Here Comes That Needle Again The Overvaccination Issue

During the past 20 years, we've seen a steady increase in the number of vaccinations that dogs receive. Sadly, instead of improving the dogs' health and longevity, the practice has had the opposite effect.

Overvaccinating has created unintended and undesirable reactions to vaccinations, which result in vaccinosis, the term used to describe those undesirable reactions. The reactions can range from none or barely detectable to death. And they may occur as a result of one vaccine, several vaccines given at the same time, or repeated vaccinations given in a relatively short timeframe.

Too many vaccinations too close together can cause a puppy's immune system to break down and can result in serious health problems (see the sidebar "Our sad song about Caesar," a pitiful case-in-point story about an overvaccinated puppy). We want to make it clear right here that we aren't against vaccinations. But what we are against is random, repetitive, routine, and completely unnecessary vaccinations.

And as for annual booster shots — where do they fit into this picture? Actually, they don't. According to Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XI-205 (W.B. Saunders Co.) the textbook used in veterinary schools, no scientific basis or immunological reason necessitates annual revaccinations. Immunity to viruses can last for many years — even for a dog's lifetime.

When your dog already carries the antibodies against a particular virus, a revaccination can wreak havoc with his immune system. The many adverse reactions to unnecessary vaccinations have caused breeders, dog owners, and vets to begin questioning the need for boosters and to become more cautious in the way vaccines are administered. By law, your dog only needs a rabies vaccination and the rabies booster only every three years. Don't ever give your dog a rabies shot before he is 6 months of age.

Some breeds of dogs have extreme — even fatal — reactions to vaccines that are tolerated by other breeds of dogs. Some develop odd behaviors such as


^ Aggression ^ Anxiety or fear

^ Epilepsy and other seizure disorders ^ Excessive licking ^ Insomnia

^ Snapping at imaginary flies

A rabies vaccine given in conjunction with other vaccines can be responsible for aggression, epilepsy, and other seizure disorders.

How do you know if your dog will have a reaction to a vaccine? You don't, and therein lies the problem. Fortunately, you don't have to take the chance. When you take Buddy in for his annual physical checkup, you can ask your vet to do a titer test, a blood test that tells you whether Buddy has antibodies (or resistance) to the diseases for which he's already been vaccinated. If he has a high titer, or level of antibodies, to the disease, you don't need to have him revaccinated. Titering is becoming a more acceptable alternative to revaccinations.

Immunologists are discovering a direct correlation between the increase in autoimmune and chronic disease states with the increased use of vaccines.

Many holistically trained vets now believe that the benefits of many vaccines are outweighed by the risks and that dogs are better off if you go with one of these options:

1 Vaccinate lightly with vaccines spaced out by at least three to four weeks.

1 Only vaccinate once for parvo and distemper when your dog is young with one booster four weeks later. Have your vet draw some blood and send it off to a laboratory to establish the level of antibodies your puppy carries. If the puppy is protected, you don't need any more vaccines. Titer again at one year and vaccinate only when the titers are low.

1 Don't have your puppy vaccinated for rabies (which is mandatory) before 6 months of age. Make sure this vaccine is at least one month away from any other vaccines.

1 Use a homeopathic alternative to vaccines.

ëIf you're interested in the holistic approach, you can work out a vaccination schedule for your puppy by consulting The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, 2nd Edition (Wiley). As vets learn more about vaccines and their side effects, the information supplied to them is continuously being reviewed and updated. Also check out "Homeopathy: Medicine or Magic" later in this chapter for more info.

The bottom line? Before vaccinating your dog, discuss the safety with your veterinarian if Buddy

1 Is on any kind of medication

1 Isn't perfectly healthy

(Note: In the literature that vaccine manufacturers supply to vets, it specifically states that no dog should be vaccinated unless he's in perfect health. Remember that.)

1 Has any skin, eye, or ear infections

1 Has recently been treated for fleas, ticks, or worms

1 Has had prior reactions to vaccines

1 Hasn't received supplemental vitamins and minerals

1 Is scheduled for teeth cleaning, spaying or neutering, or any other surgical procedure

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  • elsa
    Is overvaccinating an issue?
    2 years ago

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