The pros and cons of vaccines for dogs

Vaccines introduce viruses into the immune system of our dogs each time they are injected. The purpose of injecting a virus into your dogs system is to expose the system to the virus but avoid the illness that accompanies the virus when introduced naturally.

Both live and dead viruses are used in vaccines for dogs, with live viruses offering a more naturally similar character to the actual disease. Live vaccines seem to provide more protection against contracting the dreaded disease but some veterinarians say that dead viruses are preferable to preclude contraction of the disease as a result of the vaccination.

Regular vaccination of dogs has for years played a part in keeping our dogs healthy and supporting the cause of public health. Using the rabies vaccine as an example, studies have demonstrated that when dogs receive rabies vaccinations, there is a corresponding decrease in the reported incidents of rabies in people.

Vaccines are generally classified as either core vaccines or non-core vaccines chosen by recommendation.

Examples of core or required vaccines are canine distemper, canine, parvovirus, canine hepatitis, and adenovirus.

Examples of non core vaccines are bordatella for kennel cough, canine parainfluenza, Lyme disease, canine coronavirus, giardia vaccine and rattlesnake vaccine.

Veterinarians are now considering a myriad of factors prior to recommending a vaccine protocol. For example, if a dog is always at home, a vaccine to protect against kennel cough is not necessary. Lyme disease vaccinations are not needed for dogs that don’t live in the regions of the country where this problem does not present itself.

A variety of opinions exist as to the efficacy and advantage of frequent vaccinations. Some of the arguments against frequent, excessive and annual vaccination include adverse consequences, suppressed immunology, and impairment of long term health resulting in a shorter life span for dogs.

Vaccine manufacturers have been reformulating their vaccines to last for three years as opposed to the previous one year norm. This attempt by the manufacturers is in response to calls by advocates and some veterinarians who have called for a three year vaccine life and fewer vaccinations.

This on its face seems to have some merit. But vaccine experts are not easily convinced. For example the American Animal Hospital Association ( AAHA,) reports that :

“…there is growing professional and public awareness that vaccine products are not as benign as first believed, and controversy exists as to duration of immunity and frequency of administration. Vaccine administration is a medical procedure with which, as with any medical decision, there are benefits as well as attendant risks”

Vaccines have beneficial qualities as acknowledged by the AAHA. A good example of this would be the previously mentioned rabies vaccine. When utilized on a three year interval, the rabies vaccine has had a positive impact on dog and public health.

But the excessive and frequent vaccination of our dogs can be risky. Dogs that are vaccinated needlessly are subject to more diseases and disorders than dogs that are not excessively vaccinated. This is because the immune system of the dog has been compromised.

The approach of extending the duration of time for vaccine life has been recently been extended by veterinary teaching hospitals and some private veterinarians. A gradual awareness is emerging that when a dog is bombarded with vaccines, the attack on the dog’s system and her long term health may outweigh any potential benefit from the vaccination protocol.

The following view is offered by Dr Robert Pitcairn, D.V.M, PhD in his book “Natural Health for Dogs and Cats “where he states: “Vaccinations are not always effective, and they may cause long-lasting health disturbances.” p. 321

Dr Pitcairn further states that vaccinations may ” cause an acute disease or a chronic health problem.” p.322 Examples of conditions that may be attributed to the introduction of vaccines in dogs include, but is not limited to, immune disorders, thyroid problems, allergies, and skin conditions.

As the debate continues there seems to be a gradual move in the direction of fewer vaccinations. Many veterinarians now ascribe to the philosophy that a more natural, common sense approach to vaccinations is in order, as opposed to blanket vaccinations for all dogs on a regular basis.

Dogs that are not boarded probably don’t need a vaccination against kennel cough. Lyme disease is prevalent only in a few areas of the U.S. Unless you live in one of those regions, this vaccination is not necessary.

A typical visit to a veterinary office may result in recommendations for up to sixteen vaccinations for your dog. Before giving you veterinarian your consent, ask him to explain the possible risks associated with each vaccine