Over-vaccinating Pets | Author: Dr. Cliff Redford, Veterinarian
Why Vaccinate Pets?
Vaccinations are the best form of preventative care available to pets today. Across the globe, many dogs and cats regularly succumb to preventable diseases. Unvaccinated puppies can die from Parvovirus. Similarly, diseases like Feline Leukemia and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a type of coronavirus, can prove deadly for cats. Rabies is of particular concern because of the risk to humans. Globally, 50,000 cases of Rabies get diagnosed each year, most of them in children who remain more susceptible to bites from infected animals. These diseases require intervention and presently, the only means at our disposal to mitigate them is through vaccination programs.
Regardless, over-vaccinating pets to protect them from these diseases is not the answer either.Vaccines come with risks and side effects. Just like humans, your pet could have an anaphylactic reaction or face an increased risk of tumours and autoimmune diseases from some vaccines. So pet owners must ensure they make informed decisions about their pet’s care.
Types of Vaccines
First, you should understand the difference between core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines offer protection against diseases commonly found in your area that can be deadly to your pet and /or humans. The Rabies vaccine is mandatory for all pets in Ontario. You should also vaccinate your dog for Hepatitis B and Parvovirus. If you live in Toronto or York Region, your vet might also consider the Leptospirosis vaccine as core because this bacteria, spread by raccoons, can attack the liver and kidneys with permanent damage and fatalities. However, pets in areas where raccoons are not part of the urban landscape may not require this vaccination. Similarly, Kennel Cough is highly contagious and easily spread by infected dogs. While the vaccine is not considered core, you might consider it if your dog frequents the dog park or groomer where they come into contact with other dogs.
Vaccines exist for Lyme Disease which is spread by ticks. However, rather than vaccinate dogs for this, we recommend tick preventative measures instead.
For cats, the Upper Respiratory vaccine is considered core. If you let your cat roam outdoors, then you may want to also consider a non-core vaccine for protection against Feline Leukemia and FIP which we would not suggest for indoor cats.
Puppies and kittens require their vaccinations at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. If this schedule is respected your pet will build immunity protection that will last for a full year. Furthermore, if your pet receives a booster shot at the one-year mark, studies prove that they will have enough protection to last 3 years. Consequently, some diseases do not require annual vaccinations. Remaining diligent about this schedule during the first year of your pet’s life is one way to avoid over-vaccinating pets in the long run.
The latest technology in veterinary science involves Titer Testing, an alternative to frequent vaccinations. This is a blood test that detects the presence and amount of antibodies in your pet’s blood. If antibodies from the previous vaccination are still present in your dog’s blood, then he/ she may not require a fresh vaccine. Titer tests bring balance between the need to keep your pet protected from disease and over-vaccinating. Your vet can easily administer Titer tests and create a customized vaccine protocol for your pet. The only disadvantage presently with Titer Testing is that they are new and not yet cost-effective.
We prescribe naturopathic medications like Milk Thistle and Willow Root as anti-inflammatories for pets. However, we follow the science for vaccination protocols. Alternative medicine does not yet have a proven track record to demonstrate similar efficacy against some of the serious diseases noted above.
Over Vaccinating Pets
Making informed decisions about your pet’s care is the best way to ensure they receive the right care for their circumstances. The science behind pet vaccination is forever evolving and the best way to stay on top of it all is to ask your vet lots of questions. The College of Veterinarians governs the standards by which veterinarians operate in Ontario. Accordingly, you should expect nothing less than clear and ethical advice about your pet’s vaccinations. If you are still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask more questions or obtain a second opinion. We always ensure our clients understand the risks of vaccines against the benefits based on the latest scientific evidence available to us. This allows us to jointly make confident decisions for our furry patients.
ABOUT DR. CLIFF
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham Ontario. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.