No good deed goes unpunished. That’s what Pam Rowley of Upper Brookville, New York, discovered last November, when the hospital administrator who always greeted her and 8-year-old Vizsla Gunner at the start of their monthly therapy-dog visits quietly took her aside to deliver some bad news.
I am surprised at how frequently the subject of vaccinations comes up with my dog-loving friends. We often talk about the pros and cons of certain vaccines and look for the latest information. We struggle to understand the complexities, and to sort out the facts from the controversy. When it comes to vaccines, being an advocate for our dogs may be the most important thing we can do. Being an advocate doesn't mean being an expert, but it does mean taking action. These tips can help you take action that supports your dog's good health.
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.
In Whole Dog Journal's opinion, annual vaccination for most canine diseases is unnecessary and potentially harmful. Dog owners should avoid employing those old-fashioned veterinarians who recommend annual vaccines. Owners should also avoid those veterinary service providers who provide inexpensive vaccines and other routine care without the benefit of a relationship with you and your dog beyond a brief transaction in a parking lot or pet supply store.
Arkansas canines and their humans have very good reason to celebrate the start of the new decade. That state’s new rule allowing for a three-year rabies vaccine became effective January 1, 2010. This means dogs in Arkansas will need to be vaccinated only every three years (after their initial first-year booster) instead of annually, as was previously required.
Vaccines are something that every dog owner should be educated about, and yet few seem to think about them at all, except to wonder about the need for them after they get a new dog. However, many people base this concern on the vet bill, rather than worries about the potential for side effects in their dogs! Immunology expert Ronald Schultz, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM (American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine), has spent much of his career studying animal vaccines. Dr. Schultz is professor and chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, and has more than 40 years' experience in the field of immunology. His long-time university employment - as opposed to a career in industry - has provided him with a unique position of neutrality from which to observe the vaccine industry.
In the past decade, the veterinary profession’s overall attitude toward vaccination has evolved to a point that can be tentatively termed progressive. In 2002, the American Veterinary Medical Association issued a policy statement that urged veterinarians to “customize” vaccine protocols for individual patients, since there is “inadequate data to scientifically determine a single best protocol” for initial or repeat vaccinations. A year later, the prestigious American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released its landmark canine vaccination guidelines, which were updated in 2006.
When we decided not to vaccinate Caleb, our Bouvier des Flandres, against anything other than rabies, my friend Janice and I knew we ran a risk that he might develop a dreaded disease. We also knew that vaccination doesn't always protect against disease, and believed it sometimes causes illness. We felt the home-prepared BARF (bones and raw foods) diet we fed him would help his body fight off many health problems. Naturally, we hoped that Caleb would never come down with anything serious like canine distemper virus (CDV). But, when he was three years old, we had to face and overcome exactly that challenge.
Most dog owners are responsible and understand the importance of protecting their companions from preventable disease. That’s surely what motivated the dozens of people I observed standing in a long line with their dogs and puppies at a low-cost vaccination clinic offered in a local pet supply store.
Now more than ever, vaccine titer tests are readily available, not terribly expensive, and offer multiple advantages over the practices (intentional or not) of over-vaccination and under-vaccination. Few issues in veterinary medicine are as controversial as the debate about administering annual vaccinations to our dogs. Long considered part of the standard of baseline, responsible veterinary healthcare, and credited with conquering some of the fiercest canine viral and other infectious diseases, vaccinations now are also suspected of creating vulnerability to illnesses and chronic conditions such as anemia, arthritis, seizures, allergies, gastrointestinal and thyroid disorders, and cancer.
Here’s an indisputable fact: Vaccines have saved millions of lives. The vaccine discoveries of medical pioneers such as Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur introduced a new era of health care for humans. Smallpox, once the most feared disease in the world, is thought to be eradicated. Ask any senior citizen to name the great medical advances of this century, and he or she will invariably list the polio vaccine.
Modern-day dog owners enjoy the comforting certainty that their puppies can and will be given a series of vaccinations, so-called “puppy shots,” to protect them from life-threatening canine diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. Most of us were indoctrinated in early childhood to schlep Shep to the vet once a year for his annual booster shots in order to extend that vital protection year after year. We accepted without question that a failure to do so was the height of dog owner irresponsibility.
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