Are We Over Vaccinating Our Pets? By Loretta Baughan|
Meadow has spent the past three years in a fight for his life battling cancer. An aggressive mast cell tumor formed directly on the site of his rabies shot. In an effort to eradicate it, the surgeon removed a chunk of his rear thigh, but the surgery failed to achieve the objective. Since then, Meadow has undergone two subsequent surgeries and in January, his owners, Peter and Kris Christine of Maine, received more devastating news with the diagnosis of two additional mast cell tumors.
Although rare or uncommon, reactions as severe or life-threatening as vaccine injection site sarcomas are believed to be triggered by vaccines. It numbers among dozens of vaccination related health concerns ranging from the mild: lethargy, fever, stiffness - to moderate: immunosuppression, respiratory disease, lameness - to severe: auto-immune conditions, arthritis, myocarditis and seizures - to name a few.
Asked to elaborate on possible adverse health conditions linked to vaccinations, world-renown and highly respected research scientist, Dr. W. Jean Dodds DVM, offered the following: "The clinical signs associated with vaccine reactions typically include fever, stiffness, sore joints and abdominal tenderness, susceptibility to infections, neurological disorders and encephalitis, collapse with auto agglutinated red blood cells and icterus (autoimmune hemolytic anemia) or generalized petechiae and ecchymosed hemorrhages (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia). Liver enzymes may be markedly elevated and liver or kidney failure may occur by itself or accompany bone marrow suppression.
Vaccination has been associated with the development of transient seizures in puppies and adult dogs. Post-vaccinal polyneuropathy is a recognized entity associated occasionally with the use of distemper, provirus, rabies and presumably other vaccines. This can result in various clinical signs including muscular atrophy, inhibition or interruption of neuronal control of tissue and organ function, muscular excitation, incoordination and weakness, as well as seizures. Vertain breeds or families of dogs appear to be more susceptible to adverse vaccine reactions, particularly post-vaccinal seizures, high fevers and painful episodes of hypertrophy osteodystrophy (HOD)."
"It numbers among dozens of vaccination related health concerns ranging from the mild: lethargy, fever, stiffness - to moderate: immunosuppression, respiratory disease, lameness - to severe: auto-immune conditions, arthritis, myocarditis and seizures - to name a few."
"Vaccination of pet and research dogs with polyvalent vaccines containing rabies virus or rabies vaccine alone was recently shown to induce production of antithyroglobulin auto antibodies, a proactive and important finding with implications for the subsequent development of hypothyroidism." Dr. Dodds concludes, "Furthermore, injection site fibro sarcomas have recently been documented in dogs - as well as cats."
After receiving her Labradorís initial diagnosis, Kris educated herself, became instrumental in changing a Maine state rabies vaccination law and co-founded the Rabies Challenge Fund with Dr. W. Jean Dodds DVM of Hemopet in California. Dr. Ronald D. Schultz PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, has volunteered his services and will be conducting the study at UW. This is a vital research project focused on determining the duration of protective immunity and establishing the scientific proof required to change rabies vaccination laws from current one to three year mandated re-vaccinations, depending on individual states - to five, or even as long as seven years.
It will also study rabies vaccine adjuvants and establish a much needed reporting system for rabies vaccine adverse reactions.
Viewed as a world-wide expert on the topic, veterinary immunologist, Dr. Ronald Schultz conducted challenge studies which formed the base for the American Animal Hospital Association's 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines. "Vaccination should not be considered an innocuous procedure, since vaccines may have harmful consequences to patients as well as owners." Dr. Schultz cautions, "Thus use those vaccines that are required, give them only as often as necessary and vaccinate as many cats and dogs in the population as possible."
Depending on who a person asks, there doesnít seem to be a consensus as to guidelines for puppy vaccinations, so I asked Dr. Schultz at what age should a puppy be given itís first vaccination?
"It is not surprising to see conflicting recommendations as there is no one correct vaccination program. The program should be designed to meet the specific needs of the individual animal or, in the case of puppies, the litter. In general, if it is a litter of puppies that are from a pet dog or small private kennel, start vaccinating at 8 to 10 weeks, then revaccinate every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppies are at least 14 to 16 weeks of age." Dr. Schultz noted that this reflects a recent change in recommendations.
"In larger commercial kennels where the risk of disease is greater, it is better to start at 5 to 7 weeks and to revaccinate every two to three weeks until the puppies are 16 weeks of age. The only vaccines that are recommended at ages less than 12 weeks are: canine distemper, canine provirus, canine adenovirus - with or without canine parainfluenza (a 4 or 5 way product). The rabies vaccine should be given at 12 to 16 weeks of age. Any other vaccines (such as Lepto, Lyme) should not start prior to 12 weeks of age, if they are used. Intranasal kennel cough, if used, can be given anytime during the 5 to 16 week period. Canine corona virus and giardia vaccine are not recommended at any age."
"Vaccination should not be considered an innocuous procedure, since vaccines may have harmful consequences to patients as well as owners." Dr. Schultz cautions"
"After the puppy series, the core vaccines should be given again at one year of age - then not more often than every three years." Current law indicates three years as the maximum interval for rabies - with annual requirements in some states. The "core vaccines" consist of canine distemper (CDV), canine parvovirus-2 (CPV-2), canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), - along with rabies virus (RV). All other vaccines fall into the "non-core" category and should only be administered if a dog is at high risk and then, only the vaccine that is needed.
"I generally recommend starting the puppy program at 8 to 9 weeks, then revaccinating at 3 to 4 week intervals so the last dose is at 16 weeks or older. However, there are many factors to consider, such as risk of disease, when the puppies are going to be sold, whether they are going to travel by air to their new owners, the needs of the owner, etc..." Dr. Schultz advises. "My own pets are vaccinated once or twice as pups and kittens, then never again - except for rabies, which is done every three years now that a three-year product is available. I have used this program since 1974 without incident of an infectious disease in my pets or the pets of my children and grandchildren."
"An important question to ask yourself is: "What do we do to ensure that children who are vaccinated at an early age, usually less than six years of age, still have immunity at 20, 40, 60 or 90 years of age?" Nothing! We donít measure titers in people and we donít routinely vaccinate adults. We rely on the memory cells of the immune system."
That statement may come as a surprise to many, but it certainly makes perfect sense. And it serves to underline why this study is so important. Vaccinations should never be given with an attitude that theyíre harmless or the more the better. Sadly, many dogs are over vaccinated. As caring owners, we try to do our best in caring for our pets. Part of that responsibility is to become educated in matters that pertain to their health and in taking a pro-active role in the decision making process. As with all matters involving the health care of your pet, discuss it with your veterinarian.
Get involved. "(Tell) others about the program and... inform the town or city or region where they live about the need to have more appropriate rabies vaccine requirements, a mandatory centralized reporting system for adverse rabies reactions and to accept waivers of booster vaccination, when justified, on a case-by-case basis," suggests Dr. Dodds.
And assist with the study through a financial contribution. "We have $70,770 in the fund and the study will start as soon as we have raised the first yearís budget of $177,000." Mrs. Christine adds, "...we are a 501(c)(3) charity, IRS registration EIN#84-6390682 and donations are tax deductible."
Donations can be made to the Rabies Challenge Fund by clubs, groups or individuals. What better way to honor a friend, family member or cherished pet than by making a donation to a project that will make a difference in the lives of so many beloved pets... perhaps, even your own.
Loretta Baughan is the founder, editor and publisher of Spaniel Journal. She is an award winning professional photographer, webdesigner and owner of
the Autumnskye kennel. She raises, trains and hunts her English springer spaniels. She is an active member of the Northeast Wisconsin Spaniel Club. Loretta resides
in northern Wisconsin, with her husband, Steve, and their three children.