Are We Over-vaccinating our Pets?

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During Maggie’s consultation with Dr. Mahaney, he suggested that we administer a titer test that measures vaccination failures to prevent over vaccination. The test is called VacciCheck. (Full disclosure, Dr. Mahaney is a spokesperson for the company).
I’ve always worried about Jack & Maggie’s vaccination history. Since they were both rescues with little to no history, we had no idea what their vaccination status was. With all the recent press about vaccinations and the potential harmful effects from over-vaccinating, I thought it was good to know the serological status in our dogs.
We read an excellent article on the topic recently in Dogs Naturally magazine, where they state: “Vaccines can be just as harmful to our pets and can cause a wide range of health problems that range from minor fever to anaphylactic shock and cancer…” 1. The article goes on to present a long and scary list of potential vaccine over-reactions. These potential reactions are not only scary to you, the owner – think of how the dog must feel.
I remember my first pup Maxine, got her first round of vaccinations when she was about 10-12 weeks old. She was a normal Lab puppy bouncy and full of mischief. The afternoon after I brought her home, she refused to eat, whimpered when I touched her and hid in the backyard for hours. I was scared to death and she was in obvious distress. I spoke to her our vet and he explained it was likely a reaction to the vaccine, but wow, what was going on in her body to make her feel that way?? Luckily, by later that evening she was back to herself, but it was an eye-opening lesson for me.
overvaccinating our pets

When we rescued Jack, he had been in the shelter for a year after being picked up as a stray, so they had no history on him at all. A day or two after I picked him up, I took him to the vet who wanted to administer a full dose of vaccinations to be safe. I resisted, but when I took him to the groomer for a bath, they required that I provide proof of vaccinations, so I had to get them anyways. Who knows how many he’s received in his lifetime maybe none, maybe lots, I have no way of knowing. Maggie also came to us with no medical records, so I don’t know her vaccination record either.
Performing this easy and inexpensive test will at least give you a baseline of your dogs immune system relative to the diseases it tests for. You should NOT blindly administer these vaccines annually. Ask your vet, question the need for any additional vaccinations they suggest and utilize these options to test the need for additional vaccinations.
A study done over twenty years ago by Dr. Ronald Schultz found: “Vaccines for diseases like distemper and canine parvovirus, once administered to adult animals, provide lifetime immunity.” 2. Dr. Karen Becker has an excellent series of interviews with Dr. Schultz on her blog at HealthyPets.Mercola. It’s an excellent explanation of the research around vaccines, a discussion of immunization vs. vaccination and an outline of the protocols Dr. Schultz and Dr. Becker follow for their own pets.

1. Titers: An Important Tool To Prevent Over Vaccination in Dogs
2. ibid.

Additional Readings:

Over-Vaccination – Dog Owners Beware
How Often Should You Vaccinate Your Cat or Dog?
Dog and Cat Vaccines are Not Harmless Preventive Medicine

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  1. We know many pets are over vaccinated. When we switched to our current vet, we eliminated half of the vaccines the other vets had told us were necessary. Some vaccinations are necessary, but the vet needs to discuss all of them with you and you need to know what is right for your own pet and lifestyle. We were shocked to think four other vets had always given us vaccines we didn’t need and Mom never questioned it. It was all pre blog…before she woke up and realized how the dog world really works.
    Emma recently posted…A Spooktacularly Haunting PackageMy Profile

    • Hopefully lots of folks are waking up to that. You really have to be an advocate for yourself and for your dogs.
      mkob recently posted…Are We Over-vaccinating our Pets?My Profile

  2. I’m glad that I found a vet who agrees with me that “the more the merrier” counts not for vaccs. I try to avoid the multiple vaccines, I always ask for single shots. and I only ask for shots what we really need.
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog SCANDALOUS SATURDAYMy Profile

  3. I was able to attend the online Natural Canine Health Symposium put on by Dogs Naturally magazine this past weekend. There were two sessions on vaccinations. It was startling! I will definitely do a titer test before any vaccinations again. We had to get their rabies shots under state law and so Pierre could be groomed. That is all we administered this year.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News #DogNewsMy Profile

  4. People and vets are both in a tough spot about the right thing to do. Like you, I’ve researched the issue considerably and the data is often unclear and ambiguous. Are we really making better decisions based on titers, even though they don’t tell us about cell-mediated immunity? I don’t know.

    As with humans, pets have benefited tremendously from the use of vaccines. That said, it’s always important to discuss with your vet which vaccines, when to get them and why. Hopefully continued research will offer a clearer picture.

  5. Interesting article. Cocoa was sick when we adopted her and already on an antibiotic at 12 weeks old and I try to minimize anything unnecessary going into her body.
    Julie recently posted…Why!!My Profile

  6. This is a concern for us as we plan to visit other countries with Honey. Many island nations (if they allow dogs at all) require a rabies vaccination within a recent time period even though conservative research finds that every three years is more than adequate.

    I understand the government’s concern about public health. But I’m also concerned about Honey’s health.

    Luckily Honey is very healthy and has a good history of tolerating vaccines. But I’ll be checking in with other people cruising with dogs to find out what countries are least restrictive.

    BTW, will you be sharing the results of Maggie’s titer tests? I’m kinda curious about what you learn.
    Pamela recently posted…The Most Important Job On The BoatMy Profile

  7. Rodrigo and Sydney are due for a discussion on vaccinations. I’ll be asking for a titer test before allowing any vaccinations. I’m not willing to take the chance and since we don’t board our dogs or take them to day care, we can be conservative.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…How to Protect Your Dog’s Gut when Giving AntibioticsMy Profile

  8. We used titers for some time now. And JD, having had mast cell tumor won’t be getting any vaccines. Still have to figure out what to do or not to do with his rabies vaccine but, fortunately, he’s not due for another two years so maybe by then laws might change.
    Jana Rade recently posted…JD’s Mast Cell Tumor: Surgery and Pathology ReportMy Profile

  9. Times are changing and vaccinations are found to stay in the system longer. I still vaccinate my dogs for the diseases they are at risk for since I travel so much with them but I also space out the vaccinations that are good for longer peroids of time. I have never had a problem with vaccinating my pets or had any reactions with them. I guess I am just lucky.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Conformation Lesson MischiefMy Profile

  10. This is such a hot topic. I personally feel we over vaccinate for everything in this country. Does that make me anti-vaccine? No. It just means I like to be careful. I have a daughter with an auto-immune disease triggered by the myriad of vaccines she got when she entered the Army. Yes, that makes me cautious about vaccines.Personally I have the vaccine conversation with my vet twice a year (once on Sampson\’s annual and once on Delilah\’s.) It always ends with me saying, \”do you vaccinate your dog for this?\” I think we need to be advocates for ourselves and our dogs, because anywhere there is a chance of someone making money off you, you have to be careful.

    • You are so right about being an advocate…for yourself and your dog!
      mkob recently posted…Costs of Having a Fat DogMy Profile

  11. My vet is one of the most well-read vets I’ve ever met. When I asked about titers last year, she said that a study had just come out showing that titer levels did *not* predict a dog’s ability to fight a given disease. Now that I’m seeing so many popular magazines and websites advocating titers, I’m going to ask my vet for the original research article so I can read it myself. BTW, prior to that article coming out, my vet was totally in favor of titers.

    In a quick search a minute ago, I found one website that echoed my vet’s concerns:

    I’m not trying to be a trouble-maker (I love your posts). I just want to make sure that we all are truly measuring something meaningful with titers before we all start using them instead of vaccines.
    KB recently posted…National Cat Day – My Trail Cam Cat PhotosMy Profile

  12. Titers can give a false sense of security. They really do not say that a dog is immune to a particular disease as most people think. The article linked above is a good explanation and there are others. Now with a senior dog that is also ill, I can totally understand relying on them. But I have known dogs who had a titer showing immunity and they were not and came down with the disease.

  13. This is an interesting take on pet vaccination. I have been having my dogs vaccinated for years and no harm has come from it. I like what this article mentions about performing tests to ensure that the dog isn’t allergic to anything that will be administered. I think this would be a very beneficial thing to do. Thanks for sharing, this has been very helpful!

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