I wanted to do a wrap up of my series on pet vaccinations:
- Review and summarize important points.
- Answer questions that came up along the way.
- Share decisions we have made for our own dogs.
I think I accomplished what I set out to do with this series; not to discourage anyone from getting their pets vaccinated, but just to be aware of some of the issues surrounding vaccinations, and encourage everyone to talk to their vets about whether each and every vaccination being given is needed. I am not anti-vaccination I am just against over-vaccination. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
Review and Summarize:
- Yearly core vaccinations (those recommended for every pet) are a thing of the past, once your pet has had their puppy/kitten shots and first year boosters. The American Animal Hospital Association now recommends that after boosters, re-vaccination should only occur every three years. If your vet is still recommending yearly core vaccines, you should probably question it.
- These core vaccines are believed by some authorities to last longer than even the recommended three years; from 5-7 years at least.
- Core and non-core vaccines should not all be given at the same time (my opinion). They should be split up by 3-4 weeks. It’s inconvenient, yes, but other than that it is just being on the safe side. It took us years to try to figure out which vaccines our beagle Cricket was reacting to, because she was getting them all at the same time.
- Non-core vaccines should be considered based on lifestyle and geographic location (taking travel into consideration as well). If your dog may never be exposed to Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, or Canine Influenza, those vaccines may not be necessary. If your cat stays indoors, there are diseases they have little chance of being exposed to.
- Vaccines should only be given to healthy pets. Your vet should always examine your pet first, and vaccinate last.
- Vaccines should probably not be given to pets that have had previous reactions. If they are necessary, discuss preventative measures that can be taken with your vet.
- Anti-body titer tests are available to check if your pet is showing immunity to the disease they may or may not need to be vaccinated for. They can be pricey, so you may want to ask your vet about the prices first. These tests can be a good option if you adopt an older pet and you do not know their vaccine history (thank you, Kari, for that tip). However, bear in mind that sometimes the results of these tests are not clear cut.
- You should still visit your vet yearly for wellness exams, even if no vaccinations are needed at that time, and you should ask questions about vaccines. These same rules apply to cats as well as dogs, only the diseases they are being vaccinated against (other than rabies) are different.
For more details on any of these highlights, please visit the appropriate post below:
- Part 1 – Why I Questioned
- Part 2 – Safe Practices
- Part 3 – Titer Tests
- Part 4 – Rabies
- Part 5A – Non-Core; Leptospirosis & Bordetella
- Part 5B – Non-Core; Lyme & Canine Influenza
- Part 6 – Cats
I appreciate the fact that my readers cared enough to raise their own questions! Most of these questions surrounded the non-core vaccines and why they get more adverse reactions.
First I want to explain the differences in some types of vaccines, to the best of my understanding. Most non-core vaccines, as well as rabies, are known as “killed” vaccines. In a killed vaccine, the viral organism that causes the disease has been killed or inactivated. This is done so that there is no chance the vaccine can actually cause the disease. These vaccines need a helper – an adjuvant – to create the immune response needed.
Since these adjuvants can be powerful substances such as heavy metals like aluminum, and formaldehyde can be used to inactivate the viruses, this may be the reason these vaccines can get more adverse reactions. Live vaccines can stimulate immunity on their own, without these added substances. But that does not mean that they cannot cause adverse reactions as well: our beagle Cricket’s last reaction was to a core vaccine (DHPP).
Jodi, as far as I can tell, other than the one and three year attenuated (live) vaccine now available for cats, rabies vaccines are always killed. But I think the only way to know for sure is to find out from your vet what brand they use and if they know.
What We’re Doing for our Pets
Because our beagle Cricket has had numerous reactions (non-life threatening, but I fear escalation), the last one being to DHPP, but not always just that one, we are no longer getting her vaccinated. She is almost 11 years old and had consistent vaccines in the past, so we feel she is probably protected. We were able to get a medical waiver from our vet for the rabies vaccine (not all states have this exemption, however). If she were more active outdoors, hiking or hunting, if we traveled, or if she was in contact with other dogs often, we would get the titers done and decide again from there.
Sheba has survived cancer, and we feel her immune system needs to be strong to fight any future recurrences, she is also almost 11, so we will not get her further vaccines either (we still have to discuss the rabies with our vet to see if he will give her the exemption on that though). We will probably do titers on both girls once we get to the 5 year mark on any of these vaccines.
Luke had all of his core puppy vaccines and his first year boosters. Luke has an issue with strangers, and considers our vet a stranger, so getting him vaccines is challenging. For that reason we didn’t get him the Lyme this year. Lyme disease is in our area but it is also treatable in dogs so we try not to worry about it. When he is due for his next round of core vaccines…..well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. He’s not likely to let them draw his blood for titers either. We are also working on his stranger fears so hopefully in three years things will be different.
I think I summed up my feelings on this subject pretty well in my second post when I wrote:
“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?”
We have open discussions with our vet on this subject, and we don’t always agree. But he respects our right to make the decisions we feel are best for our own pets….and making the best decisions we can is all we can do. I hope you have that same relationship with your vet.
For further reading, these are some of the articles I used for my research:
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Vaccines for Dogs
- Healthy Pets: This Vaccine can Impair your Dog’s Immune System
- Healthy Pets: Pet Immunization: Far Riskier than you Might Think
Wonderful series. I’ve definitely learned a lot. I completely agree. Sometimes people think vets know everything and we should listen to them. But, in reality, they’re only human and have the knowledge of what they were taught. There are constantly new studies being done and they’re finding out vaccines last longer then originally thought. Now they need to implement correct ranges so we aren’t over vaccinating. Love this post! Thanks for writing it, everyone should know and be educated on this important topic! 🙂
Thank you! It really helped to get your positive feedback and affirmation. I put a lot of work into my research, so it’s great to know that it can help others to be aware and to learn more as well.
2 Brown Dawgs says
I totally understand cutting back on vaccines for senior pets. I am not sure what we will give Thunder in the future. Lepto if he is still hunting and of course rabies but not sure about the others. Storm a year behind will be in the same boat eventually.
Thanks for answering my question Jan. I really enjoyed this series. I’ve read every piece of the series but can’t remember if you touched on this or not. One of the key things I always ask when one of my guys is getting a vaccine is how can I expect my dog to feel? Almost always it’s a soreness on the site of the vaccination, but sometimes there are other symptoms, they might be sleepy or lethargic. I always want to know how long that should last and what should I look for as a negative. Of course if something concerns me, I always call in and check.
You are totally right, we need to be advocates for ourselves and our pets, and open dialog with our trusted caregivers is crucial.
Thanks for presenting a well researched, well thought out and often times touchy subject, so professionally.
No, I never did touch on asking your vet what to expect when your dog gets a vaccine. It seems like ours used to tell us, in the beginning anyway. Maybe they only do it as routine for first shots or new patients. It definitely is good to know what to expect. I always call when in doubt too.
You are welcome…I’m glad you enjoyed the series and really appreciate you saying so!
Kimberly Gauthier says
Great series. I’ve also bookmarked it for future reference. This is really valuable information.
I’m very conservative about vaccinations and I’m fortunate to have a veterinarian who is also conservative about vaccinations.
What concerns me is vaccinating dogs “just in case” for potential illnesses that our dogs aren’t likely to get. And I’m stunned by the number of rescue groups and vets in our area treating for heartworm when Washington State doesn’t have heartworm. The vets I’ve spoken with say that the only dogs they’ve seen with heartworm came from out of state.
It boils down to pet owners educating themselves. Doing my own research has helped me have better conversations with our vet and nutritionist, because I understand what they’re sharing and I know which questions to ask.
Thank you, Kimberly. I am glad to hear that you are conservative and have found a vet that feels the same. I agree, why vaccinate for diseases our dogs won’t likely get, or even those that are completely and easily treatable? Our Lab mix Luke came down with kennel cough right after he came home with us, in spite of being vaccinated. I panicked the other dogs would get it….but they never did! And even if they had, our vet assured me they could be easily treated as well, or that with many dogs it can even go away on it’s own (but with that awful cough, I would think most people would opt to treat it).
That is very dismaying about heartworm in WA. I can’t imagine giving my dogs those monthly pills if it was not needed (it is common around here so that is something we do).
I also agree pet owners need to be educated…but so many just blindly trust what their vets tell them…I used to do that. Thank goodness I started blogging and learned to research and educate myself more.
Kimberly Gauthier says
I credit blogging for my “awakening” too. Before I started KTTW I followed my vet blindly too. If I hadn’t started blogging, Rodrigo would be a tripawd today instead of a healthy, 4-legged pup. I can’t believe a vet would mention amputation to treat arthritis.
Oh, wow, I can’t believe a vet would mention that either, I have never heard that as a treatment for arthritis. Thank goodness everything turned out OK for Rodrigo.
Brian Frum says
I had to go back and catch up but this was sure great information!
Thanks for this series – I’ve added it to my bookmarks for future reference.
Hailey and Zaphod says
I really like how you did this series, providing us with information to discuss with our vet. Our first dog, angel Loki, had an auto-immune disorder, and when that was discovered, the vet recommended we didn’t vaccinate any more. Given his life expectancy was only 1-2 years at most, and because of the disorder we had to limit his contact to other dogs (his body was too weak), it is the decision we made easily.Our vet also recommended that indoor house cats not receive vaccines in their senior years, so we stopped vaccinating them. Unfortunately, because we need to board our current dogs, we have to follow a certain schedule and even get one vaccine the vet thinks is useless (kennel cough)!
It is interesting to hear that your vet thinks the kennel cough vaccine is useless. Ours still recommends it, even though our Luke came down with KC when he first came home with us, after being vaccinated by the rescue! We don’t do it anymore since we don’t have to board them (we have pet sitters).
I sometimes think our vet believes that everyone WANTS their pets vaccinated, to be safe from everything. And I suppose a lot of people do. But I’m glad I know better now.
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Such an informative series. I’ve enjoyed reading each one. Immunizations are a personal choice (of course) driven by location and their state requirements. But with that being said – we should all look at becoming more aware of the how to be pro-active while adopting a minimalist mentality when it comes to our pets health. Thank you for your time and research on this extremely important subject.
The Island Cats says
What a good series of posts. Great information for everyone to consider when vaccinating their pets. 🙂
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
I really enjoyed your series! I learned a lot of stuff throughout the whole thing!!!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
M. K. Clinton says
I more empowered after your series. I thank you and the boys thank you! ♥
You are very welcome, and I’m so glad the series has helped you!! That was why I did it….and I even learned more myself along the way. 🙂
We were so amazed, negatively, a few years ago when we finally found a vet clinic we liked and they told us we didn’t need have the shots we had been getting from other vets. It is sad when vets just vaccinate for the profit of it and don’t bother explaining things to pet parents.
You really brought a helpful and even tone to this sometimes contentious debate. I second your encouragement to make these decisions with your vet. Ours was always very helpful.
And she encouraged us to split up vaccinations as well. When we came in for a second round of shots, we’d only see a technician so it didn’t add substantially to our bill too.
Our vet does the same, Pamela, even though he didn’t think we needed to split them up. He at least understands why we want to, and also had techs to do the second visits so we didn’t have to pay as much.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
This was a great series and you displayed it great and had lots of correct information. Thank you for it!
easy rider says
I’ve learnt a lot new things while reading your posts and with the links I found out more. It was interesting to read about the difference between vaccinations in US and europe.
And I’m totally with you if I want no flu-shot (and I always say no thanks) so I can do the same for my pet :o)