May/June 2011 Issue

By:  Catherine O’Driscoll

People often ask my advice about the best time to vaccinate their puppies, and which schedule they should adopt. However, I don’t vaccinate – at all. I fully appreciate that my stance is a radical one, and that it might be scary for the majority of dog lovers to fly with a puppy in their arms without a vaccine safety net.

I also don’t believe in giving advice. You don’t need someone telling you what to do. We’ve had veterinarians telling us to vaccinate our dogs every year since the 1970s, and look where that got us. Rather, you need truthful information so you can make your own informed and, loving choices.

So, first off, I’m going to give you information to explain why not vaccinating at all is a legitimate option. And secondly, I’m going to give you some science so that, if you do decide to vaccinate, you can try to minimize the risks.

THE VACCINE-FREE OPTION

People often say to me that they don’t vaccinate their dogs; before adding … “just the puppy shots”. Forgive me, but if you give any vaccines at all, then you vaccinate. Most of the time, the puppy-shots-only approach gives permanent immunity to distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis/adenovirus, with no apparent adverse effects. But then, people wonder why their dog itches all the time, or is hand-shy, or develops an immune-mediated disease such as cancer, Addison’s disease, or arthritis, months or even years down the line. Very rarely do they link these illnesses to the puppy shots they gave them.

Dr Jean W. Dodds tells us: “The onset of adverse reactions to conventional vaccinations (or other inciting drugs, chemicals, or infectious agents) can be an immediate hypersensitivity or anaphylactic reaction, or can occur acutely (24-48 hours afterwards), or later on (10-45 days) in a delayed type immune response often caused by immune-complex formation. Typical signs of adverse immune reactions include fever, stiffness, sore joints and abdominal tenderness, susceptibility to infections, central and peripheral nervous system disorders or inflammation, collapse with auto-agglutinated red blood cells and jaundice, or generalized pinpoint hemorrhages or bruises. Liver enzymes may be markedly elevated, and liver or kidney failure may accompany bone marrow suppression. Furthermore, recent vaccination of genetically susceptible breeds has been associated with transient seizures in puppies and adult dogs, as well as a variety of autoimmune diseases including those affecting the blood, endocrine organs, joints, skin and mucosa, central nervous system, eyes, muscles, liver, kidneys, and bowel. It is postulated that an underlying genetic predisposition to these conditions places other littermates and close relatives at increased risk. Vaccination of pet and research dogs with polyvalent vaccines containing rabies virus or rabies vaccine alone was recently shown to induce production of antithyroglobulin autoantibodies, a provocative and important finding with implications for the subsequent development of hypothyroidism (Scott-Moncrieff et al, 2002).

“The recently weaned young puppy or kitten entering a new environment is at greater risk here, as its relatively immature immune system can be temporarily or more permanently harmed. Consequences in later life may be the increased susceptibility to chronic debilitating diseases.”

In lay terms, Dr Dodds is basically saying that when you vaccinate your puppy or adult dog, it could result in an immediate life-threatening allergic reaction, collapse or death; it could result in the dog suffering from a serious infection. It could affect his nervous system, giving rise to inflammation of the brain, behavioral changes, epilepsy, or full-blown brain damage.

In the longer term, a variety of autoimmune diseases could come from those one or two puppy shots. This might be constant itchiness, skin problems, and allergies to the air your dog breathes, the food he eats, and the environment he comes into physical contact with. The vaccine could damage his liver, kidneys and heart, or his thyroid – maybe not immediately, but silently and over time. More serious autoimmune diseases, such as cancer and leukemia, may also develop, as well as autoimmune haemolytic anaemia and thrombocytopenia.

If you look further into the science, you’ll discover that vaccines can cause dogs to attack their own DNA; their genetic blueprint. Vaccine damage thus goes down the line. Holistic practitioners call this the vaccine miasm. Your dog doesn’t even need to be vaccinated to suffer from vaccine-induced disease – he’ll inherit it from his forbearers.

Since most dogs these days can be expected to die of cancer, and a high proportion suffer from arthritis, allergies, epilepsy, and other immune-mediated and inflammatory diseases – all of which are vaccine-associated – many of us have decided that the risks from a vaccine are far higher than the risk of catching distemper or parvo.

VACCINE ALTERNATIVES

Diet is the cornerstone of health, and the first line of defence against viral and bacterial disease. So those of us who consciously choose not to vaccinate throw out the processed pet food and give our dogs biologically appropriate food. Something is working with this approach: most will tell you that their raw-fed, non-vaccinated dogs live long and healthy lives, rarely needing to see a vet.

Nature’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial solutions include Transfer Factor (colostrum extract), vitamins D and A, Olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract, and garlic. There are more, including the homoeopathic nosodes (small pills containing trace dilutions of the diseases you would otherwise vaccinate against).

MINIMIZING THE VACCINE RISK

If you decide you must vaccinate to protect your friend, here are some facts:

  1. No vaccine is guaranteed. The interaction between the vaccine, the environment, and the dog may mean that your dog remains unprotected.
  2. A very small percentage of dogs will never develop immunity, no matter how often you vaccinate.
  3. However, most dogs (98%+) will develop permanent immunity to the core viral diseases (distemper, parvo, adenovirus) from their puppy shots. This means they are protected for life.
  4. To be (almost) sure of protection, bodies such as the WSAVA recommend a booster after the age of six months.
  5. For political reasons, they add that dogs should be vaccinated no more frequently than every three years, which many vets take as permission to revaccinate every three years. Tri-annual vaccination should be unnecessary (see point 3).
  6. You can have your dog titer tested to see if there are circulating antibodies to the core viral diseases. Dr Ronald D Schultz, the world’s foremost expert, says that any antibodies at all, at whatever level, would indicate that the dog is immune. Other experts put a level on the number of antibodies needed.
  7. A dog with circulating antibodies may still come down with the diseases, depending upon his diet, immune system, and stress status. Revaccination will not resolve these problems.
  8. Different countries have different guidelines for when puppies should be vaccinated and how often. In the UK, for example, the general rule is that puppies are vaccinated only twice; in the US, it’s three times.
  9. In North America, rabies vaccination is mandatory – annually or tri-annually, depending on where you are. I know many dog guardians who keep their heads down and ignore this law, since it is believed by the experts that once a dog is immune to viral disease, he is immune for years or life.
  10. Vaccines for Lyme, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, Bordetella, and parainfluenza are also available. They are deemed ‘non-core’ by the WSAVA. Many of the experts do not recommend them as they come with serious adverse effects – and many of them aren’t very effective.
  11. It is important to not begin a vaccination program while maternal antibodies are still active and present in the puppy from the mother’s colostrums. The maternal antibodies identify the vaccines as infectious organisms and destroy them before they can stimulate an immune response, meaning your puppy gets all of the risk and none of the benefit.

Dr Ronald D Schultz, the hero behind worldwide veterinary vaccine guideline amendments (which vets are slowly adopting amidst much kicking and screaming), is on record as saying that you should only give distemper once at 10 weeks and parvo once at 12 weeks, and then check the blood for antibodies.

Good luck with your choices, and don’t forget that knowledge is power, and that love is the mightiest power in the world.