Dog Vaccinations Are Not Harmless

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A routine part of vet visits has traditionally been about vaccinations. For a long time, thinking about vaccines made my head want to explode.

It’s always been tough for me to keep my head clear about puppy vaccinations. Two opposing camps: traditional vets vs. holistic vets, for and against vaccines.

So, yearly all the Shelties got marched in to the vet’s for shots without thinking twice. After all, I trusted my vet or I wouldn’t be taking my guys to him.

But the practice of yearly vaccinations has come under intense scrutiny for the past 10 years or so and I began my research.

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I bet most of you think that the vaccinations are administered every 3 to 4 weeks when they are puppies in order to “booster”, (to steadily increase their immunity) over time. WRONG!

Mother Nature has done quite a good job all by herself.

During the nursing phase of a puppy’s life, immunity against disease is passed on by the mother through her milk.

So much so, that when a 6 week old puppy is inoculated, the vaccine is rendered ineffective because the mother’s antibodies, in the puppy, take care of the injected virus before the puppy’s immune system can kick in.

You just wasted your time and your money.

When does this mother’s immunity actually wear off to the point that a puppy needs the dog vaccinations to create its own immunity? Long ago, no one was really sure, sooooo….

Let’s give them another shot in 3-4 weeks…..

And another…

And another….

At some point ONE of them is bound to be effective, right?

It's the shotgun approach.

Just What Is In That Syringe With The Dog Vaccinations?

Vaccinations contain, obviously, the virus. It is either killed or modified live. The Sheltie is given a tiny amount of this harmful substance, so the body can recognize it and create antibodies against it to fight off infection in the future.

But wait….

Because it is such a small amount of bad guys (dead virus) in that syringe, there needs to be something really irritable in the vaccine to make sure the body takes notice that something bad has arrived.

Enter the adjuvant. That’s the stuff the parvo or distemper virus is mixed with. It is what elicits a more marked immune response from the body.

It was originally thought that the adjuvant was harmless. Now we are beginning to find out that sometimes these vaccinations cause unexpected negative reactions.

So as with many things related to a canine's health, we must weigh the risk of disease with the risk of harm from the drug. Drug companies have no data to back the need for yearly vaccines, yet that is what they print in their literature because they just didn't take the drug trial past the 1 year mark to see how long the vaccine is good for. Vets generally follow approved protocol from the drug companies for vaccine administration, even though it is not required by law.

“Just because”.

Well, “just because” hasn’t worked for me as a reason to do anything since I was about three years old.

Don’t believe me? Ask your vet to show you the scientific studies showing the need for annual vaccinations in dogs. Nope. Nothing, zip, zero, nada.

More and more studies are showing a correlation between autoimmune disease in canines and the high rate of vaccination to which they are subject.

And a little something from the well known Dr Ron Schultz on distemper:

It’s obvious that there are significant risk factors. So much so, that even traditional vets are hedging their bets by vaccinating cats on the leg or tail because at least the limb can be amputated when it develops cancer.

That doesn’t sound harmless to me.

What The Heck Is Going On?

Dogs are developing seizures shortly after being vaccinated. Allergies mysteriously start up, behavioral problems arise.

Being anecdotal, the supporters of vaccinations deny any relation of these issues to vaccines.

Some time ago I had a pup returned to me from an owner who had both rabies and lepto vaccines given on the same day. The owner told me that the pup was sick for 4 days after.

He had diarrhea, lethargy, wouldn’t eat and developed a bout of demodectic mange (an illness triggered by stress in a pup with an immature immune system). Luckily, he rebounded. Hopefully there will be no lasting effects.

Studies are now being performed and are refuting the need for puppy vaccinations, at least to the extent that they have always been given.

Time For A Change

So, I’m turning over a new leaf.

I’m not stupid,

               I’m not careless,

                                 I’m not uncaring,

                                                    I’m not cheap.

I’m just a breeder who is realizing we have been sold a bill of goods that is not in the best interests of the dogs.

So, as I tell my pack of dogs when they are getting out of control…. E-NOUGH! GRRR!

Here's What I Do For Puppy Vaccines

Based on what I have read, puppy vaccinations before 12 weeks old is a waste. What I know from buyers is that most don’t want to wait ‘til 12 weeks old to take their new puppy home. 

I am giving the new owners options:

  • Give the shot at 8 weeks and take the puppy home
  • Take the puppy home at 8 weeks and come back between 9 and 16 weeks of age to get a parvo and distemper vaccinations at no charge.

For owners who don’t want to come back here but prefer to go to their vet’s office for a shot, PLEASE, for the love of Pete, do not get sucked into the vortex of more, more, more. “7 way puppy vaccinations” are totally uncalled for.

The last thing I want is to have my Shelties get ill but at this point I don’t see vaccines avoiding that.

Those given the vaccine can still get parvo. And those vaccinated dogs that get parvo have a greater chance of dying from it compared to non-vaccinated pups.

So I’m biting the bullet, taking the bull by the horns, or whatever other analogy is appropriate, to make the not-so-popular decision to do what I think is right for the Shelties I keep from any litter:

Vaccination at 16 weeks.

One vaccination of parvo and distemper.

That’s it.

And the Adult Shelties??

They get rabies annually for the first and second vaccination and then every 3 years as required by law. NO other vaccinations. 

Lymes Disease vaccine? It doesn't prevent the disease but can make the symptoms less severe to the point you may not notice your dog is feeling ill, but the infection can still cause permanent kidney damage since it wasn't treated. 

Lepto vaccine? Only a few of the strains that a dog can catch are in the vaccine, so like the flu shot for humans, it may not cover your dog for the right variation when the time comes.

Bordetella?  Dogs that come down with "kennel cough" have been infected with a variety of other germs, not just the bordetalla. Further, like the common cold in humans, it is a self limiting disease even without treatment and the vaccine is only effective for about 6 months. Do you really want to vaccinate a dog every 6 months for life?

What You Can Do

There is a better way.

  • You can have your pup’s blood titered to see if there are enough antibodies a few weeks after a vaccine to know it has take effect.
  • You can vaccinate for only those diseases that are relevant to your area or required by law.
  • You can give dog vaccinations for only those few untreatable diseases.
  • You can reduce most vaccinations to once every 3 years instead of yearly.
  • When you have your pup vaccinated for rabies ask for mercury free (thimerosal free)

We are finding that vaccines are effective for at least 3-7 years and sometimes for life.

The American Animal Hospital Association had published Vaccination Guidelines in 2011 which now unfortunately is no longer on their website. However, I did sit down and create a chart of their guidelines for puppy buyers.

If you are interested, click here for the PDF file SUMMARY CHART of the report that I created. It shows the huge number of dog vaccinations usually given.

Then there is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s position on vaccinations. They advise customizing the vaccination schedule rather than using the traditional “one size fits all” approach that is still the norm.

This is a major change in philosphy for vet schools and finally heading in the right direction. But it's like trying to turn the Titanic around. It will take time to get vets willing to rethink how they run their practices.

You can read what other well-known, respected vets such as Jean Dodd, DVM recommend, and again a SUMMARY CHART of her recommendations that I created.

And finally, The World Small Animal Veterinary Association's Vaccination Guidelines.

It's a subject that is a hot topic these days and one that takes time to figure out what is the best for your Sheltie.

I plan on minimum vaccinations for all my Shetland Sheepdogs. What will you do?

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