Are Dogs Being Over Vaccinated?

A few generations ago it wasn’t uncommon for a disease such as distemper to sweep through an area and decimate the local dog population.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that a vaccine was developed for canine distemper.  Likewise, parvovirus appeared in the 1970s and killed vast numbers of dogs before a vaccine was developed.  Today we often take for granted that we can protect our dogs against these common killers but it wasn’t always so.  Some people question whether or not dogs are being over-vaccinated today. It’s not an easy question?

People today sometimes raise the question of whether dogs are being over-vaccinated for several related reasons.  They point to the fact that many dogs today seem to have immune system problems that reveal themselves in allergies, thyroid problems, skin problems and cancer.  They believe that these problems, and other similar problems, are due to all of the vaccines that we give our puppies and dogs.

It’s true that we begin vaccinating puppies as young as five weeks.  Some vaccines are given annually, even when they don’t need to be.  There are states which require an annual rabies vaccination even when a three-year vaccine is available and more than adequate to provide protection.  Some vets also encourage their clients to get annual vaccine boosters even when manufacturers suggest that vaccines be given in alternating years, or even trier-annually.  All of these things lead to many people believing that dogs are, indeed, being over-vaccinated.

There are some dog owners who prefer not to vaccinate their dogs at all after their dogs have received their first puppy shots and their boosters the next year.  They (cite studies) which show that these vaccinations can provide all of the protection that their dogs will need for the rest of their lives.  However, this is a debatable response.  Their dogs may never be sick, it’s true.  But this may be due to the fact that nearly every other dog owner in the community does vaccinate their dog.  If everyone followed this approach and no one vaccinated their dogs it’s likely that the viruses which seem to be controlled would once again wipe out large numbers of puppies and dogs.

In some states it is possible to titre your dog to find out what kind of immune response he has to rabies and other viruses before you decide whether or not to vaccinate.  In many cases the titre will show that your dog has a strong immune response and there is no need to vaccinate.  If the response is low then you would need to vaccinate.  However, some states do not accept titre results.  And, tittering is much more expensive than simply getting your dog his shots which means that most people are not willing to go to this trouble and expense each year.

Titer Test (pronounced TIGHT er)

A titers test (pronounced TIGHT er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies to disease in blood. Antibodies are produced when an antigen (like a virus or bacteria) provokes a response from the immune system. This response can come from natural exposure or from vaccination.Titer Testing – Dogs Naturally Magazine Dogs Naturally Magazine

For responsible dog owners the best course of action seems to be to talk to your vet about your concerns.  Let him or her know that you want to keep your dog’s vaccinations to a minimum.  Find out what the recommendations are for each of the vaccinations your dog needs — does he need to get a vaccine once every two years?  Three years?  Then let your vet know that you don’t want to get that shot annually.  Try to space your dog’s shots out so he doesn’t get them all at one time.  This will reduce the likelihood of having a bad reaction to the vaccinations.

If you are responsible and pro-active where your dog’s health is concerned you can cut down on his vaccinations without totally eliminating them and putting your dog and other dogs at risk.

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Mark Mansfield

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