September/October 2011 issue

On July 24, 2011, Reporter Clifton French warned South Bend residents that a deadly dog disease is on the rise. We see these dire warnings every year.

Area veterinarians and animal shelters are seeing more cases of Parvovirus, a disease that’s extremely contagious and can prove fatal to dogs. Veterinarian Martin Langhofer, of Western Veterinarian Clinic, said something as simple as a walk through your neighborhood could cause your dog to contract the disease.”

“It is transmitted by direct or indirect contact with dog feces. Places like dog parks and ken- nels are hotbeds for the disease. People can also track the disease into their homes on their shoes, and birds can carry it on their feet to places like a dog’s water bowl.  If a dog is in- fected, Langhofer said, it can take a lot of time and money to treat.  “Sometimes it’s a three-, four-, five-day treatment, sometimes a week,” he said, “so it can be very expensive if we do intravenous or the hospitalized treatment.  … Some dogs make it and some dogs don’t.  A simple vaccine prevents dogs from getting parvo. Treatment can cost as much as $2,000, while a normal vaccine costs less than $100.”

The media portrays Parvo as a maniacal stalker lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to claim your dog as a victim. With this type of media coverage, it is difficult not to fear Parvo.  But if you look at the facts surrounding it, you will be less susceptible to the media hype and begin making more intelligent vac- cination decisions based on science instead of on fear. Once you do, you may find that what at first glance appears to be a simple vaccine is decidedly complicated.

Parvo Vaccination:  Panacea Or Pandora’s Box?

There are five criteria that should be involved when making any vaccine decision. A vaccine would be a good idea if the following five criteria were met:

  1.  The disease has a high mortality rate
  2. There is no known cure for the disease
  3.  The vaccine for the disease is known to be effective
  4.  The vaccine for the disease is considered safe
  5.  The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks

Let’s take a look at these criteria and begin to pull away the layers of confusion surround- ing Parvo vaccination and puppy vaccination schedules in general.

Mortality Rate

Despite the media scares and dire veterinary warnings, Parvo has a survival rate of about 85%.  That doesn’t mean 15% of puppies die from Parvo, it means that 15% of puppies who are exposed to it – and actually catch it – will die. The survival rate however, is greatly influenced by the treatment options.

Parvo Treatment

There are many things you can do to increase your puppy’s chances of survival, should he catch Parvo. It is important to remember that Parvovirus is essentially dysentery:  solve the diarrhea and you will cure the Parvo.

There are many herbs and homeopathic treat- ments that are very effective at treating Parvo symptoms.   Choices from commercially pre- pared products like Parvaid to simple homeo- pathic remedies and nosodes are not only inexpensive and easy to do at home, but puppies treated this way have a higher survival rate than puppies treated with traditional methods including Tamiflu. Knowing the symptoms of Parvo and starting treatment immediately will also increase your puppy’s chances of survival. Part III of this article will discuss the most effective ways to treat Parvo at home.

Vaccine Efficacy

Data from the Virbac Disease Watchdog show that 28% of vaccinated puppies and 11% of vaccinated adults still get Parvo.  There are a variety of reasons for this but the most com- mon is the presence of maternal antibodies.

When puppies are very young, they are pro- tected from disease by ingesting their mother’s first milk, called colostrum. This rich milk contains maternal antibodies against disease which the mother passes down to her puppies. The puppy’s immune system is not fully mature, or active, until it is around six months of age, so the maternal antibodies provide passive immunity against disease for each puppy.

When a puppy with a reasonable amount  of maternal antibodies is vaccinated, the mater- nal antibodies will essentially inactivate the vaccine, just as it would a real virus. What they can’t do however, is protect the puppy against the chemical soup in vaccines including mer- cury, aluminum and formaldehyde in addition to foreign proteins and possibly retroviruses. The adjuvants are designed to stimulate an ex- aggerated immune response, to make certain that the body responds to the small amount of virus contained in the vaccine. Unfortunately, this heightened reaction can also cause auto- immune disorders which are affecting an in- creasingly large number of dogs.

Vets and pet owners used to believe that ‘more is better’ when it came to vaccines, but most now know that there are very real dangers associated with vaccination. So, when design- ing a puppy vaccination schedule, the goal is to catch the small window in time when the maternal antibodies are low enough that they will not block the vaccine, but the puppy is young enough that he is not put in unneces- sary danger from exposure to viruses in the environment.

Maternal  antibodies weaken over time but the  rate  of weakening differs between different dogs and even different breeds. The maternal antibodies for Parvo are unpredictable in their decline and can last as long as 26 weeks in some dogs. This lack of predictability is why puppies are vaccinated every two to four weeks until 16 weeks of age.

The important point is that it only takes one vaccination to protect a puppy from Parvo (or any other virus).  Vets are fond of stating that the first vaccine primes the immune system and the second one creates the immunity. This is rubbish. If delivered when the maternal antibodies are low enough to allow an immune response, it only takes one vaccination to protect your puppy and this fact has been com- mon knowledge for over thirty years.

Another reason for vaccine failure is exposure to the actual virus.   Whether  you vaccinate or not, your puppy should not be exposed to areas where Parvo can be transmitted.   This includes dog parks, busy pet stores and, the most likely place to be exposed to Parvo, the veterinary clinic.

By giving your puppy a series of vaccinations, not only are you needlessly creating a greater toxin load and subsequent illness, you are also exposing him to the environment in which he is most likely to pick up Parvo.

Vanguard tested the Parvovirus response in their  combination  High Titer vaccine. They vaccinated puppies at 6 weeks, 9 weeks and 12 weeks of age and then measured their response to the vaccine by measuring their titers to Parvovirus. At 6 weeks, only 52% of the puppies had seroconverted (developed an immune response).  At 9 weeks, 88% of the  puppies showed a response to the vaccine. At 12 weeks, 100% of the puppies were protected.

The practice of vaccinating puppies at 6 to 8 weeks of age is a high-risk, low-value proposition because the chances of the maternal antibodies blocking the vaccine are quite high, meaning you are potentially exposing your puppy to Parvo by taking him to the vet clinic, for a limited chance of vaccine success. It would be a lot safer for your puppy if you were to socialize him on the streets and keep him away from the vet’s  office or dog park until he is old enough that you know the vaccine is likely to work.

Vaccine failure can also result if the puppy is sick or stressed at the time of vaccination. Once again, it makes little sense to vaccinate a puppy at eight weeks of age. It is normally at this age when puppies are removed from their dam and litter mates, are thrown into a different home environment, a different routine and fed different foods.  The chances of the puppy being sick or stressed at this point in his life are quite high, meaning that vaccine failure is more likely to happen at this age.

Vaccine failure can also happen in puppies with suppressed immune  systems.  This can occur if your puppy is on steroids or antibiotics.  Deworming can also stress the young puppy’s immune system. Finally, vaccines are a very large stress on the immune system.

The Canine Adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) vaccine has  been  shown  to  cause immunosuppression in puppies for ten days after vaccination (Phillips et al, Can J Vet Res 1989). This, coupled with the fact that there have been zero cases of Canine Infectious Hepatitis in North America in at least 12 years, means that the CAV-2 component  in vaccines delivers little value at a pretty large cost.  If you decide to vaccinate your puppy at 6 weeks, then it is just as likely the vaccine won’t work as it will but now he will be immunosuppressed  and wide open to all manner of disease for the next ten days. Even if the vaccine does work, it will not protect your puppy immediately, meaning he is very likely to become ill if he is exposed to even small amounts of disease.

On a related note, polyvalent vaccines (containing  more  than  one  disease component) also increase the risk of vaccine failure.  The more antigens contained in a vaccine, the more viral replication the puppy will experience at once, meaning his immune system might be stretched to the limit, allowing one of the antigens to develop into full blown disease – and the risk is even greater in small dogs. The immune system is a finite resource and can only be stretch so far so it is safest to avoid giving multiple antigens on one vaccine (Moore et al, JAVMA, 2005).

Finally, improper  nutrition  can increase the risk of vaccine failure.   So if an animal is stressed, for example, the body will be using up resources of Vitamin C, Vitamin B5 and zinc, all of which feed stress hormones.  If these are depleted, and vaccines are designed to stress the body into mounting an immune response and developing antibodies to viruses, then (without the appropriate nutrients) the stress response cannot happen. In this circumstance, the vaccine is unlikely to work.

Because Modified Live Vaccines (MLV) are designed to replicate in the host over a period of about ten days, the virus can multiply to the point where the immunocompromised  puppy will develop the disease you vaccinate against – because there is no or little immune system to recognise and defeat it. It is likely that most disease outbreaks occur in animal shelters because the stressed and malnourished dogs are routinely vaccinated – and vaccinated with polyvalent vaccines.   Because their already depleted immune systems are stretched to the limit, they get the disease they’re vaccinated against, and then go on to infect other dogs.

Vets and immunologists are on record as saying that MLV cannot create disease in the host, that return to virulence can’t happen with today’s vaccines.  The problem is, they have no way of proving this because, with the exception of Rabies, nobody is checking to see whether the strain of virus infecting the dogs is the same as that from the vaccine. If they are not tracing the strain of the infectious disease, how can they say with any degree of accuracy that breaks have not occurred with the Parvo or Distemper vaccine?

Polio vaccination has suffered numerous breaks. In 2009, the number of children paralyzed by Polio caused by the mutated oral vaccine doubled from 2008. The scary fact is that the strain of Polio used to make the vaccine, type 2, had been declared eradicated in 1999 by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  Thanks to mutated  vaccines, it is now back from the dead, waking up in vaccinated populations.

Vaccine Safety

Vaccine safety is intrinsically linked to the above factors that determine efficacy. It is difficult at best to determine what the rate of adverse reactions is to vaccines because they are so rarely reported.  In addition, the cases that are reported are the obvious links where puppies develop hives or hydrocephalus within 24 hours of the vaccine.  What goes largely undetected is the chronic disease that vaccines create which can take days, weeks, months or even years to develop. But the lengthy interval between vaccination and chronic disease in no way means there is no relationship between the two.

The Purdue  studies, although labelled as inconclusive at the time, reveal some unique insights into how vaccination can manifest as chronic disease.  In this study, the vaccinated but not the unvaccinated dogs developed autoantibodies to many of their own biochemicals including:

  • Fibronection  (Involved in tissue repair, cell multiplication and growth, and differentiation between tissues and organs),
  • Laminin (Involved in many cellular activities including the intelligence, proliferation and movement of cells),
  • Cardiolipin (Frequently found in patients with Lupus Erythematosus and other autoimmune  diseases.  Cardiolipin is also significantly associated with fetal loss and neurological conditions),
  • Collagen  (Provides  structure  to  bones and soft tissue and likely the reason why a high number of dogs developed mobility problems shortly after vaccination in the Canine Health Concern 1997 study),
  • DNA (Yes, the vaccinated dogs developed autoantibodies to their own DNA).

Although this should have sounded some pretty serious alarms, the scientific community found good homes for the dogs, decided that long-term follow-up wasn’t necessary, and said more research is needed before any action is considered.  At the same time however, the AVMA Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force initiated several studies to find out why 160,000 cats each year in the USA develop terminal cancer at their vaccine injection sites. Despite the acknowledgement that vaccine-induced cancer exists, the Task Force decided the best plan of action was to continue vaccinating and just figure out which cats were most likely to die.  They also suggested that cats receive their vaccinations in their tails as it would be easier to lop them off should they develop cancer from the vaccines.

Sadly, dogs are not immune to this risk.  In 2003, the Journal of Veterinary Medicine carried an Italian study which showed that dogs also develop vaccine-induced cancers at their injection sites. We already know it happens in humans too, since the Salk Polio vaccine was shown to carry a monkey retrovirus (from cultivating it on monkey organs, just as the distemper vaccine was cultivated on infected cat organs), that produces inheritable cancer. The monkey virus SV40 repeatedly turns up in human cancer sites.

Dr. Larry Glickman, who spearheaded the Purdue Study, says:  “Our ongoing studies of dogs show that following routine vaccination, there is a significant rise in the level of antibodies dogs produce against their own tissues. Some of these antibodies have been shown to target the thyroid gland, connective tissue… redblood cells, DNA, etc.    I do believe that the heart conditions in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels could be the end result of repeated immunizations  by vaccines containing tissue culture contaminants that cause a progressive immune response directed at connective tissue in the heart valves.”

Parvo Vaccination:  Risks vs. Benefits

Should you vaccinate your puppy for Parvo or should you forego the vaccination? Ultimately, the decision is yours.  What is crucial is that the decision is made on science and not on the false belief that a simple vaccine will make you feel warm and fuzzy about your puppy’s health and longevity.  The fact of the matter is, you simply can’t  eliminate risk for your puppy – you can only choose which risk you can live with.

You need to make your own vaccine decision because, in the end, you must deal with the consequences.  Parvo is very much like a deranged serial killer, lurking on every sidewalk, in every dog park, in every training class, stalking our puppies and claiming random lives. The best way to avoid serial killers would be to stay inside and never leave the house. That would definitely reduce your risk of being a victim.  But in return, the price you pay is quality of life. You will miss out on walks in the park, on movies and the theatre, on nice dinners out or visits with family and friends.

The vaccine decision is the same trade-off.  If you vaccinate your puppy for Parvo, you are reducing the risk that he may be taken from you suddenly and violently.  But this comes at a price and the price is chronic disease which directly affects his quality of life and can sometimes even shorten his life. The price you pay for Parvo vaccination is an increased risk of cancer, of hypothyroidism, of allergies, of Cushings disease, Addisons disease, bowel disease, joint disease, heart disease, etc. Parvo is tragic when it hits, but these diseases can be equally devastating – and ultimately, the number of dogs claimed by cancer alone far, far outweighs those claimed by Parvo.

Parvo Prevention

If you decide to not vaccinate your puppy for Parvo, there are things you can do to decrease his risk of exposure.  Homeopathic nosodes can be an effective way to protect your puppy from this disease. Avoiding vaccination in the first place is one of the best things you can do to make sure his immune system is in prime health.  If your puppy’s immune system if firing on all four cylinders, he will be able to effectively battle Parvovirus should he catch it – or not become ill if exposed to it.  In fact, the survival rate for unvaccinated puppies is higher than for vaccinated puppies because they are not immunocompromised.

As  discussed,  proper  nutrition   and  avoiding immunosuppressive drugs and toxins is also paramount  to his success at both avoiding and recovering from Parvo.  Additionally, it is important to make sure your puppy does not have a parasite overload because Parvo is much more difficult to treat in puppies with worms, giardia or coccidia.  This does not mean to worm your puppy routinely because this type of toxin can stress his immune system.  It means to keep your puppy clean, run fecal exams, and if he shows signs of parasites, then you can make the decision to treat him with herbs, diatomaceous earth, or more po- tent drugs.  It is important  to note that even herbal wormers can stress the liver and immune system of dogs and puppies, so it is best to treat only if there is a problem.

If you choose to vaccinate, do so in a manner that gives your puppy the best chance of success with the least chance of toxic overload. Current vaccination programs that begin at six to eight weeks of age, with a vaccination every three weeks or so, are hardly based on science. They are based on the premise that vaccines aren’t really that harmful and that puppy owners would rather just pay for the cheaper vaccines than to run a titer test.  If puppy owners realized the dangers of every vaccine, and the potentially high cost of associated vaccine-induced chronic disease, most would jump at the chance to titer in lieu of multiple vaccinations. Getting back to statistics, at nine weeks, 88% of the puppies in the Vanguard study showed a response to the Parvo vaccine. At 12 weeks, 100% of the puppies were protected.  Here is one case scenario where titers actually have good predictive value.  If you vaccinate your puppy once, and as close to 12 weeks as you are comfortable, and then run a titer three weeks later, then the titer has the ability to determine whether your puppy has seroconverted or not. If there is any amount of circulating antibody, no matter how small, then your puppy is protected for life and there is no need for further vaccination.

Regardless of what your vet may claim or what you read on Google, your puppy does not need a booster once he acquires protection – immunity is an all-or-nothing thing when it comes to viruses (with the exception of bacterial viruses such as Leptospirosis).  Like the Chicken Pox or Measles, you are either immune or you are not.  Some people developed their immunity through exposure and some developed immunity through vaccination. Regardless, once exposed to either the actual virus or the vaccine, you are protected for life and so is your puppy. You must however wait at least three weeks before running the titer to know if your puppy is protected:  the vaccine will partially inhibit titer levels until the immune system adjusts and this takes three to four weeks.

This is a very reasonable approach to vacci- nation and gives your puppy the best chance of avoiding more than one vaccination.  The vaccine itself is also of great significance and don’t be afraid to question your vet on which vaccine he intends to use on your puppy.  It is important that there are as few antigens in the vaccine as possible –vaccines with only one or two antigens in them will both increase the chance that your puppy seroconverts and reduce the risk of adverse event.  Sadly, there is no longer a monovalent Distemper vaccine. Schering-Plough however, still produces a Parvo-Distemper only vaccine and this would be the best choice for puppies.

If you run a titer after the initial vaccination (which is hopefully not at six to eight weeks), and your puppy has responded to the Distemper but not the Parvo, then there are plenty of monovalent Parvo vaccines on the market including Neopar, Schering-Plough Intervet or Pfizer. Make sure your vet has these in stock before you get your puppy so you are prepared.  If you have to buy the whole lot to get your single vaccine, then buy the whole lot and consider it a donation to a good cause and give your vet permission to use it on other puppies.

It is important that you understand the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Parvo vaccination.  It is not a simple shot that will miraculously save your puppy from disease and save you from thousands of dollars in veterinary care.  It is a complicated topic with a complicated solution – and, regardless which decision you make, potentially unwanted consequences.

Identify Parvo for the enemy it is but don’t allow fear to paralyze you.  Most importantly, don’t allow anyone to make this important decision for you because once you decide to vaccinate, you can never go back.  Arm yourself with knowledge and prepare yourself for Parvo’s presence and you will be ready for it and in a good position to help your puppy defeat this enemy. In the next installment, we will look at natural treatments for Parvo.

Patricia Jordan  lectures extensively and  has written novels on vaccine damage for dogs. For more information, visit: www.dr-jordan.com/

Catherine O’Driscoll is the founder of the Ca- nine Health Concern and has written several books and produced DVDs on health and vac- cine damage. Visit the Canine Health Concern at: www.canine-health-concern.org.uk/

Dana Scott is a natural breeder of Labrador Re- trievers. Visit her at www.fallriverlabs.com

© 2011 Dogs Naturally Magazine. This article may not be reproduced or reprinted in whole or in part without prior written consent of Intuition Publishing.