The vaccination alternative

Annual vaccination of dogs and cats has been an established norm within the veterinary profession for decades. There is no doubt that widespread and regular vaccination of pets has had significant benefits in the control of major infectious diseases. We have seen the practical eradication of canine distemper from some urban dog populations and a significant impact on the severity and extent of parvoviral infection due to widespread use of vaccination.

Whilst vaccination has unquestionable benefits, the subject of annual revaccination is being increasingly examined. Although annual boosters may have been required in the past with the use of older types of vaccines, there is increasing evidence that modern vaccines provide long term effective immunity from infection. Recently published studies have shown that vaccinations in dogs and cats may provide significant serological titres lasting for at least 3 years and longer in some cases.

In companion animal practice there is an increasing awareness that automatic annual revaccination may not be necessary despite the recommendations of the vaccine manufacturers. Therefore the decision whether to revaccinate or not should be based on a sound assessment of:

• The risk of infection
• The risks associated with adverse responses
• Duration of response to specific vaccines
• Assessment of the serological titre where this is possible and appropriate

In the poultry and pig industries assessment of the serological titres of animals is well established as a valuable management tool. Analysis of the titres provides a quantifiable assessment of the vaccination status of the animals and thereby a measure of their susceptibility to disease and a rational indication for any requirement for revaccination.

From June 2008, Paws to heal will be offering two alternatives to yearly vaccinations for cats and dogs. The first of these is the above mentioned antibody titre test. This is a simple blood test that demonstrates levels of protective antibodies to canine distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus and feline rhinotracheitis and enteritis (C3 and F3 respectively). The second is homeopathic nosodes that are safe and effective alternatives for the majority of animals. I would stress that nosodes are not sufficient enough alone for young puppies to protect against parvo and distemper and, as such, recommend a single vaccination for young dogs ten to twelve weeks of age or later.  Nosodes seem very good alone for kennel cough and ‘cat flu’. It has been proven now that cats generally are immune for life with a single feline leukaemia vaccination at about 4 months of age for those who wish to vaccinate against this disease. This would reduce the risks of vaccination sarcoma (cancer) at injection sites with this vaccine. Vaccinating cats for chlamydia, bordatella and FIV is not proven to be effective so cannot currently be recommended.

Titre testing (antibody test) is accessible to all Veterinarians in Australia through Vetpath in Perth WA. For those of you wanting to use homeopathic methods please check the nearest veterinary homeopath to you either through Australian holistic veterinarians or a similar directory in your own country.

It has long been acknowledged that yearly vaccination of animals is probably not necessary and possibly, in some cases, harmful.

There has been much debate about yearly vaccinations both within and without the profession in Australia over the past few years and it is becoming generally accepted that vaccination every 3-5 years will be a likely recommendation. Registered triennial vaccinations for dogs are available at your local vet clinic but in actual fact all vaccines on the Australian market will provide years of protection.

Unfortunately, many boarding kennels and dog clubs have not kept pace with the current trends and still require current yearly vaccination certificates before animals can participate in activities. This is the result of a delay in information dissemination and also a lack of appreciation that vaccines are not always harmless and therefore not advised for some animals.

Paws to Heal, believes that many animals’ health is compromised by repeated yearly vaccination. These animals include ones with chronic illnesses like inflammatory bowel diseases, atopic or allergic skin diseases, severe arthritis, history of prolonged antibiotic or cortisone usage and animals on medications for kidney, liver or heart disease. Animals who have had vaccine reactions or ‘inexplicable illnesses’ post vaccination like immune mediated haemolytic anaemia, polyarthritis or haemorrhagic diseases are also advised against repeated vaccination.

Dr Richard Pitcairn, Holistic Veterinarian, explains vaccinosis very clearly.

Paws to heal can arrange to collect blood samples during a routine health check of your pet, as can all veterinarians. Most animals that have had vaccines within the past six years still demonstrate protective levels of antibodies. This makes the antibody or titre test a viable and safe alternative to yearly vaccination for the purposes of satisfying kennel or club requirements.

The success of your endeavours obviously depend largely on the acceptance of these alternatives by the clubs and kennels so please speak to your kennels and clubs to ascertain their willingness to accept testing and/or nosodes.

Most of these establishments are just trying to do the right thing and it is up to us to let them know what that is. If you are looking for help to address the concerns of your kennel staff then I recommend checking the information available from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) of which Australia is a member.

8 Responses to “The vaccination alternative”

  1. From Samantha

    This is really interesting to read! I have been told by other vets that they COULD do antibody titrations but that they are very expensive (I’ve been quoted approx $400!) and not accurate, so they don’t normally offer them. From the information I’ve been able to research this seems ridiculous! Will be in contact with you about this service 🙂

  2. From Benson Bryan

    After suffering frightening, adverse reactions half way through a course of rabies vaccine (bitten by a sick bat that potentially had lissavirus) and yet still being told I “must finish the course”, I was very grateful for the advice of a professor who introduced me to ‘titre testing’. As it turned out, I had made more than 3 times the amount of antibodies required and hence did not finish the course as advised by said professor, (off the record).
    Since then I lost my beloved Irish Setter who developed severe, intermittent and increasing haemorrhaging through her nose with no cause found, shortly after an annual vaccination with all the trimmings. She was 11 and in excellent health the rest of the time. Alas this was pre internet time so I had no way of corresponding the bleeding with vaccine for sure but did suspect it to be the case. Thank you for making people aware and giving them options.

  3. From Dr Renee

    An excellent article, I agree with your thoughts and I am an advocate of individualised vaccination schedules. Many pets suffer unnecessarily from reactions and side effects when multiple vaccinations are administered year after year, thanks.

  4. From Fred M.

    I was not even aware there were other options. It is true that dogs seem to have way too many vaccinations needed every year and I agree with the other comments, they act different after vaccination.

  5. From Kelly

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this website.. My dog Chilli is a chihuahua and I hate getting him vaccinated. Each time he has an injection he is not his normal sprightly self. Infact it takes 2-3 days for him to come around and even get off the couch and eat some food. I have told my vet this and she says its normal for some dogs to react this way, and that I should keep his vaccinations up yearly… but it is horrible to see him this way!

  6. From Zioah Neaves

    A breath of fresh air, thank you.

  7. From kennel cough

    The yearly shots are still recommended by our vet and breeder, but we also feel that this is perhaps too often for our dog. he is a giant breed and because of this has to be given much larger doses. These big doses scare me as I feel the margin for error is much thinner, and i worry about the health of my beloved dog.

  8. From Douglas Wilson

    Good section on Vaccination alternatives

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