Today I’m writing about a topic that makes me want to reach for a blood pressure pill: annual vaccination of dogs.
Annual vaccination is unnecessary and dangerous for your dog. And despite what we know about the risks, it seems to be on the rise.
Experts like leading veterinary immunology researcher Ronald D Schultz PhD proved decades ago that most dogs will be protected for many years (and probably for life) by one round of core vaccines as puppies – usually when they’re about 16 weeks old.
This table is from Dr Schultz’s research on over 1,000 dogs and shows the duration of immunity of the core vaccines from both challenge (exposure to the real virus) and serology (antibody titer results):
Table 1: Minimum Duration of Immunity for Canine Vaccines
Minimum Duration of Immunity
Methods Used to Determine Immunity
|Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)|
|Rockbom Strain||7 yrs / 15 yrs||challenge / serology|
|Onderstepoort Strain||5 yrs / 9 yrs||challenge / serology|
|Canine Adenovirus-2 (CAV-2)||7 yrs / 9 yrs||challenge-CAV-1 / serology|
|Canine Parvovirus-2 (CAV-2)||7 yrs||challenge / serology|
So, after their puppy shots, most dogs don’t need to be re-vaccinated ever, let alone year after year after year.
Dr Schultz reports:
“The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given. Few or no scientific studies have demonstrated a need for cats or dogs to be revaccinated.”
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have announced publicly that annual vaccination is unnecessary and can be harmful.
But they do nothing to stop vets from vaccinating more often than necessary.
If your worried your dog is being over vaccinated, we have a free download you can print and bring with you to the vet. It outlines the immunity research by Dr Ronald Schultz and it will help you and your dog’s veterinarian come to a healthier vaccination schedule together. Click here to grab the Vaccine Guide now.
Vaccines Are Risky
In my years of veterinary practice, I’ve witnessed hundreds of cases of serious vaccine damage to pets, including death.
Despite what your veterinarian may tell you about the safety of vaccination, I’ve seen it cause dangerous, sometimes deadly, vaccine reactions and lifelong chronic illness … including autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Vaccinating annually is an extremely high-risk procedure … and it doesn’t make your dog any more “immune” from disease.
Yet in the US, about 60% of veterinary clinics completely ignore this research (and their association recommendations) and still push their clients to vaccinate their dogs annually.
And the rapid spread of large veterinary clinic chains is making matters much worse. There’s a reason I call them “shot shacks.”
As these corporate chains gobble up independent veterinary clinics, the trend towards over-vaccination is getting worse, not better!
You’d like to think your vet’s primary concern, above all else, is your dog’s health.
But you have to assume profits are the real goal when you read stories like the ones I’m about to share.
Greencross In Australia
An Australian holistic veterinarian wrote to me about the Greencross chain of veterinary clinics in her country.
Greencross owns 132 veterinary clinics and 200 pet specialty retail stores across Australia and the company earns about 725 million Australian dollars (that’s over half a billion US dollars) a year.
Greencross is buying up independent veterinary clinics all over the country. In the last six months, they added 17 new vet clinics to their group.
My vet friend told me Greencross trains staff “to sell as much of anything as possible, including annual vaccination.”
Yet she was still disturbed to read an article they published recently called The Real Story on Vaccinating Pets.
The article starts out complaining that the media has been confusing dog owners by suggesting that dogs only need to be vaccinated every three years …
As the article continues, it’s clear that Greencross clinics encourage dog owners to have their pets vaccinated annually for core vaccines (parvo, distemper and hepatitis) as well as bordetella and parainfluenza, using scare tactics like “disease outbreaks of Canine Parvovirus occur on a regular basis throughout Australia.”
They also state their “philosophy” that pets should be examined twice each year.
Of course! This gives them more opportunities to sell you extra services.
Do you think this might be about the money?
It’s certainly not about the health of the animals, even though they try to tell you it’s to protect your pet from deadly disease.
In the UK, pet owners are also being pushed to over-vaccinate their animals, thanks to a devious scheme cooked up by a big pharmaceutical company.
(NOTE: Want to know exactly how many unnecessary vaccines your dog gets? Click here to find out if your dog is over-vaccinated)
Vaccination Amnesty Campaign In The UK
The UK arm of veterinary pharmaceutical company (and vaccine manufacturer) Merck Animal Health is MSD Animal Health, and it operates under the name Intervet Ltd.
Intervet is shameless about teaching veterinary clinics how to sell … and make more money.
I’ve seen one of their brochures promoting a clinic management system developed by veterinarian Dr Steven Garner, who has “the most productive veterinary practice in the world […] whilst each of his assistants is generating in excess of $1 million” in yearly sales.
They claim the system results in “greater owner compliance” and “can grow your practice turnover [sales] by 40% and your practice profit by 52%.”
“Greater owner compliance” of course means they get you to bring your dog to the clinic more often …
… and Intervet has dreamed up an especially sneaky way of persuading you to do that.
It starts with getting you to vaccinate your dog more often, and it also helps clinics sell you more veterinary services.
It’s called the Vaccination Amnesty program and for the last few years they’ve been campaigning hard to get UK veterinary clinics to participate.
The program targets clients whose pets’ vaccines have lapsed … and by “lapsed” they mean that the last vaccination was given 18 months ago or more!
So it’s not hard to figure out that means the clinics are pushing annual vaccinations!
Intervet provides veterinary clinics with an impressive array of promotional materials to market the amnesty program.
Once they join the program, clinics offer the “lapsed” pets a complete primary course of vaccinations for the price of a single booster.
So not only are they vaccinating animals who are almost certainly already protected (because we know they’ve been vaccinated before) … they’re making them start from the beginning as if they’d never been vaccinated!
And while your dog’s at the clinic, they do their best to find other ailments that need treating, as well as selling you things like dental procedures, worming and pest control medications.
It’s working quite well for them.
Testimonials from clinics brag about how successful they were at selling additional services to people who brought their dogs in under the vaccine amnesty program.
The excerpt below from Intervet’s instructions to clinics suggests they’re reimbursing participating clinics for the cost of these vaccinations (or perhaps offering other financial incentives):
Once again, this is a crafty way to make more money … and it’s at the expense of your dog’s health.
In case I wasn’t clear, over-vaccination exposes your dog to the potential for a lifetime of chronic disease.
And if you think creative ways to sell more vaccines aren’t happening in the US as well, read on!
(NOTE: Want to know exactly how many unnecessary vaccines your dog gets? Click here to find out if your dog is over-vaccinated)
Banfield in the US
You’ve almost certainly heard of Banfield Pet Hospital, a huge chain of more than 770 pet hospitals owned by the massive multinational conglomerate Mars … and you may have even taken your dog there.
These clinics are all over the country and many are conveniently placed inside PetSmart stores … so you can spend even more money when you take your dog to the vet!
Like Greencross, Banfield wants you to bring your dog into the clinic twice a year so they can monitor your dog’s “dental care, behavior, parasite control, nutrition, and vaccinations.”
They offer three levels of annual Optimal Wellness Plans® that include a number of different services. They range in price from about $20 to $69 a month depending on where you live and which plan you choose.
I want to go into a bit of detail on these Plans, because they include a very aggressive (and high risk) vaccination schedule.
Every plan includes a Comprehensive Physical Examination twice a year, plus other services ranging from vaccinations to deworming and blood, fecal and urine analysis. The higher level plans include services like annual dental cleaning, eye pressure tests, electrocardiograms and “preventive X-rays.”
There’s nothing “preventive” about exposing your dog to potentially cancer-causing radiation every year!
And of course they encourage you to add “extras” like year-round parasite control.
The real problem, though, is Banfield’s recommended vaccination protocol as part of their annual wellness plans.
Let’s look at what’s wrong with this vaccination schedule.
First … it’s annual!
Note the “1x” and “2x” alongside the vaccinations. Banfield wants to give all these vaccinations yearly, and twice yearly in the case of bordetella.
While rabies is legally required all over the US and parts of Canada, giving it annually is not.
And in fact the three-year rabies vaccine is the same as the one-year … it’s just labeled differently. So make sure your vet uses a three-year rabies shot if you want to comply with rabies laws.
Distemper and parvo are core vaccines but giving them annually is also unnecessary and risky. If your dog’s already been vaccinated for these diseases, he’s likely to be protected from them for life.
Next, the schedule includes the bacterial vaccines for leptospirosis, Lyme disease and bordetella.
ALL of these vaccines carry high risks of adverse effects.
I don’t recommend giving them to your dog … and neither does Dr Schultz.
He doesn’t recommend giving lepto or Lyme vaccines (and doesn’t use these shots for his own dogs, even living in lepto and Lyme endemic areas), because of the high risk and low efficacy of these vaccines.
If you’ve ever wondered why there’s no Lyme vaccine for humans … that’s because it proved so dangerous in testing that it was withdrawn. And yet thousands of dogs are given the shot every year – for a disease that dogs aren’t very likely to get.
In fact, 95% of dogs who test positive for Lyme are asymptomatic and don’t actually have the disease.
As for leptospirosis, well … other than the high number of adverse reactions (including renal failure and mast cell tumors), there are over 230 serovars of lepto, but the vaccine contains only four.
Talk about a shot in the dark!
Dr Schultz is also well known for saying, “Kennel cough is not a vaccinatable disease.” This is because there are at least 40 agents that can cause kennel cough, but the vaccine only addresses two of them.
These vaccines certainly should never be given routinely without consideration for the risks involved for your dog and whether he is even likely to be exposed to these diseases!
If you do opt for one of Banfield’s Optimal Wellness Programs, prepare yourself for a firm discussion with your vet about their vaccination schedule and don’t get pushed into annual shots for your dog.
As Dr Schultz’s research shows, even every three years is too much … so get ready to say no!
Vaccination Is Big Business
My view is that the practice of annual vaccination is unethical …
… though not illegal, unfortunately.
Most veterinarians in conventional practices – in the corporate practices described above but also in most hometown practices – are charging you for something your dog doesn’t need.
In the process they’re actually dys-regulating your dog’s immune system, increasing the chance of adverse events and chronic disease.
And you’re paying them to do this!
Pet vaccination is big business and it’s growing. According to market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global veterinary vaccines market could reach $7.2 billion by 2020, up from $5.5 billion in 2015.
My experience in veterinary clinics shows that about 15% of most clinics’ income is from vaccines … and then another 65% is spent addressing the vaccine-induced diseases that result.
When your dog develops chronic disease from vaccination, that’s a lifetime of income for the clinic. It’s easy to see why they want you to vaccinate.
So remember this when you get that vaccination reminder in the mail …
I see many vaccine-induced illnesses, especially in dogs around eight years old when they’ve had years of unsafe and unnecessary vaccines.
Over-vaccination can cause autoimmune diseases, cancer, cataracts, allergies, asthma, atopy, arthritis, anaphylaxis, diabetes, eczema and many lifelong, incurable conditions – as well as death.
That’s what you get for your loyalty in responding to those little postcards!