Trust Me: I’m a Vet

a dog hiding his face with his paw

I received a phone call from a reporter from CBC. There was an apparent parvovirus outbreak at an animal shelter and they wanted DNM’s take on what pet owners should do.

What followed was a sad glimpse into how pet owners are being let down by the one person they should be able to trust: their veterinarian.

The Parvovirus Interview

During the interview, I took a few moments to explain that pet owners shouldn’t run out to vaccinate for parvo out of fear because it’s very likely their dog would be protected anyway (because we now know that immunity lasts for many years and likely for the life of the dog) and that if they weren’t sure if their dog or puppy was protected, to first use a titer test instead of rushing into vaccinating.

Little did I know that they would play my interview for a local vet and allow him to respond. Why I wasn’t given the opportunity to reply back, I don’t know, but this vet went on to say that pet owners should visit the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) for their revaccination guidelines, and that they should vaccinate every two years for parvovirus.

Did you catch that?

I bet you did because most pet owners who read this site are more knowledgeable than most vets on the topic of vaccination.

You see, the AAHA revaccination guidelines recommend “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”

Back in 2003, the AAHA Task Force advised vets of the following in regard to their 3 year recommendation:  “‘This is supported by a growing body of veterinary information  and well-developed epidemiological vigilance in human medicine that indicates immunity induced by vaccination is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, lifelong.”

So Dr Kubinec urges pet owners to follow the AAHA guidelines, but he’s ignoring them (and a whole lot of science showing a very extended duration of immunity) by advocating vaccinating every two years for parvovirus.

No Wonder Vets are Confused!

Did you notice what the AAHA is saying in those three statements? They’re saying they’re fairly certain immunity is lifelong, but they expect vaccines to protect for at least five years, but their recommendation is every three years or more.

What?

How’s that for a pretty ambiguous statement? If that’s not lack of leadership on the topic, I don’t know what is. They believe vaccines last for a lifetime and they know there’s a huge body of research to prove it, yet they’re saying: vaccinate every three years, or five, or whatever.

It’s no wonder vets just vaccinate whenever the heck they want, research be damned.

“The recommendation for annual re-vaccination is a practice that was officially started in 1978.”  says veterinary immunologist, Dr Ronald Schultz.  “This recommendation was made without any scientific validation of the need to booster immunity so frequently. In fact the presence of good humoral antibody levels blocks the anamnestic response to vaccine boosters just as maternal antibody blocks the response in some young animals.”

A Bit About the Expert
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So back to the interview and the veterinary expert who responded to my comments.

During the interview, Dr  Kubinec suggested pet owners vaccinate for parvo every two years – but he was a bit elusive on that number. So I looked at his website and here is what I saw:

Because of the persistence of maternal antibody, we now recommend the following protocol:

Start at 6 weeks – boost at 8, 12, & 16 weeks and then annually.

If in a high risk area or dealing with high risk breeds that travel, vaccinate every six months.

Booster vaccination is a good idea prior to boarding your pet.

Yes, the veterinary expert they asked to respond to my comment (which was just a summary of Dr Schultz’s fine work showing a duration of immunity of more than nine years for parvovirus) vaccinates many of his patients twice a year for parvovirus!

While CBC asked me for documentation to support my point of view (and I gladly supplied peer-reviewed research papers from Dr Schultz), this vet was allowed to present a scientifically unproven vaccine schedule, just because he’s a vet.

Trust Me: I’m a Vet

So I guess I’m a bit naive when it comes down to it. I thought when CBC called that it was nice  they were willing to even think about contacting somebody like me to get a different point of view. Instead, I was apparently set up so this vet could respond with nothing more than “I’m a vet” because there isn’t one shred of science backing up neither his every six months nor his every second year revaccination recommendation.

Happily, a lot of vets came to my rescue and responded to Dr Kubinec on the CBC website.

But the baffling reality is that despite the incredible amount of research showing that the core vaccines are overwhelmingly likely to last for a lifetime, 60% of vets still continue to vaccinate annually! And a lot more are vaccinating every three years and thinking they’re vaccinating minimally – when there’s arguably no reason to vaccinate more than once.

Earlier this year, ABC’s 20/20 aired a report on honesty in veterinary medicine that sparked a lot of debate in the veterinary field. Veterinarian Patty Khuly responded to this debate in the March 2014 Veterinary Practice News “OFFLEASH” section.

It’s true. Our track record on vaccination policies is embarrassing. According to some vaccine manufacturers, including Dr. Mark Kimsey senior brand manager for canine biologicals (vaccines) with Boehringer Ingelheim a full 60 percent of us (veterinarians) are still vaccinating our patients annually in spite of long standing evidence-based recommendations to the contrary.

At the risk of incurring the 60 percent’s wrath, I say it’s high time we abandon our protectionist’s ways with respect to vaccination protocols and accept that vaccinating annually makes us look like turnip-trucking idiots who care more about our bottom line than our patient’s well being.

I don’t care why you are doing it-whether it’s because you think you won’t get your patients in every year or because AAHA and the AVMA give you a wink and a nod in the name of “veterinary discretion” (for shame!)—you should just stop doing it already. It makes us all look stupid when we ignore reams of evidence just because it is expedient to do so.

Well said, Dr Khuly.

For all those vets like Dr Kubinec who are vaccinating way more often than is necessary, it’s time to get off the turnip truck.

Happily, the CBC website was inundated with comments from smart pet owners like you who are concerned about the dangers of over-vaccination. Dogs Naturally Editor at Large, Rodney Habib summarized Dr Kubinec’s thoughts best with this comment:

In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.

Click here to listen to the CBC broadcast or leave a comment on their website.

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