The Truth About Pet Vaccinations

by Dr. Larry Siegler

Most guardians have never been told the truth about vaccinations.  On the contrary, you are likely to get annual notices from your veterinarian that your companion is “due for their annual booster shots”.  The evidence against vaccinating, however, is overwhelming.  Most veterinarians just choose to ignore the research because they don’t want to lose the income from giving booster shots to all those animals each year.

Vaccinations represent a major stress to the immune system.  They can not only cause side-effects and allergic reactions, they also contribute significantly to long term chronic disease.  Chronic health problems frequently appear following vaccination including skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, upper respiratory infections, irritable bowel syndromes, neurological conditions including aggressive behavior and epilepsy, auto-immune diseases and cancer.

I have been practicing veterinary medicine for over 20 years and I see sicker animals at a younger age now than when I began.  It is more and more common to see cancer in dogs and cats under 5 years of age.  Autoimmune diseases are on the rise as well.  Our companions are suffering from generations of over-vaccination, which combined with inadequate nutrition, poor breeding practices and environmental stresses are leaving each generation more susceptible to congenital disorders and chronic disease.

Vaccinations do help prevent serious illnesses, but they should be used with restraint.  Before vaccinating, consider the risk.  If your cat is indoor only and will never be exposed to unvaccinated animals, the risk of infection is low.  The decision about vaccinations is very individual and should be guided by your own research on the subject before you go to the veterinarian.

Puppies and kittens should not be vaccinated until at least 12 weeks of age.  Their developing immune systems are especially vulnerable to the stress of vaccines.  Request individual vaccines and vaccinate at least three weeks apart if possible.  Until 12 weeks of age keep your companion safe by avoiding exposure to public areas such as parks and pet stores.  Keep them close to home and only expose them to animals you know are healthy.    For puppies consider parvovirus and distemper at 12-15 weeks, and not until after 6 months of age for rabies.   For kittens – consider one Panleukopenia combination (FRCP).  Again, if available, give the vaccine components separately spaced three to four weeks apart.  Feline leukemia and FIP vaccines may not be necessary for your cat.  Consider its lifestyle and environment.  IF your cats go outside and you have rabies in your area, give a rabies vaccine at six months of age. (Legal requirements vary from state to state.)

Vaccinations do not need “boosting”.  Studies have shown that a single vaccination for parvovirus, distemper and panleukopenia results in long-term protection from disease. Simple blood tests can determine if your companion’s antibody levels for parvovirus and distemper remain high enough to resist infection.  Next time your veterinarian suggests a booster shot, request the blood test first.  (Rabies may be required by law every three years.  Check the regulations in your state.)

I do not recommend vaccinations for Bordetella, corona virus, leptospirosis or Lyme vaccines unless these diseases are endemic locally or at a specific kennel.  The currently licensed leptospira bacterins do not contain the serovars causing the majority of clinical leptospirosis today, so it is generally not a useful vaccine.

Homeopathic Nosodes are an alternative some guardians are using when choosing not to vaccinate.  They can also be used before three months of age if an animal is at risk.  Many guardians use these homeopathic medicines to help protect their companions against Parvovirus, Distemper, Kennel Cough, Panleukopenia and FIP.  Some nosodes seem to work more effectively than others.  Homeopathic nosodes are not vaccinations.  They do not produce titers against these diseases like a vaccination.  They do seem to offer some protection by reducing the severity of illness if the animal is exposed, even if they don’t prevent it.

Never vaccinate a sick or weakened animal.  If your puppy or kitten is showing signs of allergies or skin problems, WAIT.  Vaccinating an already compromised immune system is almost sure to compound the problem!

Educate yourself.  Your veterinarian cannot make this decision for you, nor should they.  You are your companion’s guardian.  It is your responsibility to give them the best care you can by researching and carefully weighing your decisions about their healthcare.

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