If you missed Part 1 in this series you can read that be clicking on the title: Questioning Pet Vaccinations (Part 1 – Why I Questioned)
First of all, I want to make one thing clear: I am not against vaccinating your pets. I will be sharing our experiences, as well as information I have learned through research and from our own veterinarian. My intent is only to share information that might be important for pet families to know. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
When I started doing my research on vaccinations two years ago, the first piece of information I turned up was that many veterinarians (especially holistic) and researchers believe that we are over-vaccinating our pets. The days of annual vaccinations should be long gone, yet there are still many veterinarians that stick to that practice, including my own.
Until we had those issues with Cricket that I wrote about in Part 1, and I started questioning things, that was what we did. It was my vet’s standard practice to vaccinate yearly with DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis-also known as adenovirus and may show up as an A in some combos, Leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza) and Lyme. Rabies is every three years as required by our state (after an initial one year booster). When Cricket had her first reaction at a year old – lethargy for two days and yelping when I tried to touch her- the first thing our vet did was to remove the L from that vaccine, and that made it into a 3 year vaccine. Yet we still did the yearly version for the other dogs, and never had an issue with any of them.
Many will say that the reason vets still do this, even though the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) revised their guidelines in 2003, is to make money, or to be sure you visit them yearly. I do not think that is the case with my vet. He believed that the Lepto was necessary, and I just don’t think he was up to date enough on protocols to consider that the L could be given separately. When we did finally ask to separate vaccines, he was mostly concerned at the inconvenience to us to have to come back for multiple visits.
What I really discovered through all of this is that we have to be advocates for our own pets. Even if we trust our own vets, they are not experts on everything! Humans have to advocate for their own health as well – I don’t blindly trust everything my medical doctor tells me either. As much as we’d like to think that medicine is an exact science, and they have all of the answers, it is not. I experienced plenty of that when going through a migraine diagnosis and treatment. I had to do my own research to help myself in conjunction with a doctor’s care. If my doctor tells me I should have a flu shot, and I don’t agree, I don’t get one. So why wouldn’t I do the same thing for my pets?
Not everyone has the time or inclination to spend hours researching this subject on the internet. I never would have if it hadn’t been for Cricket’s reactions. That’s why I’m writing this series and I want to share with you what some of the safest practices might be when it comes to vaccines (and hope that you use this information in conjunction with advice from your own vet).
I believe what I have learned, that we are over-vaccinating our pets. What many people don’t realize is that vaccines can contain ingredients like aluminum, mercury, and formaldehyde. Even if your pet never has a reaction to a vaccine (and in truth reactions are not common), why would you want that going into your dog any more than necessary? This is what my research has turned up that we should be doing:
1. Your pets need to be vaccinated and puppy shots are important. But at what point is enough enough? Many of the vaccines humans receive are good for years, or for life. It stands to reason the same is true with pets. After the puppy shots and boosters at one year old, your dog should only need three year boosters for DHPP and Rabies (unless your state rabies requirement is different, I believe it is three years in most states).
But even that may not be necessary for their whole lives. There is evidence that these vaccines can last up to 5 to 7 years. Some holistic vets suggest not vaccinating at all after 1 year old, but I’m not sure I would go quite that far personally. You also have the option of “titer” tests – which are blood tests that check the levels of antibodies and immunity to those diseases. However, some vets question the accuracy of these tests, so I will be covering that in a subsequent post.
2. You should split up the vaccines by 2-4 weeks. If your dog is due for both DHPP and Rabies in the same year, don’t do them all at once. In full disclosure, we did not split up Luke’s vaccines this year. We split up all of his puppy vaccines though. The only reason we didn’t was because of his fear of strangers – it was challenge enough actually getting him those shots, and I wanted it over with all at once. If we decide to get him the Lyme this year that will be at a different time, and the same if we were getting him Lepto. I don’t think we’ll be doing either of those anyway.
3. Combo shots are not a good idea. Everything I read indicated that anything above a 4 way combo is bad – there are even some up to 6 or 7! The first 3 in the 4 way combo are the only ones, along with rabies, that are considered “core” (necessary) vaccines everywhere. Any others should be considered individually. Some people choose to even split up the 4, and get individuals, and that certainly can’t hurt, but we haven’t done that ourselves.
4. Vaccinations should only be given to healthy dogs! That’s why they should be the last thing your vet does at your appointment. Everything else should be checked first. Not only might the vaccine distract your pet’s immune system from important work, the vaccines also might not work as well. Our vet was great about this, when Luke was a puppy he was sick a couple of times and that was what slowed down his vaccination schedule. They would not vaccinate him when he was sick.
5. Even if your pet is not due for vaccinations, you should take them for yearly vet visits for a wellness check, and some even recommend twice per year for senior pets. When we took Cricket this year, with no vaccinations, her wellness check only cost us $39! Our vet found she had a heart murmur, and even though it is only mildly concerning right now, he wants to recheck her in 4-6 months. If it worsens, she may need medication, and we would never have known about this unless she developed a cough from it.
The most important thing I learned is to ask questions. Our vet didn’t offer much of this information to us, but when I asked he was happy to answer. We haven’t agreed on everything, but he respects our decisions. If you have a vet who won’t answer your questions, or pushes his own agenda when you disagree, you might want to consider finding a new one.
In subsequent posts I plan to cover the following topics:
- Antibody/titer blood tests
- Lyme, Leptospirosis, and Bordetella vaccines
- Vaccinating cats
Do you rely on and trust your own vet to make the right decisions for your pets?
I got some of my information from this book, which was recommended to me by a Facebook friend when Cricket had her last issue. Click here to be taken to the website if you are interested in purchasing your own copy. It explains vaccines very well in layman’s terms that are easy to understand.
Today we are joining the Thursday Barks & Bytes blog hop. Thank you to our hosts 2 Brown Dawgs blog, and Heart Like a Dog. Please visit other blogs through the links below!
The group of vets we go to are usually so busy they don’t volunteer information. We have to really ask questions in order to understand more what is affecting the dog. They are great which is why they attend to so many pets, and sometimes end up too busy to talk. So it’s great you are writing about this!
Lara Elizabeth says
Vaccinations are such an individual decision and I hope that more vets will start looking at it from that angle instead of a “one size fits all approach.”
My dogs are on a pretty standard protocol, but my horse has had some bad reactions to vaccines and so I have to be very conservative with him.
I really think that is the key….an individual decision instead of a one size fits all approach. I just think so many people don’t even think twice about it unless they see a bad reaction. But I just wonder what the long term effects could be, especially on yearly vaccinations. I feel far more comfortable now that we’ve switched to three year at the most, and can consider the yearly for local things such as Lyme and Lepto, based on each dogs’ need.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
For a fleeting moment I had a vet for Harley that I just couldn’t connect with. It was a discussion on medication that made me decide this wasn’t the one for me. I love our Doodle Doc and I’m so grateful for her in our lives. I too am concerned about the vaccinations suggested and given to the Boys and I also trust her judgement because she listens to me. Thank you so much for providing this post – I am learning more each time.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
I’m glad you touched on #4 and #5. People don’t understand that Doctors put there license on the line each time they prescribe or do anything for your pet. We have so many people that call up and want to come in for just vaccinations and no exams, sorry no can do, if your pet is sick and you give it vaccines and it gets sicker or dies then the doctor’s license is on the line and that isn’t right, so our vets will not vaccinate without a exam and the animals have to be healthy, so many people want to combine two visits like he has a skin infection and can you vaccinate, nope! And yes so important to still get physical exams even if not vaccinating.
That is a factor I never thought of. Around here they have rabies clinics a lot, but I wonder if they check the pets’ general health before they vaccinate. Our vet’s office does it, so I’ll have to ask them about that.
I’m all for saving a buck where I can, but it would never be for anything that would put my pets health or life on the line! I think our vet’s office knows that too, and that’s why they are so willing to work with us….they know we don’t want to skip vaccines because we’re looking to save money.
The Island Cats says
What a good post. The same thing applies to us cats. Our mom has stopped having us vaccinated every year, ‘cept for rabies because that’s required by law where we live. Our vet is okay with that.
Once our cats became indoor cats, we gave up yearly vaccinations, and they have only been three year. But now that they’re both seniors, we probably won’t do any accept for the rabies either. I definitely plan to research more about cats as well, but I think the same basic principles do apply as well.
I think I mentioned in your Part 1 post about Haley’s severe reaction last year when getting multiple vaccinations in one visit. Whether you agree or disagree with how often dogs should be vaccinated, the two big points I take away from your article (and we all can probably agree on) are: 1. Advocate for your pet. Do your own research and don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns with your vet. 2. Don’t get multiple vaccinations at one time and consider combo shots carefully. Looking forward to the future posts in this series.
Yes, you did mention that, and that must have been so scary. Yes, I think we can all agree on those points. I also wonder what your vet’s advice for Haley is going forward? The problem with multiple vaccines at once that is they do have a reaction, you’re left trying to figure out which one caused it.
I was nervous to read this post as I have seen so many bad mouthing vets and suggesting vaccines are totally unnecessary. Those posts, often written in a tone of authority and as ‘fact’ leave me feeling sick with anxiety about the potential consequences to pets. Yours is a great post! It’s so well thought out, well researched, and sensible. I agree with your points entirely. I think the key when advocating for your pet’s health is to have a really good relationship with your vet. If you don’t trust them or feel comfortable asking questions for some reason, perhaps it’s time to find another.
Thank you SO much, and I completely agree that a good relationship with your vet is key to all of this. There was a time in my life when I would jump to extremes, but I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that the truth to most things probably falls somewhere in the middle. Therefore I didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that all vaccines were bad. Plus I had other dogs who never had an apparent issue with them, so I had to consider that as well.
Dolly the Doxie says
Great information! The worst thing that could happen is pet owners thinking we don’t need shots like kids don’t. And we know how well that works out! Love Dolly
Exactly. We just need to be careful, we don’t need to jump to extreme conclusions.
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
I too feel that we need to be our pets’ advocates; and if that means finding a new vet who will listen to and address our concerns, then so be it. While I haven’t always agreed with our current vet on various things, I have always respected his opinion and felt it is a two-way street. When my poodle was still alive — but already 12 years old — we decided to stop vaccinating her. Since she was always on a leash in our unfenced yard, there was really no need. With Callie, Shadow, and Ducky we split the vaccines. At some point, we’ll probably stop vaccinating the older girls, like we Kissy.
You are so right…mutual respect is important, and if you don’t get and give that with your vet, it’s not in your pets’ best interest. We left our previous vet because we just felt they didn’t care. We did not get Cricket her rabies vaccine, and the decision was ours. Our vet did not completely agree, but he understood and respected our decision.
This is such important information, thank you so much for sharing all your research. I completely agree that we’re over-vaccinating pets just like doctors are over-vaccinating children and over-medicating everyone. Our vet always gives us a choice when it comes to the more unnecessary vaccines, like Lyme, and since Daisy doesn’t stay outside for long periods, we don’t get that one. I keep her vaccines split up too, with a month between the two groupings. However, you’ve got me rethinking how many things she really needs, and I’ll be following your posts and looking into this more. Thanks again for raising awareness about this important topic.
You’re so welcome! I’m glad that you already have what sounds like a good vet and you have considered a lot of things when it comes to this….it sounds to me like you are doing the right things. Lyme is a difficult one for us, so I will definitely be covering it.
I don’t like big business, because I don’t think they have anyone’s best interests in mind other than their own pocketbooks, and I think the pharmaceutical industry is big business. That’s where I get worried about over-vaccinating and over-medicating, just like you said.
We are changing things up with Katie as she is aging fast and not going far from home base these days. We don’t think she needs all the shots she used to get either.
I think that makes perfect sense for Katie. We did skip Cricket’s rabies this time (our vet gave us an exemption for the state). If she spent a lot of time in the woods where running into wild animals was more possible, or if she spent a lot of time with other dogs, we might feel differently.
I’ve been satisfied with spending more money to have titers done. I even did one before Leo got his first rabies booster and learned that he did in fact need the booster. When it was time for his second one 3 years later, his antibody levels were high enough that I didn’t have him vaccinated again, but his levels weren’t as high as Mia’s. We’ve never vaccinated Mia, because we got her when she was seven and tested her blood. She probably was vaccinated every year before we got her, because her levels are very high for rabies, parvo and distemper.
It’s tricky because of the backlash against anti-vaxxers for human, but we’re not talking about never vaccinating our dogs. Just not over-vaccinating, as you explain.
And that is the important thing to remember…the vaccines are needed, but maybe just not needed for their whole lives, and certainly not every year for most.
We haven’t yet, but I think we will use the titers as well at some point. I think it was a great idea for you to do that with Mia when you first got her and didn’t know her history for sure.There is a little debate on that subject, but like this one, I don’t think either extreme is right….I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Great info. I think it is very important to have a vet that you can talk to and will answer questions. The vet we used for our Golden was not that vet. He rarely explained anything and when our dog became old and ill, his only real suggestion was to put him down when it was time. We did change vets right at the end of his life and I remember that the new vet would not immunize him because he was so old and ill. The old vet probably would have done it no problem. The vet we go to now discusses everything and gives us choices and discusses costs v. benefits/risks. I really like our vet.
Thanks so much for joining the hop.
A good vet is really the key I think. The vet we had before this one would have been a nightmare if I had questioned him about anything. We had issue after issue with him and his office, and we met our current vet after our cat got attacked by the neighbor’s dog and our vet at that time wasn’t available to help. That was the last straw. I’m glad you also found one that you are happy with.
Thanks for joining the blog hop. As I have already shared my opinion regarding vaccines on your first post, I won’t reiterate here, but suffice to say I am on the same page you are.
Why must they have things like aluminum, mercury and formaldehyde in our vaccines? These things are so toxic!
I am glad that we are on the same page!
I don’t understand why they need those things in vaccines either….if I run across an answer to that when doing my research I will certainly share it.
I am really interested in this. Roxy is 10, and I received a notice that she is due for bordatella. I skipped all her yearly shots last year because i don’t feel comfortable with it anymore. Torrey is up for rabies, which I will do. If I sent these guys to be boarded, or we spent a lot of time around other dogs it might be different. But for now, I won’t vaccinate, especially with Roxy being a senior dog.
I just don’t think it’s necessary when they get older (except for the required rabies), especially for those things like bordetella and other yearly shots for things they just probably won’t be exposed to if not boarded or in certain areas. I especially have a huge question about bordetella since Luke came down with it after being vaccinated for it.
easy rider says
we had our shot-day today, I’ve got some leaky eyes as I saw the bill, but better safe than sorry. Our vet fortunately explains what he does and he is so kind to order the vaccine specially for Easy. The pup was happy and left him a thank you note on the wall :o(
Oh, Easy, it was so nice of you to show your appreciation. 🙂
We are glad you have a good vet who understands and takes good care of you.