Many vets demand that pets are up to date on vaccinations before visiting their clinic.  That may or may not be a good decision.  What is definitely not a good decision is to have the pet vaccinated while he is in the clinic for an illness – especially if the pet is being anesthetized for surgery.

In the late 1980’s wild dogs were captured and vaccinated for rabies in the Serengeti-Mara.  Interestingly, the dogs who were researched and handled developed rabies while the dogs who were not handled and not vaccinated did not.  It is unlikely that the rabies vaccine itself produced the disease as the rabies vaccine is deactivated.  Some researches soon suspected a connection – the dogs vaccinated for rabies were anesthetized for their vaccine.

Felsburg et al. (1986) showed that anesthetizing domestic dogs with methoxyflurane had a marked effect upon their lymphocyte function. Clinical work on humans has suggested that anaesthesia with ketamine (one of the immobilizing agents used on the Serengeti wild dogs) can depress the immune response to rabies infection and cause death (Fescharek et al. 1994)

Anaesthetics have a short-term effect upon the immune system: experimental work has shown that domestic dogs regain their full immune capacity within 1-4 days of anaesthesia (Felsburg et al. 1986).

Shin Kurosawa and Masato Kato state in their article,Anesthetics, immune cells, and immune responses, published in the Journal Of Anesthesia:

“General anesthesia accompanied by surgical stress is considered to suppress immunity, presumably by directly affecting the immune system or activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Along with stress such as surgery, blood transfusion, hypothermia, hyperglycemia, and postoperative pain, anesthetics per se are associated with suppressed immunity during perioperative periods because every anesthetic has direct suppressive effects on cellular and neurohumoral immunity through influencing the functions of immunocompetent cells and inflammatory mediator gene expression and secretion.”

“Particularly in cancer patients, immunosuppression attributable to anesthetics, such as the dysfunction of natural killer cells and lymphocytes, may accelerate the growth and metastases of residual malignant cells, thereby worsening prognoses.”

Dr. Patricia Jordan has seen results similar to those of the wild dogs.  “I have seen this happen, where two year old cats that were barbarically declawed and vaccinated both with rabies and a new Fort Dodge vaccine, a mumbo jumbo with the new hot street virus strain of Calicivirus. The cats were put through the Ketamine then isoflurane regime of anesthesia. They were vaccinated while sedated and come on there is hardly a more brutal surgery for a cat that a declaw.”

“The cats woke up but not well, were discharged and then represented for sickness, so sick they were with Calicivirus that their noses sloughed off! They also had infected an older cat that was at home. ALl of them became infected with the new strain of Calicivirus that the Fort Dodge company had just put into their vaccines.”

“What the immunosupression did was allow that virus to express in the face of the cats that were immunosupressed by both surgical stress and anesthesia.”

“I have also heard of some far out responses with behavioral changes following anesthesia for animals like one little Chuihuahua who guarded the kitchen and would not allow anyone into that room for 48 hours.”  The Natural News recently released an article exploring anesthesia and brain damage in children.

Sometimes sedation and surgery are valid choices for our pets’ health.  Routine sedation for procedures like hip and elbow clearances for breeding dogs or for dental procedures should be examined on a risk/benefit basis.  Based on this research it is safe to assume that anesthetized animals should not undergo vaccination for at least four days following sedation.  We have given you plenty of reasons why dogs do not need to be repeatedly vaccinated but if you and your vet feel that your dog must be revaccinated, make certain he is up to date on his shots before you take him in for surgery or sedation.