Editorial September 1999 Issue

Shot Down

Vaccination “rebels” are becoming mainstream.

On my days off (Ha!), I’m not an activist. I don’t stop people whose dogs are wearing choke chains to preach to them about the virtues of headcollars, nor do I take the opportunity to tell the people in front of me in the supermarket line to put that Dog Chow back and get some real food!

But sometimes, just participating in a friendly, casual discussion with other dog owners at our local park results in my being “outed” as an agitator for holistic dog care.

For example, just the other day, as Rupert and I played a little fetch at the park, I found myself drawn into a conversation about vaccinations. People were talking about itchy dogs, comparing notes on which foods seemed to trigger allergies in some dogs and which ones didn’t. I was holding my tongue. Then someone said, “Your dog’s coat is so beautiful; what do you feed him?”

I told them the name of the food (I’m not a “raw feeder” yet, but soon!) and added, “Rupert’s coat has looked great ever since I changed his food and stopped vaccinating him.”

As I said this, several people in the group immediately shot sharp glances in Rupe’s direction, as if looking for signs that he was diseased, or somehow posed a threat to their dogs. One woman asked me incredulously, “You don’t vaccinate?” It was as if I had said I never fed my dog.

It didn’t happen that day, but more and more, when I inadvertently expose myself as a vaccination rebel, I see nods of understanding and agreement, rather than stern, accusing expressions. Other “outlaws” are having similar experiences. I was at an animal shelter one day when a woman came in and started telling the clerk, in a very defensive tone, all the reasons why she couldn’t possibly vaccinate her elderly, sick dog for rabies, as per local animal regulations. The clerk cut her off with a smile, saying, “Just bring us a note from your veterinarian and we will waive the requirement for your license.” The woman walked out looking dazed; she had clearly expected a fight.

And I’m happy to hear that, even at shows and training camps, more and more event organizers will accept high titer tests in place of recent vaccinations in order to attend.

Just the other day, I received the following e-mail from a reader, Aimee Schilling:


“I am very glad that you are addressing the vaccination issue, but feel there is more information that needs to be presented. I just came back from Jack and Wendy Volhard Top Dog Training Camp where both dogs and owners are trained in obedience AND nutrition and health. Wendy Volhard has been researching the health of dogs for more than 30 years. At this conference she talked about a meeting with Dr. Ron Schultz of the University of Wisconsin, a noted professor of immunology for both the vet and med school. His current recommendation for vaccinations of new pups are as follows:

“1. Have the breeder draw a blood sample of the mother after whelping to check her titer level. There is a chart called a nomogragh which Dr. Schultz uses to predict how long the mother's protection is available to the pups.

“2. Vaccinate for Parvovirus at 12 weeks.

“3. Vaccinate for Distemper at 16 weeks

“4. Titer four weeks later and check immune levels and this should protect a dog for life.

“Currently I titer on an annual basis for my own peace of mind. My dog Murphy is four and has not had a booster since he was a year, though he is on the three year rabies program per the law.”


Activist or not, I’m thrilled to see people using (and discussing) more reasonable vaccination practices. The proof is in the pudding; my dog has never been healthier.


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