Letters May 2011 Issue

Bad News for Dog Owners Looking for Single-Antigen Vaccines

Bad news for dog owners looking for single-antigen vaccines

I have always run titers on my dogs before vaccinating and my vet provided individual doses when required. This year was different. The office manager called and said their practice could no longer provide individual vaccines, as in the past. I vaccinate only for parvo, distemper when titers are low, and rabies. I was quite upset because one of my dogs needed only distemper and my other dog’s titers were good. I posed the question, “Why offer titers, if you are not able to provide individual vaccines? Big silence! Well, I know the answer. The titers are extremely expensive, $200 for parvo and distemper, times two (for two dogs!). It’s great income for the vets!

Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM

Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM

I have called all the holistic veterinarians in my area; all of them have only bundled vaccinations. I have surfed the web to find individual vaccines to purchase without luck. This is a huge dilemma and an issue I have been frustrated by for years. Vet students are not taught in school that too many vaccinations assault the dog’s immune system time and time again. Veterinarians turn the other cheek. What is most disturbing and unethical is the vets will happily accept the fee for the titers, but as in my case, don’t provide individual vaccinations when indicated.

I would surely appreciate any resources where I may acquire individual parvo and distemper vaccines.

Thank you for your thoughtful concern regarding this frustrating topic. I have been subscribing to WDJ for years and can’t thank you enough for being the “pioneers” of healthy dog care. Your annual dry and canned food survey is invaluable, as are so many topics each month. I hope you have the resources to help me and my dogs. Until I can find individual vaccinations, I will forgo the vaccines. One of my dogs is 9 and the other 3 years.
-(Name withheld by request)

We asked Dr. Jean Dodds for help on this one. A respected expert on veterinary immunology, she also is the founder of Hemopet, a nonprofit blood bank and laboratory. She wrote:

There is only one source available: The Schering-Plough Galaxy-D (the old Fromm-D vaccine), available from many online veterinary supply stores. By the way, vaccine titers actually cost between $40-60, not $200. Those clinics quoting the much higher price typically do so because they aren’t familiar with the “going rate” and assume that they’re costly – as a sort of dissuasion. Here at Hemopet (hemopet.org) we charge $42 for the paired distemper + parvo vaccine titers. See our “Test Request Form” and price list on the website. 

We sent this information to our reader, and she responded:

I contacted a few online vet supply catalogs, and all of them offer parvo as an individual vaccine, but the distemper is paired with adenovirus vaccine, which I think is unnecessary.

We asked Dr. Dodds to weigh in on the distemper/adenovirus vaccine. She responded:

I wouldn’t prefer this combo, especially when there have been no clinical cases of infectious canine hepatitis in North America for at least 12 years.

Now we were really curious. We called Schering-Plough and asked about the Galaxy-D – and was told that the company had discontinued its production in January. So dog owners seemed to have lost their only option for giving the distemper vaccine alone. (And ferret owners have lost their only source of distemper vaccine for ferrets; the Galaxy-D was reportedly the only effective distemper vaccine for that species.) Dr. Dodds’ final comment and advice?

Darn it! I’d give a distemper/adenovirus Recombitek vaccine – provided that the distemper titer result really is low. This industry sure isn’t helpful for consumers needs – but, of course, sales volume is what determines what we can get.

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Comments (3)

Why revaccinate just because titers are low? It only means the dog hasn't been challenged - if it were exposed to the disease, its antibody levels would rise. Immunity isn't dependent upon antibody levels, but memory cells - T-cells. Without those, a dog would have no immunity. I think the letter writer is just making issues and expense for herself where none are necessary and risking harm to her dogs through over-vaccination. In addition, she is being seriously ripped-off by her vet.

Posted by: Deirdre D | May 5, 2013 10:50 PM    Report this comment



Most dogs in NYC are totally over vaccinated. Not just because they get annual vaccine reminders from their vets, regardless of more recent vaccination protocols, but because daycare facilities are required to demand frequent vaccination and on top of it a bordetella shot every 6 months. Even if some daycare facilities might be willing to accept titer tests: there is no titer test for bordetella.

Posted by: DogRelations | May 20, 2011 7:21 AM    Report this comment

Thank you Whole Dog Journal, and Dr. Dodds! I have a seizure dog, and therefore requested titers for rabies, distemper and parvo (I honestly never even knew about titers until I started researching seizures), for both Huck and his non-seizure-dog sister, Perri. I was told by my vet's office (I do love my vet by the way) the test would cost about $250/dog/test. That was two weeks ago. I decided to sit on the information, and think, think, think what is the best plan of action.
Wow! I am so glad I chose to stay on the fence for a while! We have a well-visit scheduled today, and I am bringing with me Dr.Dodds web page, the link to the online test form, and a brief price listing.
THANK YOU!
Carolyn Hettich

Posted by: chettich | May 7, 2011 8:43 AM    Report this comment

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