Are Pets Being Over-Vaccinated? (Take Two)

I've been reading quite a few vet articles relating to the needless amounts and types of vaccinations for dogs. A well educated and professional with...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Dec 23rd 2009


I’ve been reading quite a few vet articles relating to the needless amounts and types of vaccinations for dogs. A well educated and professional with dogs, suggested to get a “Titer ” test first to see if the dogs need the vaccination.

Personally, I have experienced 2 separate instances, where both dogs where in their “Golden Years” and their immune systems where not what they use to be…well after their rabies and other “yearly” shots, they both went down hill, and departed their human companions within months.

Dawn
Salem, Oregon

This blog has touched upon vaccines, titers, over-vaccination of animals and under-vaccination of animals more times than I can count. But I feel that the subject is timeless. Vaccines are a staple of pet ownership. They also are a staple of veterinary practice. I feel that the subject of vaccination deserves to be discussed frequently.

Vaccines are one of the most controversial subjects in veterinary medicine. And the controversy isn’t limited to animal doctors. Yesterday I attended a massive H1N1 influenza vaccine clinic sponsored by the city of San Francisco. The protesters who attempted to ply me with anti-vaccination literature as I entered the building reminded me that human vaccines are equally controversial.

On the whole, I firmly believe that vaccines do much more good than harm. And I put my money where my mouth is. I walked right past the protesters yesterday and didn’t hesitate to be vaccinated against H1N1.

Vaccines have saved countless pets from maladies such as feline leukemia, feline panleukopenia, canine distemper, and canine parvovirus. Rabies vaccines save pets in the United States from the mass slaughters that occur during outbreaks in countries such as China and Indonesia.

Nonetheless there is no doubt that many pets in the United States receive more vaccines than they need.

The idea that pets need to be vaccinated against every imaginable disease each and every year is so outdated that the notion is downright laughable. Most experts, veterinary schools, and well respected professional societies (dogs, cats) recommend triennial vaccination (at most) against the most serious diseases in adult animals.

Yet many vets still encourage annual vaccination. I am aware of two reasons for this. Neither reason is legitimate from a medical point of view.

Some vets haven’t bothered to keep up with the times. They have vaccinated pets annually for as long as they can remember, and they see no reason to change. One must wonder if these vets have failed to keep up with other advances in the practice of veterinary medicine over the years.

Reason number two: some vets (who often turn out to be the same vets mentioned above) rely on vaccines as a revenue source. They ignore the legions of business consultants who unanimously agree that building a practice on vaccinations is a poor business model. These vets believe, wrongly in most cases, that clients only bring their pets to the vet for shots.

Annual vaccination of adult animals against canine distemper virus and feline panleukopenia virus is as outdated as the cassette tape. The practice is dying off. But it isn’t dead yet.

Dawn, you can check out the titer and vaccine threads on this blog for more information.

For everyone else, my advice remains the same as it has been since the first time vaccines were discussed on this blog. Find a vet who will take the time to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccines in your pet. A good vet will consider your pet’s lifestyle, breed, and medical background as well as local laws that cover rabies vaccination before recommending a vaccination protocol.

Finally, I recommend that you ask your vet how often he or she vaccinates his or her own pets.