Vaccinations have been the standard of care for disease prevention in veterinary medicine for many years. After 24 years in practice, I am not convinced that this is the best we can do for our pets.
Vaccines are not benign medicines; they can, in fact, have serious side effects. Building a healthy immune system through proper care and feeding may be just as effective at fighting disease, and with fewer potential side effects.
Let’s explore this topic a bit further:
What are vaccines?
Vaccinations are made from a modified live or killed form of the organism it is to protect against. They work by stimulating the body to create antibodies against that particular bug. Vaccines also contain chemical carriers and preservatives.
Are vaccines effective?
Vaccine manufacturers perform studies in which vaccinated individuals are challenged with the disease present in the vaccine and the vaccines are typically effective at preventing infection.
Are vaccines safe?
It is true that the majority of pets that received vaccinations do not have severe reactions. I see many pets, however, with chronic inflammatory disease such as skin or intestinal with no known cause. I find that these cases are often linked in time to vaccinations.
Conditions such as allergies, autoimmune disease, seizures, aggression and phobias can all potentially be linked to vaccinations.
Are there other options?
- Nosodes –– These are homeopathic dilutions prepared from a discharge or exudate of a diseased animal. They are so dilute that there is no detectable biological substance remaining in the remedy. The protection is provided by stimulating the body’s energy, or vital force to protect the physical body from the disease. To some this may sound a bit like hocus-pocus, but homeopathy has been used in this manner since the early 1800’s. No vaccines have been around that long. Nosodes also work well after an exposure, unlike traditional vaccinations which must be given prior to an exposure to be effective.
- Herd immunity –– This is a concept that vaccinated individuals will shed the antigens they are vaccinated against, thus providing immune stimulation to those they come in contact with.
- Not vaccinating –– It is entirely possible that if you do not vaccinate your pet, it will not get sick. This may sound risky or scary to some, but it’s true. Many domestic pets are kept primarily indoors and exposed only to the pets of friends and family members. There is a high probability that the majority of house pets will never come in contact with the diseases they are being vaccinated against.
- Vaccine titers –– This is a blood test that will measure the antibody levels to certain diseases. If your pet has been vaccinated, or you are not sure which vaccines it has had, this test will tell you if a booster vaccine is necessary. Some kennels and daycare facilities will honor this test in lieu of proof of vaccines.
An important note about Rabies: Rabies vaccines are required by law, so even though the risk of a pet contracting the disease is very small, there may be consequences for not vaccinating against it.
Where do the vaccine label recommendations come from?
Vaccine manufacturers perform the research studies that determine the length of time recommended between vaccination boosters. If they test a vaccine and it is effective for 1 year, then the label says to give it every year. There is no current research that tells us how long the immunity from a given vaccine really lasts. There is evidence, however, based on the work of immunologist Dr Ron Schultz of the University of Wisconsin who states that the “immunity can last as long as a dog’s lifetime, which suggests that our “best friends” are being over-vaccinated.”
I have been a practicing veterinarian for 24 years and have transitioned from giving vaccines every year to giving them every 3 years to now vaccinating based on the specific risks of each pet and giving vaccines that are required by law. I have seen no increase in the diseases that we vaccinate against. Even when my clients choose to use nosodes and/or do not give any traditional vaccinations, I have seen no increase in the incidence of disease.
Vaccines may have some merit in keeping your pet healthy, but keep in mind that they are not benign and may cause serious, even life-threatening reactions. I believe that changing our focus to building a strong immune system through proper care rather than targeting certain diseases is the best way to improve the health of our pets.
Edited by: Lindsay Friedman
Dr Judy Jasek is a holistic veterinarian currently practicing in Englewood, Co. The foundation of her practice includes holistic treatment options and nutritional counseling. http://drjudyholisticvet.com/