Over Vaccinating Dogs
In recent years, researchers of human and animal medicine have begun to reconsider the role of vaccines in health care. Parents and pet owners have become involved in this debate over the merits and drawbacks of routine vaccinations. Lately, research has begun to show that as a whole, our dogs are being over-vaccinated, and it may be adversely affecting their health. By taking a careful look at your dogs vaccine schedule, you may be able to lengthen the time between vaccines, saving you money and more importantly, providing a buoy to your dog’s health.
Canine Vaccination Reactions
Vaccines themselves have long been associated with reactions that occur shortly after being administered. These reactions are generally a result of an allergic reaction the pet has to one of the components of the vaccine. Immediate vaccine reactions are quite common, and they can range from a pet simply being lethargic for a day or two post vaccination, to animals developing hives and facial swelling, and in extreme cases, inability to breathe as a result of a swollen airway.
Despite the potentially fatal reaction that can occur shortly after a vaccine is administered, the far more sinister effects of vaccinations can occur months, even years later, in the form of cancers, immune system dysfunction and many other serious, chronic illnesses.
One of the most common diseases that has been linked to vaccinations in dogs is Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, or IMHA. As the name implies, this is a disease of the immune system, which under normal conditions operates to attack and kill viruses. However, in some cases a triggering event, such as receiving vaccinations and the ensuing immune system reaction that occurs as a result, can cause the immune system to short circuit and begin to attack the body’s own red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the tissues of the body, and as they are destroyed the affected dog becomes lethargic, weak, has trouble breathing and it can quickly become fatal even if the dog is treated for the disease quickly and aggressively.
Other health problems that have been linked to vaccinations in dogs include:
- Chronic Skin Problems
- Chronic Gastro-Intestinal Problems
- Chronic Allergies
Canine Vaccine Boom
Ironically, many of these diseases were far less common twenty years ago than they are today, after the recent “vaccine boom” where more and more dogs have been vaccinated annually for more and more different diseases. While we are preventing the illnesses that we vaccinate against, in some cases new diseases are being created in their wake, as a direct result of vaccination.
Should You Vaccinate Your Dog?
If vaccines have the potential for so many health problems, should you vaccinate your pet at all? Unfortunately, there is not one good answer for that, but instead it depends a great deal on your dog, your lifestyle, and your dogs level of health.
There is no doubt that despite their potential for creating illness, vaccines do save lives. The most common types of vaccines routinely administered to dogs protect from potentially fatal diseases, such as rabies, parvo and distemper. But until very recently, vaccines were limited to a “one size fits all” mentality by vets, where it was recommended that all dogs receive vaccines against all of the major disease on a yearly basis. No consideration was made for the potential exposure level of individual dogs, nor was any concurrent illness seen as a reason not to vaccinate.
Talk to a Holistic Vet
Thanks to countless studies that have worked to prove the link between chronic illness and vaccines, many veterinarians have begun to tailor vaccine protocols to each individual dog. Several licensed three-year vaccines have recently become available, lessening the amount of vaccines a dog may need in his or her lifetime, saving money and reducing the chances of vaccine related complications. Some dogs with minimal exposure and older dogs that have been vaccinated frequently in the past may be able to go without some vaccinations altogether. Most importantly, dogs with any type of chronic illness (cancer, history of IMHA, chronic, chronic digestive problems) should seriously consider suspending all vaccinations, to reduce the risk of exacerbating a already existing health problem, or causing a new one. To find a holistic vet in your area visit The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association website, www.ahvma.org.