To Vaccinate or Not: That is (NOT) the Question

To Vaccinate or Not: That is (NOT) the Question

We live in a world of information. Some of that information is science-based, some of it is opinion-based. Never have we had so much choice in our lives and the lives of our pets.

Recently, the arrival of the “anti-vax” movement has caused some pet owners to begin questioning the value (and potential danger) of vaccines. Manufacturers and veterinarians have come under pressure to restructure the vaccination requirements and prove that vaccines are safe for pets.

One of the hotly contested questions is whether or not we should vaccinate our new puppy, and if yes – which shots are necessary and which are overkill? Which vaccines may cause dangerous (and sometimes fatal) reactions in my pet?

These are loaded questions and there are multiple sides to the argument. that you may wish to discuss with your veterinarian. Some studies show that vaccinations can result in everything from encephalitis to cancer. There are studies that support those claims and vaccine protocol is already undergoing changes. Others claim that the dangers of vaccinations outweigh the benefits.

Let’s start with the matter of legality.

Rabies Vaccination Required by Law

While rabies is a disease that is 100% preventable, we still have more 59,000 people die from canine rabies each year around the world.

If you have a dog in the United states, you are required by law to have that dog vaccinated for rabies, and you are required to have the ongoing boosters every 1-3 years. The frequency of rabies vaccination varies from state to state. All states (with the exception of Arizona), require that the rabies vaccination be administered by, or under the supervision of, a licensed veterinarian.

The frequency of vaccination is most often dictated by the NASPHV Rabies Compendium, with the exception of a few states which have their own guidelines. The NASPHV Rabies Compendium document lists:

  • the approved manufacturers of rabies vaccines
  • which animals it can be safely used on
  • the dose
  • the age of primary vaccination
  • the booster vaccination date

We have nearly eradicated the rabies virus from our society. What used to be a huge problem, resulting in thousands of fatalities each year, is now only seen in wildlife. The rabies vaccine is the reason for this huge decline.

Herd Immunity

There is a theory of “Herd immunity” that anti-vaxxers call “BS”. Herd Immunity is the idea that if 99% of animals (or people) are vaccinated, it helps protect the 1% or so that are not vaccinated. This is not only valid, it’s proven.

For example, Distemper (CDV) is a disease that most vets haven’t seen in over 10 years. Distemper is a deadly disease with mortality rates as high as 50% of adult dogs and 80% of puppies. With ongoing vaccination protocols, most vets haven’t seen this disease in nearly 10 years.

When the recent “anti-vax” movement began taking over the pet industry, herd immunity protected those who weren’t vaccinated. But as more and more animals began an unprotected life, distemper began making a comeback. Cases are increasing each year that dogs are not receiving their core vaccines. Not only is this resurgence happening in our domestic animals, but there are increases seen in wildlife.

Which shots should I absolutely get? How do I know?

You are putting your pets at risk for death. These diseases are, for the most part, completely preventable. The core vaccines (which include Distemper, Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus-2, Rabies) should always be given.

Non-core vaccines (Parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Leptospira interrogans, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae, Borrelia burgdorfen, Giardia, Coronavirus)

Your dogs should always have their first set of shots and boosters in their first year, along with their rabies vaccines as required by law. The rabies booster is mandated for life. However, the non-core vaccinations may be related to other factors. These are some things you should consider:

  • Your lifestyle: If you frequently travel with your pets, visit dog parks, or compete in sports or dog shows, you should be sure to follow strict vaccination protocols for that region.
  • Your Location: Some states have diseases that are endemic, while others are not. For example, Leptospirosis is a disease that resides in water. Arizona has usually been resistant to this disease, due to its lack of water. However, it recently had a large outbreak that required us all to update our pets’ vaccines.
  • Pests: Lyme disease is endemic to certain regions, while other regions have less chance of exposure.
  • Legality: Legal requirements also dictate the frequency and availability of specific diseases (eg, rabies). Some states require annual vaccinations, while others allow for 2-3 year boosters.

Titer Testing is a way of measuring your dog’s immunity through a blood analysis. You can do title testing for “optional” vaccines and then vaccinate on a case by case basis. The drawback is that title testing is expensive.

There are many ways you can protect your pets, but when it comes to vaccinations, it’s important to stick with the basics. At the very least, make sure your pets have their core vaccines. Discuss further options with your veterinarian.

Core Vaccinations:

  • Distemper (VCT)
  • Adenovirus-2 (CAV-2)
  • Parvovirus-2 (CPV-2)
  • Rabies

Non-core Vaccinations

  • parainfluenza
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Leptospira interrogans
  • Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae
  • Borrelia burgdorfen
  • Giardia
  • Coronavirus
5 weeks Parvovirus: For puppies at high risk. Check with your veterinarian.
6 & 9 weeks Combination vaccine* without leptospirosis.

Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern.

12 weeks Rabies: Given by your local veterinarian (age at vaccination may vary according to local law).
12 & 15 weeks** Combination vaccine*

Leptospirosis: include leptospirosis in the combination vaccine where leptospirosis is a concern, or if traveling to an area where it occurs.

Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern.

Lyme: where Lyme disease is a concern or if traveling to an area where it occurs.

adult Combination vaccine*

Leptospirosis: include leptospirosis in the combination vaccine where leptospirosis is a concern, or if traveling to an area where it occurs.

Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern.

Lyme: where Lyme disease is a concern or if traveling to an area where it occurs.

Rabies: Given by your local veterinarian (time interval between vaccinations may vary according to local law).

Recommendations vary depending on the age, breed, and health status of the dog, the potential of the dog to be exposed to the disease, the type of vaccine, whether the dog is used for breeding, and the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit.

*A combination vaccine, often called a 5-way vaccine, usually includes adenovirus cough and hepatitis, canine distemper, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Some combination vaccines may also include leptospirosis (7-way vaccines) and/or coronavirus. The inclusion of either canine adenovirus-1 or adenovirus-2 in a vaccine will protect against both adenovirus cough and hepatitis; adenovirus-2 is highly preferred.

**Some puppies may need additional vaccinations against parvovirus after 15 weeks of age. Consult with your local veterinarian.

Bordetella and parainfluenza: For complete canine cough protection, we recommend Intra-Trac III ADT. For dogs that are shown, in field trials, or are boarded, we recommend vaccination every six to twelve months with Intra-Trac III ADT.

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