We have always been told to bring our pets in every year for their booster shots. But did you know there is absolutely no scientific proof of the need for annual revaccination? It's true - and it's written right inside the textbook that every Veterinary College uses!
Originally, it is presumed, vets used the excuse of yearly shots as a way to get people to bring their pets in for a checkup (which is important). Then they, and the vaccine manufacturers, realized how profitable revaccination was. You've seen the bill - you know how much they make! But you don't have to get those shots every year. In fact, the only legally required vaccine is Rabies, simply because it is a risk to human health. And that shot only needs to be given every three years.
So why do the other vaccines "have to" be given more frequently than Rabies? Well, they don't! Still, a lot of vets insist that your pet needs it's shots each year, or even more often than that. But how do yearly shots even make sense? You don't go to the doctor every year for a measles booster do you? Of course not. You had all your childhood shots, and now you're covered. Your immunity is believed to last a lifetime. So why are our pets so different? Well, they aren't. After the initial puppy and kitten shots, they should also be covered for years to come.
Although overvaccination is the major issue, there are a few other things that must be pointed out. Vaccines are not 100% guaranteed. They can and do fail to provide immunity. Some actually cause the disease they were supposed to protect against, or side effects that are worse than the disease itself.
Most vets give a 5 in 1 shot. That's five diseases being injected into your dog's body for the immune system to deal with. Side effects are so common, they've even named it - vaccinosis. Not that it means much to most conventional veterinarians. They've been so "brainwashed" that they truely believe vaccinating is more important than any side effects. So your cat might develop cancer (which is a common result in felines), but she probably won't come down with the disease you vaccinated against.
Now, I'm going to briefly outline what I have learned about vaccines. I won't get technical, or try to explain how vaccines work. My point is to get you thinking, and hopefully discontinue yearly shots on your pet. Most of my research has been on dogs, so I'm sorry if some of the information isn't relevant to cats. It should still be useful to you, if only to encourage you to do more research.
Distemper is highly contagious, and although somewhat rare, it still pops up from time to time. There is about a 50/50 chance of survival from the disease, and those who make it may be left with permanent damage.
Parvovirus is a newer disease, even more deadly than distemper. Many of those affected die, however I do know of dogs who have recovered easily and completely. The survival rate seems to depend upon the method of treatment, with holistic practitioners having the greatest success. Regarding the vaccine, certain breeds, especially Rottweilers and imported dogs, appear to be more sensitive to it.
Distemper and Parvo are both serious diseases that are worth vaccinating against, but remember - not every year.
On the other hand, Kennel Cough is very mild and usually goes away all by itself. It's just not worth vaccinating against when you take into account that very often, the vaccine causes the dog to develop the disease. Just like people with the flu shot.
The Leptospirosis vaccine is the most common culprit of causing adverse reactions. Plus, it's very ineffective. The vaccine only protects against a couple of the many strains of the bacteria. And although it is around, it's relatively rare. Many of the more informed vets have stopped giving Lepto shots for these reasons.
There is now a vaccine available for Lyme disease. However, a good number of vets refuse to use it. The vaccine causes many side effects. Vets state that it's actually easier treating the disease itself. Also, there's no reason to have your pet vaccinated for Lyme unless you live in a tick infested area. But dogs who live in these areas often have a natural immunity, which is stronger, so giving the vaccine is pointless.
Corona produces symptoms somewhat like mild Parvo, however most dogs recover quickly, with little treatment. The vaccine has never been proven effective. Very few Veterinary Colleges (which lead the way in medical research) use the vaccine.
Hepatitis causes a variety of symptoms, no doubt depending on the strength of the affected dog's immune system. It can be fatal. Most vets still vaccinate against this disease, even though it is all but extinct.
A commendable practice I have read about is that some vets now discourage giving any vaccinations to dogs over 7 years old. At that age, most dogs are considered seniors. Their immune systems and internal organs are weakening and they are less tolerant of the vaccines. And if they have previously been receiving annual shots, well, they should certainly be immune by now! Unfortunately, the damage is usually done by then. Side effects often get worse with each unnecessary vaccine given.
And that brings up yet another point. It says right on the vaccine label not to use in sick or weak animals. The ironic thing is, if the animal was truely healthy, it could fight off the disease all by itself! If you have an ill pet, do not allow it to be vaccinated. Remind the doctor what the label says. If they will only accept your business if your pet is vaccinated according to their wishes, you are better off going elsewhere. Sickness can mean a pet with allergies, an infection, digestive upset, etc. It certainly refers to animals with cancer, epilepsy, or autoimmune disorders. Weakness refers to animals that are very young, too thin, or those that have recently undergone anesthesia. By no means should you allow your pet to be vaccinated while under anesthesia! Vets have been known to do this. If your pet is "overdue" for shots and is going to be put under, make it clear to the doctor that your pet is not to be vaccinated during this visit. As for the Rabies vaccine, it may be tricky to avoid, but if your pet is seriously ill, it is possible, as long as your vet is willing to work with you.
There is always the option of running a titer test. These measure the level of your pet's immunity to a specific disease. Most people who do this find that their pet has remained immune and never needed booster shots. Others have discovered immunity to one disease has worn off, but others remain. This allows them to vaccinate against only what is necessary. If you can find a vet willing to run titer tests, it is recommended for proof of your pet's immunity, and your piece of mind.
It must be mentioned that each animal can only develop a certain level of immunity to a disease. If that animal has reached full immunity, a booster shot "just in case" will have no effect whatsoever. It boosts nothing. It only serves to stress the animal's system.
A new schedule for vaccination has been developed by the Veterinary Colleges. Basically, it calls for the usual series of puppy shots, a booster at one year of age, then every three years after that. This protocol is for all conventional vets to follow. Change is hard, and this is a controversial issue. Eliminating yearly shots can make uninformed pet owners think badly of such vets, so many are reluctant to do so. However, if yours is still encouraging the practice of yearly shots, speak up. Make sure they've been informed of the latest research. If they still insist on the old routine, find yourself a more enlightened professional. Your pet will be healthier for it.
There is currently a lot of study going into the use of vaccines, and there is no reason your vet should be behind the times in their knowledge. All good doctors keep up to date with medical news. Veterinarians are no different.
Copyright 2001 Tara Lamper
Original article written October 2000
Revised April 2001
Sources for more information
"The Nature of Animal Healing" by Martin Goldstein, D.V.M.
"Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats" by Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D.
"The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat" by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
"The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog" by Wendy Volhard & Kerry Brown, D.V.M.
"Belgians From Start To Finished" by Sallyann Comstock
"Earl Mindell's Nutrition & Health for Dogs" by Earl Mindell & Elizabeth Renaghan
"The Whole Dog Journal" monthly publication on natural dog care, 1-800-829-9165
Also available: "The Whole Cat Journal"
For other informative sites on vaccinations, I suggest the following:
The Senior Dogs Project
Click on "vaccinations" in the menu on the left.
Vaccination articles near bottom of page.
AltVetMed - Vaccination Decisions
A simple search for "vaccination" will yield many results.
Cat health & nutrition links (vaccination page)
Shirley's Wellness Cafe (vaccinosis page)
HealthWorld - Vaccination Center