All Things Dog Blog
Are we over vaccinating our dogs?

It would be really nice if I could answer that question in this post. And I would love to. But unfortunately, probably like you, it’s really hard for me to know.

There has been long term, ongoing heated debate over whether vaccinations are safe for young children. It seems that the idea that children’s vaccinations can result in autism has finally been debunked. Vaccines can definitely prevent a good number of dangerous diseases. While that doesn’t mean they are actually good for you, they are surely better for you than the diseases are at least.

But what about vaccines for our canine buddies? A while back I came across an article entitled “Is Over Vaccination Killing Our Dogs?” that got me thinking. High drama title, I know. The gist of the article was that this guy, James Schwartz, had a really bad experience with a rabies vaccination gone wrong. His dog Moolah had an auto-immune disease which should have stopped her from being vaccinated. And he lost her as a result of the vaccine.

Since then James researched and published a book exploring the legalities and sometimes tragic results of over-vaccination in pets and is leading an anti-vaccination campaign in Colorado. This has led to threats and harassment from the veterinary community. Just what do the vets have to lose? Well.. lots and lots of money of course! Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In his book he demonstrates how vaccinations and their revenue offshoots serve as huge income sources for vet practices.

Schwartz calculates that 300 animal hospitals would administer an average of 2.25 million shots per year with a profit of $156 million over three years. He also notes that 63 percent of canine and 70 percent of feline vet office visits are for vaccination shots.

Schwartz learned that a British study demonstrated that up to 12 percent of vaccinated animals showed adverse reactions within 45 days of vaccination. Schwartz views current American vaccination practices as a betrayal of trust by the vet industry, quoting the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Journal as stating: “The one-year vaccination frequency recommendations for rabies found on many vaccine labels is based only on historical precedent, NOT on scientific data.”

The vets know a heck of a lot more than I know. That said, it’s very difficult to get an unbiased answer on something when the industry endorsing the vaccines is the same industry who stands to profit.  I do worry about veterinarian bias… such as endorsing specific brands of kibble by selling it in their stores. From what I’ve researched kibble isn’t an incredibly healthy food for dogs to begin with. I mean, would you feed your human child a bowl of processed cereal and then call it a day? Nutrition achieved? I’ve asked several vets about their training in dog nutrition and they’ve honestly told me that nutrition isn’t a big part of their curriculum. I think what you eat makes you what you are so it’s a bit of a worry. But that’s another story for another discussion.

I absolutely love my vets and trust them with my dog’s life. We’ve got a fantastic relationship.

However, that doesn’t mean I have complete confidence in the veterinary institution as a whole… and some of the beliefs that may be inherent to veterinarian training. If the drug companies which provide the vaccinations are as powerful and influential as the companies which produce and provide the kibble, and I would expect they definitely are, then things are bound to get a bit messy.

So what do you think? Are you vaccine confident? Have you had any misgivings about vaccinations or any related canine health issues? I’d love to hear your view.

22 Responses to Are we over vaccinating our dogs?

  1. Kat says:

    Ruby had an allergic reaction to her first vaccination after we got her. The vets almost missed it because it was hard to tell that her face was swollen under all that labradoodle hair (despite the fact we were telling them there was something very wrong). Since then she has a shot to prevnt the allergic reaction each year. We have also started treating her for heartworm monthly because I think the heartworm vacine is what she reacted to. Each month she gets very sooky and quiet for about 24 hours after her treatment but it’s better than the extreme reaction she had the frst year.

    Vets also don’t tell you enough about vaccines: like the differences between a C3 and C5 vaccine. Or things like the kennel cough vaccine only lasts 6 months and doesn’t stop your dog from getting kennel cough but lessens the symptoms. We get our girls vaccinated in August but Ruby still got kennel cough in December one year. That was when I found out that the vaccine doesn’t stop kennel cough. It also spread to our other dog and meant we had to avoid other dogs and dog parks for weeks so we didn’t spread it. Dog parks was where she picked it up (as we’ve never put our dogs into kennels)- dogs that go into kennels over xmas are highly susceptible and then, often unknowingly, bring it into dog parks. There was a particularly bad outbreak in the inner west dog parks the year Ruby got it.

    That said,we still get our dogs a C5 vaccination every year. Thinking about dropping it to the basic C3 though.

  2. zoe says:

    Poor Ruby! That sounds unpleasant indeed. It’s good that you caught it when you did. I suspect there are a lot more of this type of story than we hear, which is why I wanted to talk about it. Thanks for sharing your story.

    That is very interesting and strange news about the kennel cough vaccine. How could they not tell us something so crucial as that it’s only for 6 months? Craziness!

    What is the difference between C3 and C5 vaccine? I’m assuming it’s just 2 extra vaccines in the C5, but do you know what they are?

    Give Ruby a nice scratch behind the ears for me. Beautiful girl!

  3. Melissa Friend says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I think we are over vaccinating our dogs.

    Maddie did not get vaccinated last year, but instead had a Titre test done, which determines her immunity levels. Maddie has a great immunity and has only had her puppy vaccinations and 1st year booster – she is now 3 years old.

    All of Maddie’s dog clubs (flyball, agility, obedience and therapy dog work) all accept a titre test as proof of vaccination.

    I have a friend who lobbies against over vaccinating of our dogs. I can get more info on this subject if anybody is interested.

    Melissa

    • Sharyn says:

      Hi Melissa I would love to have some more information. I am picking up my new pup this weekend, and have to do the vaccinations. My breeder is advising me to only have the C3 which she has done the first one at 8 weeks, and the next one would be at 12 weeks. Then she advises me to get the booster in 12 months – then no more. So I am interested to get more info. Thank you – Sharyn

  4. Teangi says:

    Great post!
    Our experience wasn’t with a vaccine but with a topical tick treatment.
    It left our Bart with severe ear infections which got worse after each application, he was very itchy (to the point of him trying to bite his own back) but with no visible rash or redness and it left him very lethargic.

    Our vet was kind enough to ring the drug rep and of course they said there was no way it could be related! I know my dog so I believe differently!
    It’s a shame when people put business before animals.

  5. zoe says:

    Melissa,
    Thanks very much for your comments. I hadn’t heard of a Titre test and that certainly seems like a better way to go. How is it that no vets have ever mentioned this? I am definitely interested in more information on this subject. I’d like to put it out there so people have access to this information at the very least.

    I really do respect my vets. I think they are trying to act in the best interest of my pack, but maybe they aren’t thinking about things the way I would if I had the information they had. You know what I mean? I know they love Pluto though. : )

    Teangi,
    Well drug reps are another story entirely now. Not sure I can trust them as far as I can throw them. Which wouldn’t be very far I can tell you. Maybe they fully believe what they are saying. Who knows? But the profit premise with them is a bit too strong for there to be any trust for me there. Animals are not able to speak up for themselves which makes the conundrum more complicated. Thanks for sharing. My best to Bart. : )

  6. Elizabeth Hart says:

    The veterinary industry has known for years that there is no evidence to support repeated revaccination of adult dogs with modified live virus (MLV) core vaccines for parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus every year or every three years. These repeated medical interventions are a racket to draw pet owners back to vet clinics every year. This is one of the most outrageous scams, it’s an absolute disgrace that pet owners continue to be duped in this way.

    I’ve been researching and lobbying on this issue for the past nearly three years, since the death of my own eight year old dog, Sasha, after unnecessary revaccination.

    For those willing to do a bit of reading, my recent submission on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons draft Code of Professional Conduct: http://bit.ly/oUXcxJ and my open letter of complaint re the continuing calls for already immune animals to be needlessly, and possibly harmfully, revaccinated, addressed to the Australian Veterinary Association, Australasian Veterinary Boards Council, and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority: http://bit.ly/gBuQZY provide some background on this issue

  7. zoe says:

    Hi Elizabeth. Thanks so much for your input. I’ll definitely have a read of those links. I’m really sorry to hear about what happened with your dog. This is definitely an issue that needs more of our attention.

    Zoe

  8. Elizabeth Hart says:

    Hi Zoe

    Also for your information, CHOICE looked into this issue last year, you can read the article and access comments here: http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/household/backyard/pets/pet-vaccination/page.aspx

    There’s a lot of confusion surrounding vaccination of dogs, primarily because vaccine product label revaccination recommendations are not evidence based, and also because veterinarians are not properly educated in immunology/vaccinology (as admitted by the Vaccination Guidelines Group of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, who say: “…there is an urgent requirement for education of practicing veterinarians in this area”. http://www.wsava.org/VGG1.htm

    It might surprise pet owners to discover that many veterinarians are clueless about appropriate vaccination practice…

    An article I prepared a few months ago titled “Vaccination failure!” also summarises more background on this matter: http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/Vaccination_failure!.pdf

    Elizabeth

  9. zoe says:

    Thanks Elizabeth! It is very surprising to hear that vets aren’t well versed in appropriate vaccination practice. And very scary!

  10. Terri Lynn says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I recently stumbled upon one of your open letters to APVMA which I read with great interest – amazing stuff and very well written. Your knowledge, research, time and devotion on the subject is incredible. Not sure what steps have been taken in response to your various submissions but I would be on your team for any protest/rally on the steps of parliament house to give this a shake up!

    Terri

  11. zoe says:

    If anyone has any actions planned where you need some numbers please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to publicise on Facebook. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would like to see some changes in this area!

  12. Deb says:

    I think it is irresponsible to fail to immunize your dog.

    You can thank owners like myself for the herd immunity protection that your dog will be covered by. What sort of vet would willing put your pet’s health in jeopardy for the sake of making money? If you really believed this I suggest you find a new vet and lodge a complaint. What you will most likely find is that any (non money hungry) good vet will recommend you vaccinate your dog.

    Have you ever seen a dog suffer from heart worm, parvovirus virus or kennel cough? I think it is dangerous to suggest people refrain from immunizing.

    Talk to your vet, get the statistics, and protect your dog

  13. zoe says:

    Thanks for your input Deb! I absolutely understand where you are coming and I can see you are very passionate about how vaccinations protect dogs from some terrible stuff. I completely agree with you there.

    For my part I still do have some concerns about vaccination levels in dogs. I’m certainly not an expert. And I am definitely not suggesting that people refrain from vaccinating their dogs. My own dog is fully vaccinated.

    What I am just saying is that as there is evidence that vaccinations can sometimes be detrimental to dogs it’s a good idea for us to ask questions about current vaccination practices. I found out earlier this year that it’s possible to measure the strength of a previous vaccination in your dog with a titer test. This would help to determine when another vaccination is necessary. I wonder why vets aren’t using these tests if they are available?

    In a perfect world every vet would be an expert in all areas of dog health. Most of the vets I’ve worked with have been wonderful practitioners. They’ve done all sorts of fabulous things to keep my dog healthy and happy. However, when I go into a vet practice and I see the processed dog kibble they are selling as a complete dog food it is evidence to me that either the vets are not getting a proper education in dog nutrition or that they are interested in making a profit off of the processed dog kibble… which they know isn’t the best food. Maybe it’s a combo. Who knows?

    All I’m saying is that if the vet industry is not advocating the best nutrition for dogs it could also be that they are making some judgement calls in terms of vaccinations – or other things – which may not be ideal. To me it’s worth a question. I would say the same about a lot of western medicine.

  14. Elizabeth Hart says:

    Deb (26 February 2012)

    There is no evidence that dogs benefit from revaccination with core modified live virus (MLV) vaccines for parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus every year. These vaccines are similar to the Measles/Mumps/Rubella shot for children – we’re not revaccinated with an MMR shot every year of our lives are we?

    The important thing is to ensure that puppies are properly vaccinated and immunised re the serious viral diseases. Timing is the important thing for puppies to ensure there is no interference from maternally derived antibodies (MDA). That’s why it’s a good idea to have a titre test to verify a response to vaccination.

    Lab-based and in-surgery titre testing is available, but many vets are reluctant to offer this option, as they’d rather use vaccination to get clients back in the surgery every year. An annual check-up might be a good idea, but it is not acceptable to use an unnecessary medical intervention such as revaccination for diseases such as parvovirus every year, or every three years, as bait to bring clients and their pets back to the surgery.

    For an update on the Australian Campaign for Ethical and Evidence Based Vaccination of Companion Animals, including links to other information, check this link: http://bit.ly/yj8g5o

    • Deb says:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9656027

      Some scientific peer reviewed evidence. Also, not able to find any evidence linking the immune systems of humans to those of dogs in relation to the MMR vaccine?

      Not sure of your microbiology qualifications but the tetanus vaccine is also a MLV: which is administered more than once in our lives, I’m a bit confused by your argument.

      Anyway, I will continue to vaccinate my dogs and be thankful they are protected when they come into contact with others that aren’t.

  15. zoe says:

    Thanks for your clarifications Elizabeth. I really wish titre testing were the standard. It just makes more sense.

  16. zoe says:

    I’ve just come across this very interesting video with a vaccination/immunologist expert, Dr Schultz and I thought it would be worth sharing. Have a look here: http://bit.ly/KZjGxy

  17. Further to my previous comments on this thread, I have recently set up a website titled Over-vaccination – Challenging Big Pharma’s lucrative over-vaccination of people and animals: http://over-vaccination.net/

    Here’s a link to the webpage which provides information on pet vaccination issues: Over-vaccination of pets – an unethical practice: http://over-vaccination.net/questionable-vaccines/pet-vax/

    My investigation into over-vaccination of pets has led to an interest in over-vaccination of people, as outlined on my website.

    There’s a ‘big picture’ on over-vaccination which needs to be examined…

  18. zoe says:

    Thanks very much Elizabeth. I’ll definitely have a look and hopefully other people will do so as well.

  19. For those people who might be interested in the ongoing over-vaccination of pets scandal, I recently forwarded a letter to Professor Ronald Schultz, a member of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Vaccination Guidelines Group, and the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccination Task Force, complaining about the confusing and misleading use of the term ‘booster’ in vaccination guidelines.

    Dog owners who continue to be harrassed by vets to have non-evidence based annual or triennial revaccination for parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus for their already likely immune dogs might be interested to read the summary email and detailed letter which can be accessed via this link: http://over-vaccination.net/2013/08/21/over-vaccination-of-dogs-with-unnecessary-boosters/

    Pet vaccination may seem like a trivial issue, but it’s not and it’s important that dog owners are properly informed.

    On a global basis pet vaccination is big business, worth millions to the veterinary industry (i.e. vaccine manufacturers, government ‘regulators’ and veterinarians). (My webpage “Over-vaccination of pets – an unethical practice” provides more background on this matter: http://over-vaccination.net/questionable-vaccines/pet-vax/ )

  20. Sara says:

    Hi –
    It was necessary for me to have my 7 year old Shih Tzu euthanased late 2013 due to an auto-immune disease. She had an MRI at a neuro-vet which showed severe inflammation in the cerebellum which was causing her to lose balance – co-orindation of her limbs was almost non-existent. This disease progressed quickly (a matter of days). She was on steroids and there was further treatment available and which was suggested which COULD give her back some kind of quality of life, but only for up to a year. The neuro-vet was of the opinion that inevitably the disease would return. That was not an option with me. It was heartbreaking. Such an active, intelligent little dog who retained that intelligence to the end. She must have wondered what on earth was happening and she depended on me so much. I have done so much research since this all happened and have only just stumbled on the vaccination/non-vaccination debate. A well respected Shih Tzu breeder mentioned it to me. This is the first I have heard of it, and no one has brought the subject up with me in the past. It was suggested to me that I have an autopsy done on my little girl dog, but I couldn’t bring myself to agree.
    I have signed up to Over-Vaccination blog posts. (South Australia)

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