No More Yearly Vaccinations!

I’m hoping that this year, I’ll be able to keep up with the blog a bit more regularly, so I’ve decided to keep myself motivated by writing some posts on general topics related to canine health and behavior.

I’ll start this with yet another story of why I love my vets.  I went in with Toby to run some tests to see if he had Cushings syndrome (the answer?  Probably yes.  But that will be another post).  As we were there, my vet said in passing, “I notice that Toby has not been vaccinated for almost 2 years.  Toby is almost 9.  I see no reason to vaccinate this dog again, except for his rabies vaccination which is required by law, but I wanted to tell you that if you need to board him, you will not be in compliance, so this is just so you’re aware of his status.”   I was delighted not to have argue about my decision not to continue to vaccinate my adult dogs.  I thanked her, and we went on with the exam.   My vets, in case anyone wonders, are old-school in the extreme.  They don’t even use computers.   They are hardly out there on the fringe.  But they’ve been practicing for over 30 years, and they’ve seen and learned a lot.  They do not feel that animals need to be vaccinated every year.

A few days later, I came across a great link on vaccinations on the Shiba Inu forum, posted by an alert forumite.   This is a great video about vaccinations, over-vaccinating, and immunology.   It is an interview with Dr. Ronald Schultz, of the University of Wisconsin, whose speciality is immunology.  Dr. Schultz is not “out there” or part of the fringe of veterinary medicine; he is a doctor, teacher and scientist who has been working in this field for 29 years.   And he firmly believes that we are hurting our animals by over-vaccinating them.  (Coincidentally, my vets both went to vet school at UW.  They may well have worked with Dr. Schultz at some point!)

You can watch the whole interview, which is excellent, below.  It runs about an hour.

If you’d like to read parts of the interview and watch it in shorter chunks, this link has the interview broken up and has important points summarized as well:   link to interview with Dr. Schultz.

There are several important points to this, and it’s worth your time to watch the video, but I’ll try and summarize some of the things I found most important (and note, I’m simplifying this, and any mistakes below are mine):

  • There are core vaccinations that every animal should have.  For dogs, these are the so-called “puppy shots” of distemper, parvo, rabies and adenovirus.   (There is a lot more in the video about how and when to give these shots, but no one argues that these are important).
  • After the puppy shots, one adult booster is useful.
  • Beyond that, most dogs do NOT need more vaccinations, but one year after the adult booster, it would be good to titer test the dog to see how much immunity they still have.  If it is low, you may revaccinate (see below), but if it is not, you do not need to revaccinate.  (Note the video goes into much more detail on how titering works).
  • According to Dr. Schultz, the MOST anyone should vaccinate their dogs is every three years.  To do more is not to make them any “more” immune (as that is not possible) but it is possible to compromise the dog’s health with over vaccination.
  • Both vets agreed that any dog who has had a reaction to a vaccination should NOT be revaccinated using the same vaccine, and probably should not be revaccinated at all (watch for more details on what to do in cases where the titer test suggests an animal may not have full immunity).  This is especially the case if the animal gets a lump at the vaccine site.
  • Both vets believe that over-vaccination is hurting our animals, and it may be one contributing factor to a rise in autoimmune disorders in animals (there’s more to it than just vaccinations, but this is one component they believe), as well as other problems.

There’s a lot more to the interview, but those were the important points I took away.

I should note that Dr. Schultz is not the only one who believes we are over vaccinating our dogs; so do many vets, and finally some bigger organizations are following suit.  From this article (scroll down to the postscript, though the whole article is interesting), I discovered that “World Small Animal Veterinary Association now advocates a minimal 3-year interval between core ‘booster’ vaccinations.”  (Note three years is the “minimal” interval, and note that the producers of the vaccines do not agree with that.  Now I wonder why that would be? Could it have something to do with money?)

I wanted to start with Dr. Schultz, because as far as I can see, no one much argues with his conclusions, which are drawn from years of research.  (He started recommending in the late 70’s that we stop vaccinating animals every year, noting that the vaccinations are supposed to create life long immunity, as many vaccinations do in humans).

I’ve long also been a fan of Dr. Jean Dodds, who is a specialist in canine health (especially thyroid issues) and who has long recommended a minimal vaccine protocol.  Some people do see Dr. Dodds as being a bit more on the fringe, and some conservative vets get up in arms even at the mention of her name.  (My vets are a husband/wife team, and the husband is not a fan of Dr. Dodds, even though I note that his thoughts on vaccinations are almost exactly the same as hers!)

Still, she’s the go-to doctor for information on a more minimal vaccination protocol.  This page includes Dr. Dodds vaccine protocol.

In addition, here is a link to an article by Dr. Dodds on vaccinations (it’s pretty technical, but has a lot of useful information):

I got interested in this because Toby had a bad reaction a vaccination about 5 years ago.  He seemed very ill immediately afterwards, and was lethargic and off his food for a couple of days afterwards (which you all know is NOT like Toby at all!).  I’d already heard of many people recommending less vaccinations, so I started reading.

While I didn’t find any information about Shibas, I did find that Akitas are a breed that is considered predisposed to vaccine reactions, so I was very careful with vaccinating Oskar.  I also suspect that ALL the Japanese breeds may have this problem–it’s only that Akitas are popular enough in the US to have this been taken note of.  (This is just a theory of mine, but there is much overlap in conditions in the Japanese breeds, hence my supposition).

Here is a link to breeds predisposed to problems, and what those problems can be, and it includes a discussion of Akitas.

Dr. Dodds notes the small orignal gene pool of the Akita as a possible reason for predisposition to problems (as well as other inheritable conditions) and I think that would also be true of other Japanese breeds.

This next page includes many links on problems with vaccinations, particularly rabies, and it discusses adverse reactions to the rabies vaccine.   It cites many sources, something I particularly appreciate.

So I will continue to follow Dr. Dodds protocol and be conservative in vaccinating my dogs.  I wish I had learned this a lot earlier, but at least Oskar and Leo will have the benefit of my new knowledge, and Toby and Bel will not get any more vaccinations, except for the rabies, which is required by law.

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Toby says “I’ve had enough!”