Understanding Pet Vaccination

~ Keeping Your Pets As Healthy And As Safe As Possible ~
A Free Report for you, created by Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte BVSc (Hons II) (Townsville’s Home Visit Vet) - so you can understand all of the risks and know what you need to do to keep your pets safe from deadly diseases, without causing possible harm from using unnecessary vaccination “boosters”.

~ Any Vaccination You Ever Give Your Pet May Cause Serious Harm ~
It is really important to get your head around this proven fact- a vaccine is a biological medicine with well documented, possibly serious or even deadly side effects. There is a clear risk in giving your pet a vaccine. On the other hand, vaccines save a lot of pets lives. I attend puppies and dogs who die of Parvo every year. So there is also a clear risk in not vaccinating your pets. How do you find a balance? What does your pet really need? Why do a lot of vets tell you that your pets have to be vaccinated every year, without fail? What are your options? Which risk is more important? What do you need to know to make an informed decision? This report will explain vaccination of pets- what it does, how it works, and why you need to understand these issues better. The thing is - we vaccinate our pets to stop them getting sick... but some of the pets we vaccinate will get sick because of the vaccine. A real catch 22 situation!

~ So How Does Vaccination Actually Work? ~
Vaccination works by sensitising your pets system to the little germs (virus or bacteria) that cause the disease. We give a small dose of special, weakened germs by injection (called an MLV vaccine - Modified Live Virus). Your pets’ immune system then reacts to it, and makes special cells that build heaps of little Antibodies. These antibodies latch onto the germs and destroy them as soon as they get into your pet’s system. We can test your pet’s blood 2-3 weeks after vaccination, measure the antibodies, and tell if your pet has actually mounted a protective immune response from the vaccination. Not every dog that is vaccinated will mount an immune response, though more than 95% of healthy animals do so. ***Important Point*** Vaccination does not always lead to protection from disease (especially in younger puppies and kittens). As well, there is a special sort of immunity called Cell Mediated Immunity that works even if your pet doesn’t have measurable antibodies in their blood. Your pet’s body remembers the germ, and if they ever pick up a wild one, they instantly reactivate the special cells that build the right antibodies, make lots of them, and kill all the germs before they can cause illness. The take home message from this is that even if your pet does not show antibodies after vaccination, they may have good protection from disease. Another way that your pet may become immune to disease is to catch the wild, dangerous form- just like in an office, when only 2-3 people out of ten may become sick with a cold that one person spreads. Not all pets get sick when they are infected with a disease. Any pet that has either gotten sick from, or been infected by a disease, will usually be immune to it after that. We vaccinate our pets primarily for the most deadly diseases, with what we call core vaccines- for Parvo Virus, Canine Distemper Virus, and Canine Infectious Hepatis (C3 vaccine) in dogs, and for Cat Flu, Calici Virus, and Feline Herpes Virus (F3 vaccine) in cats. Vaccines for all other diseases are called non-core vaccines and are optional. Kennel cough is a non-core vaccine, which you will need to use if you ever take your dog to kennels. (I do not recommend this vaccine otherwise, as the disease is mild, and not life threatening.) Please note that non core vaccinations do not last for nearly as long as core vaccinations- Kennel cough lasts for a year at most.

~ How Often Should You Vaccinate Your Pet? ~
***Important Point*** These three diseases, in both dogs and cats, after natural infection, provide life long immunity from infection. According to Dr Ronald D Schultz PhD (a world renowned expert in pet vaccination and immunity) “If any animal free of maternal immunity has one dose of a MLV vaccine there is every reason to expect the animal vaccinated will have life long immunity” (my emphasis). Here are some data about the minimum duration of immunity for canine vaccines (how long they give lasting protection), taken from a study by Dr Schultz (2006) . This information may blow your mind a little, as it shows you that the doctrine of yearly core vaccinations (which many vets still push) has absolutely no scientific validity. (To explain the table below- challenge is by infecting the animal with the disease, serology means a positive antibody test.)

Canine Distemper Virus: - Rockport Strain: 7 years (challenge) / 15 years (serology - Onderstepoort Strain: 5 years (challenge) / 9 years (serology) - Canary pox vectored: 3 years (challenge) / 4 years (serology) Canine Infectious Hepatitis: 7 years (challenge) / 9 years (serology) Canine Parvovirus: 7 years (challenge) / 10 years (serology)

Scientific proof that Vaccination gives long lasting immunity is very clear here. Have a good long think about this. Yearly core vaccination is absolutely not necessary, and may harm your pets.

The C3 and F3 vaccines are given all together, in one dose. All three different germs, all mixed together. This is cheaper, and more convenient, but not necessarily better for your pets. The more antigens (different germs) in any one vaccine, the greater the risk that it may trigger autoimmune disease. This risk gets greater every time your pet has another vaccine.

~ Risk Is a Fact of Life, You Just Can’t Escape It! ~
Let’s have a look at the risks. If you don’t vaccinate, your pet has an appreciable risk of catching one of the more deadly diseases - the most common being Parvo Virus in dogs, or Cat Flu in cats. The mortality rate in unprotected young animals can be up to 80% though the chances of your pet being infected with the disease are a lot lower than that. If you do vaccinate, these are some of the possible adverse reactions: Mild Reactions- Lethargy, hair loss, hair color change at injection site, fever, soreness or stiffness, refusal to eat, conjunctivitis, sneezing, oral ulcers Moderate Reactions- Immunosupression, behavioral changes, vitiligo, weight loss (Cachexia), reduced milk production, lameness, granulomas/Abscesses, hives and atopy (Please note- atopy is skin allergy- itchy dogs with rashes etc), facial swelling, respiratory disease, allergic uveitis (Blue Eye) Severe Reactions- Vaccine injection site sarcomas (a nasty cancer), anaphylaxis (allergic shock, very dangerous), arthritis, polyarthritis, autoimmune hemolytic anemia (acute, often deadly), acute damage to/inflammation of major organs such as kidneys, heart, brain etc, disease or enhanced disease which the vaccine was designed to prevent, seizures. Chronic Reactions- All sorts of Autoimmune Diseases (this is where the body literally attacks itself)- such as, but not limited to skin allergies, poor immune function, arthritis, thyroid disease, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, and many rarer ones. ***Important Point*** The Risk of adverse reactions increases with every time your pet is vaccinated. If your pet ever has any adverse reaction to any vaccination, be very cautious about vaccinating them again in the future. Subsequent reactions are likely to get more severe.

~ Puppies and Kittens Are Complicated! ~
If the mother of puppies and kittens is immune to disease (either from vaccination, or after natural infection), she then shares her protective antibodies with her puppies in her first milk (colostrum). This gives the puppies and kittens a short lasting immunity to the diseases their mother has immunity to, which lasts from 8-16 weeks. ***Important Point*** This maternal immunity stops the vaccines from working, until it fades. This is a problem when it comes to vaccinating puppies and kittens, because it is hard to tell when the maternal immunity will fade away. The vaccine will not work until it has, and if you don’t give the vaccine soon after it has faded, your little one is then at risk of contracting the disease, and then getting very sick and quite likely dying. With puppies, the Distemper antibodies fade a lot earlier (about 8-9 weeks) than the Parvo Virus antibodies (8-16 weeks). According to a study by Vanguard, 6 week old puppies only have about 52% chance of being protected from Parvo Virus after a C3 Vaccine. At 9 weeks, this increased to 88%, and in this study, 100% of puppies were protected when vaccinated at 12 weeks old. (However, other studies have found that small percentages of puppies will not be protected from Parvo Virus after vaccination until at least 14-16 weeks of age.) Distemper is very, very rare these days, so your pup has next to no chance of being exposed to it, even if they are in contact with other dogs. This is important, because the risk of acute and chronic reactions increases every time your pet is injected with a vaccine. Vaccinating puppies at 6 weeks means there is a high chance that the Parvo Virus Vaccine will not work. You should always wait until 8 weeks of age before the first vaccine, and never, ever give it to any pet that is younger than 6 weeks. Multiple vaccine doses can even make the response to later vaccines worse! A study by Pfizer had two groups of puppies- group A had one vaccination at 12 weeks, and group B had vaccinations at 8 and 12 weeks. When antibody titers were measured, 100% of the puppies vaccinated at 12 weeks were protected, but only 95% of the group that had two vaccinations were protected. Current guidelines suggest 3 vaccinations for puppies and kittens, each a month apart, starting at 6-8 weeks of age for the first one. The last vaccination must be later than 14 weeks of age, and preferably 16 weeks. It is important to realise that Adenovirus (part of the Kennel Cough vaccines) has been shown to suppress the immune system for 10 days after vaccination. So this makes your puppy more likely to pick up other diseases in this time, and also makes their body less able to respond effectively to the C3 vaccine. You should give kennel cough separately, 2 weeks after the C3 vaccination.

You could follow the same program that Dr Schultz uses with his own pets. One dose of a C3 or F3 MLV vaccine after 12 weeks of age, followed by an antibody titer test 2-3 weeks later to make sure that a protective immune response has been triggered. If found positive, Dr Schultz never vaccinates his pets again. Or as an alternative to vaccination, I use homeopathic nosodes to help reduce the risk of infection from 6-12 weeks of age, before the first vaccination. Homeopathic nosodes may also be used as a primary protection method (and I do so with my own pets) but you must be aware that there is little scientific data to support their efficacy. I believe this method is effective (it is widely accepted and used in alternative/complementary medicine veterinary circles), and I use it with my own pets. However, I do also use the three vaccine course for puppies and kittens in my practice (vaccination schedules are individually tailored depending on each clients needs, and level of fear about their puppies or kittens getting sick). It is very important to get your puppies out into the world as much as possible during their socialization window, which closes at 16 weeks of age. The full course of vaccinations can help that happen, as long as you are aware of and comfortable with the risk of the vaccinations. I also certify cats and dogs of 14-16 weeks or older for 3 years after MLV vaccination, and prefer to titer test before any re-vaccination. If your pet has a positive titer test, I will then re-certify them for three years without re-vaccinating them.

~ So Why Do Many Vets Still Push Clients to Have Core Vaccinations Yearly? ~
The average vet vaccinates every puppy and kitten they see three times, and then again when they are a year old, and then every year, or every three years for life after that. There is no scientific validity to this practice! Dr Schultz states quite clearly; once a puppy or kitten is protected, there is no need for re-vaccination. If a puppy or kitten has received a vaccination at 16 weeks or older, there is around 98% certainty that they will be protected. A titer test will give you certainty, without the risk of harming your pet with an unnecessary vaccination. You only need to vaccinate you pet with the vaccines it needs, as often as required to maintain immunity. This is a lot less often than general veterinary practice would suggest. It may be that many vets fear that they will lose income without yearly vaccinations, and some may think the risk is worth the benefit of every pet having a yearly checkup. ***Important Point*** Yearly health checks are critically important- one human year is the same as 7 years for your pet! So even when you vaccinate less often, remember to make sure you get your pet carefully examined every 6 months, or yearly. It can save their life.

~ So What Do You Do? What’s best for your pet?~
• Make sure your puppies and kittens get their last MLV core vaccine after 14-16 weeks of age. • Check that your pets have a protective immune response by titer testing 2-3 weeks after their last puppy/kitten core MLV vaccination. • If your pets don’t test positive to the titer test, re-vaccinate (maybe with a different brand of MLV core vaccine) and check again. • Recheck your pets immunity status with titer testing every three years after this. • If they titer test negative, consider re-vaccination, and re-test after vaccination. • If your pet ever has any adverse reaction to vaccination, avoid re-vaccination if at all possible. Consider using homeopathic nosodes as an alternative disease protection method. • If you do choose to re-vaccinate your pets, never give the core vaccine more often than three yearly. • Create an indiviualised vaccination schedule that fits your pets health status and risk factors, in partnership with your veterinarian. • If you are at all confused, or need to ask questions, contact Dr Edward right now. • Make an informed choice, and enjoy your pets!
Thanks for reading- if you have any questions, ring me, Dr Edward, on (0428) 278 630. You can find the the “Home Visit Vet” on facebook, or at www.homevisitvet.com.au (You may email me via the contact form on the website).This free report may be shared freely, as long as it is not altered in any way. © Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte BVSc (Hons II) 2013

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