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 it's 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.
("Cat Tracks," Spring 2006)
Dr. Jean Dodd's vaccination protocol is now being adopted by ALL 27 North American veterinary schools. I highly recommend that you read this. Copy and save it to your files. Print it and pass it out at cat shows, feline magazines, club meetings, give a copy to your veterinarian and groomer, etc..Get the word out.
I would like to make you aware that all 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats. Some of this information will present an ethical & economic challenge to vets, and there will be skeptics. Some organizations have come up with a political compromise suggesting vaccinations every 3 years to appease those who fear loss of income vs. those concerned about potential side effects. Politics, traditions, or the doctor's economic well being should not be a factor in medical decision.
NEW PRINCIPLES OF IMMUNOLOGY
"Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully at 6 months. If a modified live virus vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it produces an immunity which is good for the life of the pet (ie: canine Distemper, Parvo, Feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine, and there is little or no effect. The titer is not "boosted" nor are more memory cells induced." Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions, and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. "There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines." Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk. This natural protection can last 8-14 weeks.
Puppies & kittens should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks. Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine, and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, delay the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart suppress rather than stimulate the immune system. A series of vaccinations is given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age. Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at 1 year 4 mo) will provide lifetime immunity.
NEW RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CATS
Feline vaccine related Fibrosarcoma is a type of terminal cancer related in inflammation caused by rabies & leukemia vaccines. This cancer is thought to affect 1 in 10,000 cats vaccinated.
Vaccines with aluminum adjuvant, an ingredient included to stimulate the immune system, have been implicated as a higher risk. We now recommend a non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats. Testing by Dr. Macy, Colorado State, has shown this vaccine to have the lowest tissue reaction, and although there is no guarantee that a vaccine induced sarcoma will not develop, the risk will be much lower than with other vaccines.
Program injectable 6 mo. flea prevention for cats has been shown to be very tissue reactive, & therefore has the potential of inducing an injection site fiborsarcoma. If your cats develops a lump at the site of a vaccination, we recommend that it be removed ASAP, within 3-12 weeks.
Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccine
This virus is the leading viral killer of cats. The individuals most at risk of infection are young outdoor cats, indoor/outdoor cats and cats exposed to such individuals. Indoor only cats with no exposure to potentially infected cats are unlikely to become infected. All cats should be tested prior to vaccination.
Cats over one year of age are naturally immune to FelV whether they are vaccinated or not, so annual vaccination of adult cats is NOT necessary. The incubation period of Feline leukemia can be over 3 years, so if your cat is in the incubation state of the disease prior to vaccination, the vaccine will not prevent the disease.
Feline Panleukopenia Virus Vaccine
Also called feline distemper is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease of kittens.
It's extremely hardy and is resistant to extremes in temperature and to most available disinfectants.
Although an effective treatment protocol is available, it is expensive to treat because of the serious nature of the disease and the continued presence of virus in the environment, vaccination is highly recommended for all kittens. Cats vaccinated at 6 month or older with either killed or MLV vaccine will produce an immunity good for life. Adult cats do NOT need this vaccine.
Feline Calicivirus/Herpesvirus Vaccine
Responsible for 80-90% of infectious feline upper respiratory tract diseases. The currently available injectable vaccines will minimize the severity of upper respiratory infections, although none will prevent disease in all situations. Intranasal vaccines are more effective at preventing the disease entirely. Don't worry about normal sneezing for a couple of days. Because intranasal vaccines produce an immunity of shorter durations, annual vaccination is recommended.
VACCINES NOT RECOMMENDED
Chlamydia or Pneumonitis
The vaccine produces a short (2 month) duration of immunity and accounts for less than 5% of upper respiratory infections in cats. The risks outweigh the benefits.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis
A controversial vaccine. Most kittens that contract FIP become infected during the first 3 months of life. The vaccine is labeled for use at 16 weeks. All 27 vet schools do not recommend the vaccine.
A new vaccine for feline bordetella has been introduced. Dr. Wolfe of Texas A&M says that Bordetella is a normal flora, and does not cause disease in adult cats. Dr. Lappin of Colorado State says that a review of the Colorado State medical records reveals not one case diagnosed in 10 years.
Giardia is the most common intestinal parasite of humans in North America, 30% or more of all dogs and cats are infected with Giardia. It has now been demonstrated that humans can transmit giardia to dogs and cats and vice versa.
Heartworm preventative must be given year-round in Houston.
VACCINES BADLY NEEDED
New vaccines in development include:
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and cat scratch fever vaccine for cats and Ehrlichia [one of the other tick diseases, much worse than Lymes] for dogs.
Dogs & cats no longer need to be vaccinated against distemper, parvo, & feline leukemia every year. Once the initial series of puppy or kitten vaccinations and first annual vaccinations are completed, immunity from MLV vaccines persists for life. It has been shown that cats over 1 year of age are immune to Feline Leukemia whether they have been vaccinated or not. Imagine the money you will save, not to mention less risks from side effects. PCR rabies vaccine, because it is not adjuvanted, will mean less risk of mediated hemolytic anemia and allergic reactions are reduced by less frequent use of vaccines as well as by avoiding unnecessary vaccines such as K-9 Corona virus and chlamydia for cats, as well as ineffective vaccines such as Leptospirosis and FIP. Intranasal vaccine for Rhiotracheitis and Calici virus, two upper respiratory viruses of cats provide more complete protection than injectable vaccines with less risk of serious reactions.
The AAHA and all 27 veterinary schools of North America are our biggest endorsement for these new protocols.