Friday, November 27, 2009

Annual pet vaccinations, how much is too much and what are the risks?

For as long as I can remember, we have taken our pets in for their yearly vaccinations. Veterinarians recommend it, States mandate it and boarding and daycare facilities require it. But are our pets getting too much of a good thing? If you are hoping to find justification on this page for never vaccinating your pet, sorry! You won't find it here. But you will find justification for questioning the frequency of vaccines your pet receives in it's lifetime. In March of 1993 The University of Wisconsin published the findings of Dr. Ronald Schultz, professor and chair of pathobiological sciences for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Shultz, who has been studying the effectiveness of vaccines since the 1970's,has learned that an animals immunity, once established, can last a lifetime. His findings led a community of veterinary experts and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to revise the schedule of vaccinations needed in an animals lifetime. This new standard, published first in 2003 and revised in 2006,has still not been embraced by the common practitioner. Most practicing Veterinarians still stand behind yearly vaccinations. The AAHA recommendations break down into three categories; trienially, annually and never.
What AAHA recommends For many vaccines the recommendation is still to vaccinate adult dogs annually. Other vaccines have proven safe and effective following a triennial administration. Puppies are a different story. Appropriate vaccine administration is considered "absolutely the most important," says Ford. As a result, AAHA recommends veterinarians follow all prior vaccine protocols for puppies. For example, the committee universally stipulates that canine parvovirus vaccines should be given initially at six to eight weeks, the second dose at nine to 11 weeks and a third dose at 12-14 weeks. "The guidance provided by the vaccine manufacturers, the ones that have been in place for years and years are still being advocated (for puppies)," says Ford. Booster vaccines The previous rules don't apply when the puppy reaches adult stage, according to the AAHA guidelines. "It's recommended, not required, that veterinarians place vaccines in one of two categories when developing a vaccine protocol for their practice: core or non-core," says Ford. The new categories are an attempt to segregate the vital vaccines from the more discretionary, according to the taskforce. The core vaccines, of which there are four, are to be administered triennially. These are vaccines to prevent against high-risk, highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases. Noncore vaccines, to be administered under the discretion of the veterinarian, would follow an annual schedule. "We're trying to encourage veterinarians to look at the science behind the vaccines and to develop a vaccination protocol that is rational as well as effective," says Ford. Of the core vaccines, the taskforce recommends that the adult dog receive rabies; canine parvovirus vaccine; canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis vaccine); and distemper vaccines every three years. The caveat to the recommendation, says Ford, is that there is good evidence that the protection conferred in adult dogs by both canine distemper and canine parvovirus exceeds five years. Three years seemed a conservative, happy medium for all parties involved, according to the taskforce.
For more on the AAHA recommendations, read on.
Didn't make the cut What may catch some veterinarians off guard is the taskforce's third classification, recommending against certain vaccines. Those are: * Giardia. Reason: no test is available for the disease; vaccine has not been proven to prevent infection, only reduces shedding. * Canine adenovirus-1. Studies found that the vaccine can cause visual impairment in dogs. * Coronavirus. "We're not recommending it because the disease isn't significant. The vaccine is safe, there just isn't a disease to go with it," Ford says.
In laymen terms, here is a good explanation of core vs optional vaccines. Canine vaccines can be broken up into two groups: core vaccines, and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are vaccines which are strongly recommended for all dogs, while non-core vaccines are optional canine vaccines which are administered on an individual basis. For some dogs, the core vaccines are enough, while other dogs, such as dogs which board frequently, traveling dogs, and dogs who work outdoors, should receive some of the non-core vaccines as well. One of the core vaccines, rabies, is often required by law, due to concern for the well being of wildlife and people. In addition to rabies, the core vaccines include canine distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus. All of these diseases can be fatal to dogs, and they are also very common, especially in kennels, making protection at an early age crucial. Non-core canine vaccines include bordetella, leptospirosis, lyme, and coronavirus. In addition to these vaccines, dogs who work outdoors can also receive rattlesnake vaccines, in which they are exposed to rattlesnake venom so that they can develop antibodies. The use of rattlesnake vaccines is a topic of debate among veterinarians; some feel that it is not advisable, while others are willing to administer these vaccines, as long as dog owners understand the increased risk.
Adverse Reactions to Dog Vaccinations At the very least, vaccinations put stress on the dog's immune system for several days. It is common for dogs to be sluggish and generally not feel well while their system is recognizing and responding to the diseases that have been introduced. Additional stress to the dog’s body, such as surgery, should always be avoided during this time period. Dog vaccinations should never be given to a dog who is ill or injured as this will only make it harder for the body to heal. Some dogs have severe allergic reactions with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, whole body itching, collapse, difficulty breathing or swelling of the face or legs. If such symptoms occur, the dog should receive immediate medical attention. In recent years, veterinarians have begun to link both immediate and long-term health problems to vaccinations. Serious health problems resulting from dog vaccinations include: Cancer Inflammatory bowel disease Arthritis Chronic allergies Auto-immune diseases Aggressive behavior Hip dysplasia Liver, kidney and heart problems Even a single vaccination carries risks, but most vaccine-related health problems are caused by over vaccinating. Higher vulnerability to diseases such as parvovirus have been passed down in dog breeds that have regularly been over-vaccinated through many generations. While some veterinarians have concluded that vaccinations are ineffective, unhealthy and unnecessary, most still believe in vaccinating but on a much more limited basis than has previously been the standard. The American Veterinary Medical Association continues to stand firm to the tried and true schedule, though their stance has softened to admit that many vaccines afford years of protection. "For many years, a set of annual vaccinations was considered normal and necessary for dogs and cats. There is increasing evidence to support that immunity triggered by some vaccines provides protection beyond one year while the immunity triggered by other vaccines may fail to protect for a full year. Consequently, one vaccination schedule will not work well for all pets. Your veterinarian will determine a vaccination schedule most appropriate for your pet." This is encouraging yet fails to take into consideration that a regular vaccination schedule accounts for 33% of a Veterinary clinic's annual revenue. There is also a fear of the new on the part of much of the Veterinary community. Understandable from a liability standpoint. If the vet recommends a triennial schedule and the dog gets rabies either by fluke or because the client wasn't up front and honest about the dogs activities, the vet is now prone to a nasty suit. They prefer to take the "better safe than sorry" approach. In conclusion, the choice of whether to vaccinate yearly, triennially or not at all; is a choice for each individual owner to make. There is always the option of the titer test, that checks the animals immunity to disease. By no means cheap, you can expect to pay around $200 for the test. Whatever you choose, I hope I have given you some solid information to assist you in making that decision. One last point You have the final decision in regards to your dogs health. But your Veterinarian has years of knowledge on animal disease and treatment at their finger tips. Self study is crucial, it helps you ask the right questions and make informed decisions. But I recommend that your Vet be a partner in these decisions. Finally, once you have made the decision, stick to your convictions. It is as bad to be spoon fed as it is to point the finger of blame at someone else!

1 comment:

Sara Welsh said...

We just adopted a dog, and we don't know what shots to get him. He was pulled off the street, he's about 3 years old, and we're not sure if he needs any shots. If he was a puppy, there would be no questions that he needs vaccinations, but does he need them now that he's an adult?

Sara Welsh |