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Essential Vaccines

I have coined the term “essential vaccines” to make reference to the fact that not all vaccines are essential. More is not better in all cases! For a while it seemed there was a new vaccine for something every month! Many of these products were later found to be inefficacious, and some were harmful. When I started practice, the wiser practice owner never wanted to jump right on a new product, but to take a wait and see approach. I, the new associate, wanted to use every new thing I could get my hands on. Soon, I came to appreciate the wisdom of waiting.
Vaccinosis is a term referring to adverse events following vaccination which are apart from anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions appear within minutes to hours post vaccination. These can be acute emergencies and are the “reactions” recognized by the general medical community. Vaccinosis reactions can encompass a wide range of immune mediated disorders days to months to years post vaccination. One of these reactions recognized by the American Association of Feline Practitioners is vaccine associated sarcomas. Many holistic veterinarians recognize other problems associated with over vaccination such as autoimmune disease, allergies, and behavior problems. The holistic community tries to vaccinate on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket recommendation. Admittedly, there is well documented protection against serious animal diseases by vaccination but some are safer that others.
Now, what about your pets? My professional judgment is that rabies is the only essential vaccine for many animals. Initial puppy and kitten vaccines are good insurance against some very bad “childhood” diseases. Vaccinated parents pass on protective immunity to the offspring. Feral and stray animals are at greater risk for viral diseases as are some breeds. After your 1 year boosters, it has been shown that most animals maintain a good protective titer to viruses for many years. To be safe, I recommend titer testing or boosters every 3 years. Holistic vets have been preaching this for at least a decade. Now conventional vets are agreeing, thanks to all our titer testing and well documented research by Dr. Ron Schultz, Dr. Jean Dodds, and others.

 Here are the questions you should ask before vaccinating:

1. Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2. Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3. Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4. Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?

By far, question one is the most important. If your animal has an immune system disorder you should not vaccinate it. Some of these include degenerative myelopathy, allergies, thyroid disease, and cancer. If your animal is a female in heat the vaccines should wait until she is out of heat. If your animal is sick, it is not wise to ask the immune system to do more by responding to a vaccine, often containing multiple antigens. And let me just ask, if you were going into the hospital for surgery, would you like to get a flu shot and a hepatitis shot while you’re there?
If your boarding facility requires vaccines, find out if they will accept titers or a letter from your veterinarian explaining why you need an exemption. If your pet is not vaccinated, you are accepting the risk of exposure to disease and you are stating that you are confident that your animal is protected or that the risk of an adverse reaction to vaccines is greater than the risk of catching Parvovirus or Distemper at a boarding facility. Your less vaccinated healthy pet is not a risk to others in the facility!
In my town, anyone can buy dog and horse vaccines at the feed store. What about these? Honestly, if it is a good brand name and the vaccine has been handled properly, many are the same as the ones I use. The problem with do-it-yourself vaccination is that you can not receive advice from the store owner about the procedure. Which brand is safe? Which one to pick? Do you have epinephrine on hand should your animal experience anaphylaxis? Have the vaccines been kept at the right temperature during shipping? An example I recall is at an animal shelter where I worked, the volunteers unpacked the rabies vaccines which had gotten warm during shipment and put them in the fridge for use. Luckily one employee noticed and we sent the vaccines back! Most vets are extremely concerned with adverse events associated with vaccination and will recheck your animal at no charge. However, If you have administered them yourself, you will most certainly receive an emergency fee and a lecture!
Vaccines are nothing to take lightly. They can save a life or take a life. I hope that medical decisions are made carefully for your pets, yourself, and your children. Stay tuned next week for Equine Vaccination Decisions!

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January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment