Canine Health Series – Article 2 by Michelle Mantor

This article is #2 in a series of 3 that highlight natural canine health including topics such as diet, covered in article 1; in this article, we focus on vaccines and the controversy surrounding them. Stay tuned for alternative therapies in article #3. The book, Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown, D.V.M. provided the information for the article.

For most pet owners, pet vaccinations are routine. We follow the protocol advised by our veterinarian and don’t give the subject much thought. However, the topic of vaccines has raised more controversy in last several years than any other subject. The controversy has primarily raged at the level of veterinarians, homeopathic practitioners, breeders and the like.

As information on vaccines and the possible dangers have been given more credence, the subject has also become of interest to the average pet owner. For the purposes of this article, we will only discuss canine vaccinations but the same controversy is prevalent in the feline world as well.

Many veterinarians today are being asked about the safety and necessity of vaccinations. Are too many vaccines given at one time? Do the do more harm than good? Do we need to vaccinate for as many diseases as we do? Let’s take a look at why the controversy has arisen.

Over the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of vaccines given at one time as well as the types and frequency of vaccines. Some pets have immediate reactions to vaccines while others fear a long-term effect that we may not fully understand.

What Should We Vaccinate Against?

To protect our dogs from disease, vaccines are administered to trigger the immune system to develop antibodies against that disease. Below are several deadly diseases that are part of the “core vaccinations” that with proper protocol, immunity can be established safely. Not following protocol for this group of vaccines is considered by many to be playing Russian Roulette with your dog’s life.

Rabies vaccine is required by law and therefore is a given. Rabies is a viral disease that is deadly and can be transmitted to humans and so it is a very serious health concern. In Texas, state law requires that dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies by 4 months of age and on a 1-year or 3-year basis thereafter depending on the vaccine used. However, dogs and cats must receive a second rabies vaccination within one year of receiving their first vaccination, regardless of the type of vaccine used or the age at which the animal was initially vaccinated.

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous systems. It starts with a fever and thick, greenish yellow nasal and eye discharge. Owners sometimes think their dog has a “cold” but dogs don’t get colds like people do. The survival rate is very poor and those that do survive are often left with multiple health problems.

Parvo is another highly contagious viral disease that affects the gastrointestinal system and is often fatal in puppies and geriatric dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhea and high fever.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis is caused by an adenovirus and is most common in puppies. The disease can result in death within hours of becoming infected.

Reactions to these vaccines are rare but do happen. Approximately 1 in 15,000 vaccines result in a serious reactions. Other vaccines are noted for causing more severe reactions than the core vaccines including leptospirosis, lyme and microsporum.

How Often Should We Vaccinate?

The frequency of vaccines is part of the controversy surrounding “vaccinosis”, the general name given to chronic disease caused by vaccinations. The difficult part of this argument is that the process of challenging the pet’s immune system to determine adequate immunity is not a simple process and can be costly. Only challenge studies can tell us more about immunity levels and duration and those studies have only begun in recent years. Currently, the USDA requirement for vaccine producers is to prove a duration of immunity of one year and rabies for three years.

What Number of Vaccines Should Be Given?

There are varying protocols regarding vaccines and one such protocol uses 62 vaccines by the time a puppy is 6 months old. Many would argue that this is an all out assault on the puppie’s immune system. Too many vaccines at one time do not allow the immune system to respond fully and can cause severe reactions.

Research shows that the body needs at least two, preferably three weeks between vaccine challenges to recover. To allow for such recovery, many veterinarians recommend giving only the core vaccinations, plus vaccines that are mandated by your location and particular circumstance. For instance, lyme disease vaccines might only be given to dogs that are likely to come into contact with ticks. However, this can be tricky because ticks are now being found in urban areas, most likely being brought in by landscaping materials. Examples of other questionable vaccines would be Bordatella (not needed unless your dog is boarded or around a congregation of dogs) or Corona, a disease that most health dogs can handle without vaccination.

Final Analysis

Here is a recommendation for vaccine protocol as found in the Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog:

1.    Decrease the frequency of vaccinations. Initial vaccinatins should be three weeks apart. After initial boosters, consider vaccinating every three years (titering is an option; for more information, dicuss with your veterinarian).
2.    Separate vaccines and give only one vaccine at a time.
3.    Give only core vaccines and then give non-core vaccines only if indicated in your area or circumstance.
4.    Do not vaccinate when your pet is stressed, ill, a female in heat, or a dog that is recovering from or about to have sugery.

A Homeopathic Remedy For Vaccine Reactions

If your dog has had an adverse response to vaccines, a homeopathic remedy called Thuja, can negate that reaction. Use in the 39cpotency with the following schedule:
•    One vaccine, 1 dose of Thuja
•    Three in one vaccine, 1 dose of Thuja once a day for three days in the p.m.
•    Five in one vaccine, 1 dose of Thuja, once a day for five days