Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. The author is not a veterinarian and you should consult your own veterinarian before considering anything described in this article. The author is not responsible for any harm inflicted to any animal or person following any parts of the following statements.
A topic that has bothered me for while, is the apparent over-vaccination of our pets. We have been convinced by our veterinarians, that annual booster shots for our cats and dogs are normal and we should do it "just to be safe." This has never really made sense to me, and even though there are laws requiring regular rabies shots, that doesn't mean all vaccinations are good for anyone—except the bank account of our vet. While most vets are ethical, animal-loving people, there is a financial incentive to vaccinate rather more than less—about 50% of their income stems from vaccinations.
The practice of annual booster shots was to my knowledge a result of veterinarian's attempts to get people to do annual checkups with their pets, which is generally a good idea. However, too many people skipped those checkups, and so vets started the booster recommendations to get people to bring their pets in at least once a year. However, last time I saw a booster shot given, it was by the office staff and the vet didn't even make an appearance—so much for that.
In people, vaccinations like tetanus usually last for 10 years and hepatitis or small pox vaccines are considered to last a lifetime. The principles behind vaccinations for people and animals are 100% identical and studies done at the University of Wisconsin's Veterinary Teaching Hospital show, that i.e. vaccines for the parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis last at least 7 years. This makes you wonder how much sense these annual boosters make.
Given the alarmingly high cancer rates in cats and even more so in dogs—their number one cause of death—an increasing number of veterinarians realize that poor nutrition and over-vaccinations are the main contributors to this sorry state. And while many vets still send out annual booster shot postcards and laws are slow to change, veterinary universities caught on and are now teaching more restraint.
If you're like me and want to make sure your pets are protected but not harmed, you might find the following approach appealing:
- I am only vaccinating my pets against incurable and/or fatal diseases. Anything, that can be easily treated—should it ever occur—doesn't deserve a shot. I.e. Bordetella or Corona virus.
- No more booster shots. Instead, run annual titer tests, to check if my pets still have humoral (anti-body) immunity against the important diseases.
- Once I see the humoral immunity gone, I will reevaluate, as there still is mucosal and cellular immunity—they are just not easily testable.
Here my personal list of vaccinations:
The special one on the list is obviously Rabies, as this vaccine is legally mandated in many places and required to obtain a license for your dog. I recommend you get the three-year version of the vaccine, so you can reduce the number of shots over your pet's lifetime until someone changes the law. It makes sense to check with your local animal services office, if a titer test for rabies anti-bodies will be acceptable to them, as it shows that the original vaccine is still doing its job and a booster isn't necessary. If I can avoid even one unnecessary vaccine shot, it'll be better for my pets.
If you are as concerned about over-vaccinations as me, let your vet know and discuss options. The more you educate yourself beforehand, the better your discussion will be.
If you want to do your own research—which I strongly recommend—I suggest you start by reading "Stop the Shots!: Are Vaccinations Killing Our Pets?" by John Clifton. It provides a good starting point and contains a number of additional resources on this topic. I did learn a lot from this book. I read it in about 1 hour and gained many new insights.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. The author is not a veterinarian and you should consult your own veterinarian before considering anything described in this article. The author is not responsible for any harm inflicted to any animal or person following any parts of the preceeding statements.
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Ralf Weber is a certified dog trainer (IACP CDT, CDTA) and behaviorist. A professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and an AKC evaluator for Canine Good Citizen, Community Canine and Urban Canine certifications.