems appeared to come after the annual vaccinations were given. The problem would then settle down only to recur after the next years vaccines were administered. Naturally, one might question whether the vaccines had anything to do with the subsequent illness. I believe the answer is that this is very possible.
As a holistic practitioner, I have embraced a very different method of protecting your pet against disease and minimizing the potential threat from over-vaccination. The first is to minimize the foreign substances that we put into their bodies in order to maximize health. I have seen the ravages of these diseases that we vaccinate against and thus we feel immunity is a useful thing. We want to make sure all our patients have some form of immunity against these diseases, but we refuse to over do it!
For Puppies: I would recommend parvo and distemper at approximately 8 and 12 weeks of age followed by a measurement of antibody production ( titer test) at 16 weeks.
For Kittens: We recommend at 8 weeks and 12 weeks, a Panleukopenia vaccine as well as Upper Respiratory vaccination. If your kitten is indoors, we generally recommend only a yearly check up with no subsequent vaccine unless indicated. If your kitten will be outdoors, we would then check for the level of immunity through a titer test (see below).
What about yearly vaccines?
Vaccines do not “turn off” in a year. Most of the contagious disease that we have seen in clinical situations have been in young dogs and cats who have been unvaccinated or poorly vaccinated as well as malnourished. We believe that before we continue to inject foreign substances year after year into our pets, which I believe, can cause harm, that we should first make sure they absolutely need it. If they don’t, then why do it?
A titer is a measure of the level of antibody in the blood stream. In theory, if there is a certain amount of measurable antibodies in the blood, then one can assume there is a “memory” that has developed in the immune system against the virus for which we had vaccinated against (or had come in contact with). We recommend this test be done at six to twelve months of age, instead of blindly vaccinating. If the level of antibody is very low, then we vaccinate. We have been performing this test since 1997 and how found it very useful for indicating the necessity for repeat vaccination. Most of the pets we test, end up not requiring the vaccinations on a yearly basis.
Are there other choices for protection?
There are homeopathic nosodes that might offer some protection to your pet. The first cautionary note is to say that there are very few studies in which they have proven effective. One such study though is by a British Veterinary Homeopath named Chris Day in which the incidence of Kennel Cough was in fact lower among dogs treated with homeopathy as opposed to dogs who had been vaccinated.
Homeopathic nosodes are actually medicines made from diseased tissue. There are nosodes from all the infectious diseases of dogs and cats. The nosode is given prophylactically to the pet to theoretically prevent the disease from affecting him/her. A growing number of breeders and pet owners ore using this form of prevention because they realize that vaccines can come with fairly strong side effects.
The bottom line is that there is still controversy surrounding this topic. As the debate goes on though, we feel this method of vaccinating is the healthiest method thus far. As new research surfaces though, there may be changes to our protocol.