How’s that for a title? If it got your attention, then that’s good because this topic needs your attention. It used to be that dogs visited the vet pretty rarely. They only needed a couple of vaccines, they weren’t eating veterinary prescription diets and they weren’t continually loaded with heartworm preventives, flea and tick meds and shampoos, dewormers, pharmaceuticals and more. Thinking back, maybe that’s why they didn’t need to go to the vet all that often.
Today, there is a very different veterinary clinic. It’s true that we now have better treatment options at our disposal, such as MRIs and more technologically advanced surgery. I think it’s great that vets – and our pets – have access to these tools. But somewhere along the way, the veterinary practice lost perspective. I’m not talking about individual vets because I believe that most of them do want to do right by our pets. But the problem is that the vets have allowed themselves to be influenced by the pharmaceutical companies and the dog food manufacturers – and this has been to the great detriment of our pets.
The veterinary profession is broken and it isn’t about to change any time soon. Our pets are being over-serviced and we are getting fleeced. We pay for the unnecessary vaccinations, the overly-processed, synthetic prescription pet foods that contain ingredients from China, and we pay for drugs and chemicals that are damaging to the immune system. After shelling out for these services, pet owners need to keep their wallets open because, sooner or later, the chronic disease caused by these products will start to kick in and require treatment. We accept health issues such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, allergies and skin issues, gastrointestinal issues and parasite loads as common problems that dogs suffer and this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are disease and they threaten the quality and quantity of life of our companion animals – and many of them are caused by the products vets tell us are safe and effective.
The sad fact is, vets are harming our dogs. They have too many drugs, vaccines and chemicals at their disposal and they are too willing to dispense them. The worst part is, they hold no accountability for their actions. In short, they can and do ignore vaccine label recommendations or prescribe harmful or unnecessary drugs and pet owners have no recourse.
I believe that the most common and most harmful veterinary practice is over-vaccination. Not only do the vaccines cause a lot of damage in our dogs, but nearly every vaccine vets give to our dogs is unnecessary. Pay attention to that sentence: nearly every vaccine given to our dogs is useless and they get all of the risk and none of the reward. How could this happen? How can vets cause so much disease in our dogs without even knowing it?
Vets Do Not Understand Immunology or Vaccines
I paraphrase Dr. Ronald Schultz, the leading veterinary immunologist when I say that vets are not prepared to make vaccine decisions. In the March 2012 issue of Dogs Naturally, we published an article where we interviewed various vets on their thoughts and experience with vaccines. Here are some of the responses we got:
“I was taught vaccines were safe and it was implied there had been safety studies done on them before they were used on the general public. They are not safe and there have not been any safety studies done on any of them. I was taught that if something adverse happens within a few hours after immunization it was related to the vaccines but, if it happened later than that period of time, it had nothing to do with the vaccines. The truth of the matter is vaccines can set up a latent condition that may show up within a few hours or years after immunization.” (Dr. Stephen Blake)
“My training in vet school was not complete with regard to the harmful effects that vaccines have on the immune system. The scientific evidence was not properly explored by the eighties. Vaccines were designed to help stimulate immunity. Current research is proving just the opposite however. Even my graduate school immunology course (attended mainly by MD students) was incomplete. (Dr Jeff Feinman)
“Vaccination in college was skimmed over with little discussion of potential risks involved. In practice I have seen what I believe to be vaccine related problems of skin disease (allergic); inflammatory bowel disease; and epilepsy which appear to have been triggered or coincided with vaccination.” (Dr. Mark Carpenter)
So here we have a substance that we now know can cause many acute and chronic health issues – and even death – and the vets themselves admit that they really weren’t educated in their use. More importantly, because the veterinary colleges are financially aligned with the pharmaceutical companies, most of the curriculum is very pro-vaccine with little time spent discussing the very real issue of harmful reactions. How could this happen?
More Is Not Better
Back in the 1970′s, dogs were only vaccinated for only one or two diseases. Today, there are vaccines for adenovirus, parainfluenza, bordetella, lyme disease, leptospirosis, hepatitis, rabies – and there are more and more coming down the pipe. Today, dogs and puppies are often vaccinated with 7 or more viruses at the same time. They routinely receive rabies vaccinations at the same time as other vaccinations – even though it clearly states on the label not to do this.
It has been largely acknowledged for the last thirty or forty years that the core vaccines most likely last for the life of the animal. Not only are vets delivering more and more vaccines to our pets, they are continuing to do so on a schedule that has clearly and consistently been proven to be both ineffective and dangerous.
In the 1970′s, all vaccines, with the exception of rabies vaccines, were licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based on challenge studies performed from only a few weeks to a few months after vaccination. All the vaccine labels included the statement ‘‘Annual Revaccination Recommended’’ without the knowledge of whether the true duration of immunity (DOI) was a year or a life time. So vets vaccinated yearly, even though field observation suggested that immunity after both natural infection and vaccination was long lived.
“The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given.” Says Dr. Schultz. ”Few or no scientific studies have demonstrated a need for cats or dogs to be revaccinated.”
Yet vets continue to send us postcards telling us we need to bring our pets in for even more vaccinations, either every year or every three years. Whichever schedule the vet chooses is a moot point because revaccination is not necessary. Immunity is like being a virgin – you either are or you aren’t and once you change, there is no changing back again. Dogs are either immune or they are not, and once immune, there is every indication that this lasts a lifetime. Distemper, for example, has been shown to last for 15 years. In fact, all of the core vaccines have shown this kind of lifespan.
So why do vets continue to vaccinate unnecessarily?
“Profits are what vaccine critics believe is at the root of the profession’s resistance to update its protocols. Without the lure of vaccines, clients might be less inclined to make yearly veterinary visits. Vaccines add up to 14 percent of the average practice’s income, AAHA reports, and veterinarians stand to lose big. I suspect some are ignoring my work,” says Schultz, who claims some distemper vaccines last as long as 15 years. “Tying vaccinations into the annual visit became prominent in the 1980s and a way of practicing in the 1990s. Now veterinarians don’t want to give it up.”
Even those vets who want to do the right thing are vaccinating our pets too often and with too much. As stated above, they are not prepared to make balanced vaccine decisions because the veterinary colleges rely on the vaccine manufacturers to prepare their immunology curriculum. Clearly, no matter how much pet owners trust their vets, they can’t rely on them to protect their animals from unnecessary vaccination and the damage it causes. But what about the veterinary associations – aren’t they looking out for our pets?
The Fox Is Watching The Hen House
In 1978, when vets were vaccinating annually, Schultz et al published ‘‘An Ideal (But Not Proven) Immunization Schedule for Dogs and Cats’’. They recommended a series of puppy/kitten vaccinations followed by revaccination at 1 year, then revaccination every 3 years.
Research was initiated at that time to prove his suspicions and dogs where challenged with exposure to Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus, anywhere from 1 to 11 years after vaccination. Every single dog was protected when exposed to the virus. “The results from this limited group of dogs clearly demonstrated the Norden modified live vaccines provided immunity for at least 11 years against CDV and CPV-2″ says Dr. Schultz. Based on this research, Drs Schultz and Scott recommended triennial revaccination instead of annual revaccination.
These early recommendations prompted the AAHA to assemble a task force. In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force evaluated the data from these challenge and serological studies and, while noting that the core vaccines had a minimum duration of immunity of at least seven years, compromised in 2003 with the statement that “revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.”
Task force member Dr. Richard Ford, Professor of Medicine, North Carolina State University, said that the decision to recommend a 3 year revaccination schedule for core vaccines was a compromise. “It’s completely arbitrary…,” he said. “I will say there is no science behind the three-year recommendation…”
Today, eight years later, despite more and more research showing long lasting immunity for core vaccines and the deleterious effects of vaccination, the AAHA hasn’t changed it’s position all that much. The 2011 revaccination guidelines state: “every 3 years or more” with the following comment: “Among healthy dogs, all commercially available [core] vaccines are expected to induce a sustained protective immune response lasting at least 5 yr. thereafter”
Why do they state that the immune response lasts at least 5 years (and even this is a serious underestimation) yet stick to that magically arbitrary schedule of 3 years?
“Both the AAHA and the AVMA must do more to “step up to the plate” says noted immunologist, Dr. Richard Ford. But the reality is, the vets do not have to listen to the AAHA or the AVMA and it appears the state veterinary medical boards are not interested in enforcing vaccine schedules, opting to leave it up to the individual vet.
This is extremely problematic because, as the vets themselves have revealed, they are not prepared to make a decision on how often they should vaccinate and what vaccines they should give. In the end, the vets are over-vaccinating either out of ignorance or greed, and the governing bodies only seem interest in protecting the financial interests of their veterinary members. Speaking of that, it is noteworthy that the major sponsors of the AAHA guidelines are the major pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these vaccines.
Why are most pet owners unaware of vaccine dangers? Because vets are led to believe that vaccines are safe, they lead us to believe they are safe. That is not an excuse. If vets are to take our money for the delivery of medical procedures, they had darn well better know the safety and efficacy of that procedure. Every day, I communicate with vets who defend their vaccine practices and demand the research behind our claims. I give it to them but, at the same time, I question why they are relying on blogs and magazines for their information? It is the vet’s responsibility to fully understand the risks and benefits of every medical procedure they perform on our pets and to research it thoroughly. Here is the most important part: it is also their responsibility to inform pet owners of the risks and benefits of that procedure.
How many pet owners are given full disclosure when their animals are vaccinated? How many vets warn them that the vaccine may cause injection site sarcomas, other forms of cancer, severe allergic reactions or even anaphylactic shock and death? Here is the list of adverse events known to be induced via vaccine administration (Schultz, 2007):
- Hair Loss, hair color change at injection Site
- Refusal to eat
- Oral ulcers
- Behavioral changes
- Weight loss (Cachexia)
- Reduced milk production
- Respiratory disease
- Allergic uveitis (Blue Eye)
Severe Reactions triggered by Vaccines:
- Vaccine injection site sarcomas
- Arthritis, polyarthritis
- HOD hypertrophy osteodystrophy
- Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
- Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMTP)
- Hemolytic disease of the newborn (Neonatal Isoerythrolysis)
- Disease or enhanced disease which with the vaccine was designed to prevent
- Post vaccinal Encephalitis or polyneuritis
- Abortion, congenital anomalies, embryonic/fetal death, failure to conceive
Why is it that we aren’t informed of this before our pets are vaccinated? Why are we not provided with informed consent? Every day, dogs are permanently damaged from vaccines and vets continue to urge us to vaccinate without any regard to the potential risks. There are thousands of pet owners with pets dying of cancer or suffering from severe allergies who wish they could turn back the clock and be given a second chance to consent to that vaccination – with their eyes wide open and fully aware of both the risks and the benefits of that seemingly innocuous needle.
In human medicine, performing a medical procedure without full disclosure and informed consent would be called malpractice and there would most definitely be a lawsuit. In veterinary practice, this doesn’t happen. Which leads us to the final point.
Why Veterinary Malpractice Is An Illusion
Until the mid-part of the last century, the term “malpractice” didn’t even apply to veterinarians (and still may not in some states where this profession is not listed under the malpractice statute). Recently, however, veterinarians have become subject to state malpractice actions. Despite this trend, veterinarian malpractice lawsuits still aren’t that common because the measure of damages for the loss of a pet in most states is the market value of the pet. In other words, what someone else would pay for an identical pet of the same age, breed and condition.
In nearly all cases, lawyer’s fees would be more than pet owners would be able to recover in court. Also, pet owners have to prove the same things you would have proven in a medical malpractice case, which isn’t always easy or inexpensive. A few states allow money damages for emotional distress and loss of companionship. However, awards for an owner’s mental suffering are the exception rather than the rule.
So it seems that the veterinary colleges can continue to allow the vaccine manufacturers to teach their students about immunology, the vets can continue to deliver unnecessary and dangerous vaccines to our animals without full disclosure of their risks, the veterinary associations will continue to make vague statements regarding vaccine duration of immunity and refuse to monitor the activities of their members, and our pets will continue to suffer because nobody cares enough to do anything about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. We care. We care a lot. And we know that because you are reading this article, that you care too.
What Can Pet Owners Do?
Just because we can’t sue vets doesn’t meant we can’t sock it to them financially. If we demand informed consent and refuse any and all unnecessary vaccinations, we will force vets to look into different revenue sources. Look your vet in the eye and tell him that the vaccines he is advocating are not only unnecessary but dangerous – and have the paperwork to back it up (just read this article and we’ll give you all you need). Then kindly decline the vaccinations.
There are other ways you can influence vets financially. Stop buying their crappy prescription diets. They are full of synthetic and processed ingredients that cause cancer and toxic build up in your pet. Better yet, find a vet who does not push needless vaccinations, overly-processed foods or other harmful pharmaceuticals.
Finally, demand that any and all vaccine and drug reactions are reported to the right agencies. Remember, it can take months or years for vaccine damage to rear its ugly head. Here are the phone numbers and websites you need to know:
For adverse veterinary drug reactions:
Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration
www.fda.gov/cvm/contactcvm/contactCVM.html and follow the link for report a drug reaction.
For veterinary vaccines and other biologicals:
Center for Biologics, USDA
For topical insecticides
The best solution is to give our money only to the best vets who have done their homework on vaccines and immunology. There are many good holistic vets to be found and if we give them our money, we will force the rest of the vets to also start learning about natural health care.
The bottom line is, you are the only thing that stands between your dog and harmful veterinary over-servicing. By educating ourselves and refusing unnecessary vaccination, we can fix what is broken with the veterinary system without the help of the vets, one pet at a time.