5 Things Your Vet Says That Aren’t True

vaccine expert

Most vets don’t know enough about the immune system to make the right vaccine choices for your dog.

That’s not just my opinion …

Here’s what veterinary vaccine researcher Dr Ronald Schultz has to say:

“Unfortunately not enough folks teaching immunology explain the process so students understand the complexities of vaccine-induced immunity, and there are significant differences between the mechanism of protective immunity to the same pathogen in a naïve vs a vaccinated animal. I, in academia, accept some of the blame for the confusion, but I also place some of the blame on my colleagues in industry, especially those who market vaccines. They have done a much better job of educating practitioners to their way of selling vaccines than immunologists have done in teaching the facts about vaccine-induced immunity.”

If you cruise through the information on veterinary websites, you’ll see that many lack a fundamental understanding of the immune system. But they still tell you all about the dangers of not vaccinating your dog regularly.

Said another way, most vets just tell you half truths to get you to vaccinate your dog.

Need more proof?

I randomly crawled a few veterinary sites and pulled these nuggets of wisdom. And I’m doing this to convince you to start educating yourself about vaccination … because your vet isn’t educated enough in this topic.

Here are the top 5 things vets say about vaccines that aren’t true:

1. Vaccination And Immunization Are The Same

What the vet says:

A vaccine consists of a modified or killed virus or bacterium. It is prepared in such a way that the body’s defenses recognise it as a threat and react to it as if it were a real infection. The body will produce antibodies which are proteins which recognise and attach to chemicals on the surface of the organism, killing it. These antibodies are then available to kill any of the real infection organisms the animal might pick up during its life. They are lost gradually and the body needs occasional reminders (booster vaccinations) to keep the antibody level high enough to prevent real infections. Vaccination reactions are very rare. A booster is recommended each year.

Why This Advice Is Wrong

When exposed to a real virus, the body forms immunity by filing that information away in memory cells. The memory cells, called cellular immunity, are responsible for mounting a quick attack the next time they are faced with the same disease and the body, armed with the knowledge the memory cells have stored away, quickly neutralizes the disease by triggering circulating antibodies.

This is why humans only get chicken pox once and dogs can only get parvovirus once. After the first attack, they’re protected for life.

Vaccines try to emulate this, but they don’t do a complete job.

Vaccines stimulate circulating antibodies, called humoral immunity, and they bypass the memory cells. This creates an artificial immunity called humoral bias and this essentially turns the immune system inside out.

To learn more about this effect, read our article on Vaccines And The Immune System.

But the real problem with this statement is their desire for antibody levels to be high. High antibody levels mean high levels of circulating antibodies – or humoral bias.

The higher the titer, the more chronically inflamed the body is.

This humoral bias and resulting chronic inflammation result in many of the autoimmune diseases we commonly see in dogs today: allergies, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, bowel disease and many, many more. Vaccine reactions may be rare, but the risk and severity of chronic disease that vaccines cause increase with each and every vaccine given.

2. Vaccinating Puppies At 6 Weeks Of Age

What the vet says:

“Your puppy vaccination course should be started at 6 weeks of age. A primary vaccination is first given and a booster 2-4 weeks later. This course must be completed before your puppy is fully protected. Unfortunately, the protection provided by vaccinating is not life-long and hence an annual booster is recommended. At XXXX veterinary clinic we will send you out an annual reminder to ensure your pet is kept up to date and protected.”

Our issue with this advice:

Vaccinating a puppy at 6 weeks? According to veterinary vaccine researcher Dr Jean Dodds, only 30% of puppies will be protected from a vaccine given at 6 weeks of age.

100% of them will be exposed to disease when taken to the vet clinic for that shot.

Moreover, vaccines create immune suppression for 10 to 14 days.

So, choosing to vaccinate a puppy at 6 weeks means exposing him to the most disease-ridden location he could possibly be in – the vet clinic – while creating immune suppression at the same time. Your puppy is much more likely to get the disease he is being vaccinated for, and all in exchange for a 30% chance the vaccine will work.

That’s a pretty high gamble with a puppy’s life.

The reason the vaccine is unlikely to work at that young age is because the puppy is protected against disease with maternal antibodies – immunity passed down from his mother. This protection wanes over time, but is still pretty strong at 6 weeks. That’s why in most cases the vaccine doesn’t work at this age: the maternal antibodies are strong enough to block the vaccine.

Here is problem number two with vaccinating at that age: the maternal antibodies will be less effective after the vaccine is given because vaccines cause immune suppression.

We also object to this statement: “This course must be completed before your puppy is fully protected.” There are two problems with this statement actually.

  1. You can’t be partially protected: immunity is like being a virgin, you either are or you aren’t. Either the immune system has filed that information away or it hasn’t: there is no grey area, you are either immune or you are not.
  2. As for the other problem, a course of vaccines is not necessary: it only takes ONE vaccine to protect a puppy – ONE AND DONE.

For more information on this, you might want to read Taking The Risk Out Of Puppy Shots.

3. Lifelong Immunity

What the vet says:

“Primary pet vaccinations do not cover your animal for the rest of their life, so annual booster vaccinations are required for continued protection.”

Our issue with this advice:

Wow, bad grammar aside, there’s one very big problem with this statement – a monumental problem of biblical proportions!

Not only do core vaccines last for years, some for the life of the animal, vets have known about this for about forty years!

We won’t even go into why annual vaccination is a very, very bad choice – because vaccinating every three years or every five years is also a bad choice based on unsound science.

Why would you vaccinate every year if the minimum immunity starts at 7 years? Why put your dog at risk?

Nuff said.

Table with minimum duration of immunity for dog vaccines

Think we’re making this up?  You might want to read Lifelong Immunity:  Why Vets Are Pushing Back for more information.

4. Revaccination Is Backed By Research

What the vet says:

“At XXXX Veterinary Hospital, we are aware of some of the controversy currently surrounding immunization protocols. However, until industry leaders and experts, such as the vaccine manufacturers and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), arrive at some definitive conclusions, we believe it to be in the best interest of your pet and the general public to continue to adhere to our established immunization protocols. We recommend that your pet should receive annual boosters.” 

Our issue with this advice:

Controversy? Industry leaders and experts?

Here is the crux of the problem: these vets are waiting for the vaccine manufacturers, AAHA and the AVMA to decide how often to vaccinate. Don’t you think that all of these entities have a financial interest in how often you vaccinate your dog?  Are they capable of making an unbiased recommendation?

Apparently, they aren’t.

The report of the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Taskforce in JAAHA (39 March/April 2003) includes the following information for vets:

Misunderstanding, misinformation and the conservative nature of our profession have largely slowed adoption of protocols advocating decreased frequency of vaccination; Immunological memory provides durations of immunity for core infectious diseases that far exceed the traditional recommendations for annual vaccination.

This is supported by a growing body of veterinary information  as well-developed epidemiological vigilance in human medicine that indicates immunity induced by vaccination is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, lifelong.

And the American Animal Hospital Association’s own Preventive Healthcare Guidelines state: 

Tailor vaccination protocols to your pet. While some vaccines, like rabies, are required by law because of the risk to humans, others may be necessary for your pet’s lifestyle. In some scenarios, a titer to previous vaccines can be measured to help decide if a booster vaccination is necessary. Your veterinarian will know what’s best for your pet.

If you would like to read more about how vets arbitrarily chose the period of three years for revaccination, even though they knew back in 2003 that vaccines lasted likely for the life of the dog, read Lifelong Immunity And The AAHA Revaccination Guidelines.

5. Your Vet Is A Vaccine Expert

What the vet says:

“Annual boosters are painless for your pet, and help to fight off contagious illnesses throughout the year. The staff at XXXX Veterinary Clinic are expertly trained in the welfare of your pet.”

Our issue with this advice:

Any vet who advocates annual vaccinations – or even uses the term booster – is clearly not expertly trained in immunization or the welfare of your pet.

In fact, most vets are woefully inept when it comes to understanding immunity. (We already talked about this above)

They are very good at giving vaccines – yet most vets are not taught very much about immunity at all.

Perhaps that’s because immunity is taught by the vaccine manufacturers. It’s no wonder that vets are well armed with needles yet lack the knowledge or motivation to question just what damage those needles are doing.

And even if they acknowledge the research that proves annual vaccines are unnecessary, most are not willing to lose the profits those yearly visits bring in.

If you would like to learn more about how little vets feel they were taught about vaccination, and the diseases they’ve seen vaccines cause in their patients, read our ground-breaking featured article, Vets On Vaccines.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether vets continue to dispense this bad advice out of ignorance or for financial gain (most veterinary practices earn 14% of their income from vaccines). Either way, the bad advice is out there and dog owners – and dogs – will fall victim to that bad advice every day.

If you find your vet dispensing bad vaccine advice, don’t ignore it.  Perhaps reading and sharing What Every Vet (And Pet Owner) Should Know About Vaccines will help you both to begin understanding that immunity involves more than just shots and boosters.

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