By Tracie Korol
Vaccination is serious business. Many veterinarians now advise us to vaccinate each dog according to his or her individual needs. But how do you cut back without endangering your dog’s health? Here are 9 ways to eliminate unnecessary shots while actually improving pet health.
1 Consider locale and lifestyle. Your dog weighs six pounds, lives primarily on your lap and only goes out in the yard to tinkle. He certainly never goes to kennel. Does this dog need the full battery of vaccinations every year? No. Your hunting buddy is 13 now and is content to snooze under the deck. Does he need the full Monty? No. As your dog’s advocate, he needs you to tailor his health care to meet his specific needs. There is no single perfect vaccine program generic to every dog. Also consider where you live. Some diseases just haven’t gotten here yet and it’s pointless to vaccinate against them.
2. Eliminate vaccines on the “not recommended” list of the American Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Guidelines. These include Giardia and Coronavirus (found in many combination shots).
3. Say NO to combination shots. Combo cocktails (called names like DHLPPC) assault your dog’s immune system with five or seven vaccines at once. Given for false economy and convenience rather than health or safety, combination shots are linked to autoimmune breakdowns. Also, they may contain unnecessary vaccines.
4. Stop vaccinating against diseases for which your dog may already have immunity. This is where you can use a titer as a useful tool. Combine the results of the titers with what you know about your dog’s general health, lifestyle and location and then make the decision. “Vaccines have many exceptional benefits, but, like any drug, they also have the potential to cause significant harm,” says Ronald Schultz, DVM, professor and chair of pathological sciences in the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. “Giving a vaccine that’s not needed,” he explains, “creates an unnecessary risk to the animal.”
5. Don’t allow anyone — vet, groomer, kennel operator — intimidate or guilt you into giving unnecessary vaccinations. While it’s vital to have positive relationships with animal professionals to take the very best care of your Best Friend, always remember that your dog is your dog and you have the final say.
6. Never vaccinate sick or pregnant dogs. All vaccine labels state that they’re to be used in healthy animals. Unfortunately, vaccine labels do not define “healthy.” As a result, sick dogs, immune-compromised dogs, dogs undergoing chemo and that are pre- or post surgery, and even dying housebound pets are vaccinated. Any vaccinations given to an unhealthy animal may undermine immunity and will likely cause an adverse reaction, or worse. (Note: chronically ill or immune-compromised pets may be eligible for a rabies exemption for a specified period, or even life.)
7. Don’t vaccinate puppies too early. Vaccinating pups that still have maternal immunity is unnecessary and ineffective. Most vets suggest waiting until at least 8 weeks of age.
8. Insist your vet document any adverse vaccine reactions in detail. An adverse reaction to a vaccination can be anaphylaxis (after rabies, corona or leptospirosis), neurological symptoms and/or inflammation of the eye (after dispemper), discomfort or swelling at the injection site, lameness, mild fever, decreased appetite and activity for any injectables. Dogs may develop signs of respiratory irritation after intranasal vaccines. Common sense indicates that if your dog has significant adverse reactions further vaccination should be discontinued.
9. Make copies of dog licenses and veterinary files and store them in a safe place. Clinics lose records, go out of business, leave town, etc. Without your dog’s records as proof, you may be forced to vaccinate sooner than necessary.