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Are You an Anti-Vaxxer, Pro-Vaxxer or Wise-Vaxxer? What is the best way to vaccinate my dog?

Have you ever asked your Vet 'why does my pet need to be vaccinated every 12 months for multiple preventable illnesses like Distemper, Parvo and, Canine Hepatitis?'

The answer is usually along the lines of 'to prevent your pet from catching any of these diseases'.

Yes, this is 100% correct BUT does your pet need these multiple vaccinations every 12 months - or is their immunity sufficient enough to reduce the number of times you need to vaccinate?

Before you read on I categorise myself as a WISE VAXXER and firmly believe in getting all the facts before I choose to preform any procedure on either myself or my pets. And yes, my human family and my pet family are all vaccinated.

The term "anti-vaxxer" is unfortunately quite popular these days, in media and among countless professionals who should really be more careful choosing their words. It’s a term used to accurately describe people who are against all vaccines, both medical and veterinary.

Much more often, however, it’s used to demean those who are wisely cautious and ask questions about any chemical that goes into their bodies and the bodies of their family members, including their pets.

Anti-Vaxxers vs. Wise Vaxxers

People whose pets received the recommended puppy or kitten core vaccines and boosters at one year and now ask to have their pets titered (pronounced TIGHTER) instead of automatically revaccinated ("wise vaxxers"), are incorrectly being labeled as "anti-vaxxers" right along with people who refuse all vaccines, including puppy and kitten shots.

Wise-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers have very different and opposing viewpoints about the need for establishing protective immunity to core diseases in puppies and kittens.

I, along with a growing number of of people are hesitant to submit their pets to lifelong vaccinations that may not be needed and are simply concerned about the long-term immune health of their animals from over-vaccination — giving additional unnecessary vaccines when protective immunity has already been established.

Educated wise vaxxers want veterinarians to explain to them why their animals need to be "boosted" over and over again for the same diseases, when research demonstrates you can’t "boost" an already-immunized animal. However, there are clear risks reported from repeated vaccinations, including some types of cancer.

Additionally, well-informed wise-vaxxers intentionally seek out veterinarians who will perform vaccine antibody titer tests, which responsibly discerns animals that have been repeatedly vaccinated but are still not immunized (meaning their immune systems did not produce protective antibodies after vaccination so they are still at risk of getting the disease they’ve been repeatedly vaccinated for).

A titre test is a laboratory analysis that measures the level of antibodies in the blood, as well as the existence of bacteria or disease. It is used to determine if a dog is immune to a virus or whether they require vaccination for protection. Essentially, it helps reduce the risk of over-vaccination.

Titers also show what viruses pets are protected against, so more vaccines would serve no benefit.

Veterinarians faced with these questions can point to the latest American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) vaccination guidelines for dogs and cats, but those guidelines don’t adequately address how long immunity actually lasts in vaccinated pets.

Unbelievably, it’s an area of research that has been virtually ignored by the veterinary community until very recently.

And can you guess who set the initial guidelines for annual veterinary vaccines decades ago? The pharmaceutical companies that manufacture those vaccines. Companies arbitrarily set annual revaccination schedules without actually determining how long vaccines may protect pets.

However, an increasing number of concerned pet parents are indeed objecting to repeated re-vaccinations per the recommended every one-year or three-year schedule, because veterinarians can't give them a satisfactory answer as to why those vaccines need to be given over and over and over throughout an animal’s lifetime, and refuse to offer the intelligent alternative: vaccine antibody testing.

More and more owners understand that once a pet has established viral protective immunity giving more doses does nothing, other than increase the risk for adverse reactions.

Now that a growing number of pet owners understand more is not better or usually necessary, veterinarians are having a harder time justifying the unnecessary repetition, and yet haven’t taken advantage of the logical solution: offer titers!

What is the best way to vaccinate my dog? Immunisation, Not Repeated Vaccinations, Should Be the Goal

All national veterinary organisations encourage vaccinations, though the word they use is immunisation, not vaccination. This is a hugely important distinction. Vaccination and immunisation are not one and the same. Immunisation is the outcome of effective vaccination against disease and/or exposure to a disease that the animal recovers from.

The act of administering a vaccine doesn't automatically mean the animal has been immunised against the disease, however, that is the assumption. Since the goal of vaccination is to assure ourselves and our clients there is a demonstrable immune response to vaccine, the most logical way to do this is by titer testing.

Wellness vets make it a practice to run titer tests within a few weeks of the last round of puppy or kitten shots to ensure immunity has been achieved. When an animal is successfully vaccinated against certain diseases (e.g., distemper, parvo, and adenovirus in dogs) and becomes immunised, she receives what we call sterile immunity. Sterile immunity lasts a minimum of 7 to 9 years, up to a maximum of lifetime immunity as measured by titer tests.

This means the dog cannot become infected, nor will she shed the virus should she be exposed. Since the diseases of distemper, parvo and hepatitis (adenovirus) are everywhere, the risk of exposure is constant.

Other types of vaccines, typically non-core vaccines against bacterial derived diseases such as Lyme disease, kennel cough, canine influenza (a virus, but one that mutates constantly so vaccine is not consistently protective), and others, do not produce sterile immunity.

These vaccines last a year at most, and antibody levels against these diseases (as measured by titer tests) decrease with each passing year, meaning lifelong protection is questionable (similar to tetanus vaccines in humans).

How to Play It Safe and Smart With Your Pet’s Vaccinations

So, What is the best way to vaccinate my dog? Discuss what kinds of vaccines your pet needs, and how often, with your veterinarian. I strongly encourage you to try to find an integrative veterinarian (see links below) if it appears your vet doesn’t know about titers or refuses to engage in a discussion around sterile immunity.

Ensure each core vaccine your furry family member receives meets the following criteria:

  • Your pet’s titer test reveals he is not protected against the life-threatening disease.

  • Your pet is healthy! Animals must be healthy to receive any vaccine, so if your pet has allergies, endocrine issues, organ dysfunction, cancer (or is a cancer survivor), or another medical issue he or she is NOT a candidate to receive vaccines.

  • Your pet has the opportunity to be exposed to the disease.

  • The vaccine is considered both effective and safe.Do not vaccinate a pet that has had a previous vaccine reaction of any kind.

Discuss these with your vet.

+ Sources and References Dr Karen Becker

Dr Lu Fenny

Holistic Vet at Home

Over Vaccination of Dogs can lead to chronic life-long health issues

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