What do vets say about vaccinations? And what’s the truth of the matter? This article comes from 27 comments on a post where I asked people on my Facebook page what vets have been telling them about vaccination. I saw a lot of misunderstanding (and perhaps misdirection?) in the information coming from vets. This concerns me – vaccinations are biological medicines, and they have well documented and sometimes very serious or even life-threatening side effects. They can trigger severe autoimmune disease – allergies, lupus, diabetes, etc. – and lead to life long illness that requires a lot of veterinary attention. So, here goes. I’ll quote what people shared from their vet, and then discuss each one.
“Immunity from C5 vaccination only lasts 1-3 years depending on the individual dog.” This is simply not true – Dr Ronald Schultz is the world expert in vaccination in small animals – his research shows that the C3 vaccine (C5 is C3 + kennel cough) gives a long lasting duration of immunity – 5-7 years to life long. (I’ve heard of other vets saying that this research only applies to the USA, and hasn’t been repeated here in Australia- also untrue, it has been repeated, with the same results.) He vaccinates his own pets once at the age of 16 weeks, and then never again. The kennel cough vaccine has a short acting duration of immunity- 9-12 months.
“Titer testing needs to be done yearly at a minimum, because it only shows the pets immunity at that moment.” Again – simply not true. If you titer test a puppy a month after vaccination, and there are strong antibody levels, this shows that your pup has reacted to the vaccine, and will have immunity for 5-7 years to life.
“You need kennel cough vaccination if your dog plays on the beach.” I disagree – kennel cough is a mild, self-limiting disease 99% of the time, and easily treatable. I’ve never heard of a dog dying of kennel cough. Kennels require it, and this is the only reason that I vaccinate dogs for kennel cough. Always ask for the intranasal KC vaccine, as it is both more effective and far less likely to cause an adverse reaction. Also, I’ve seen many dogs who have been vaccinated for kennel cough still catch it at kennels, as there are many strains of the disease about.
“You have to re-vaccinate your pet if any of the titer levels are low.” Not necessarily true – even after the antibody levels drop off, there are special immune cells in your pet’s body which remember that disease, and if your pet comes into contact with it, these cells instantly ramp up production of new antibodies. So even after antibody levels wane, your pet may still have immunity. It’s not totally cut and dried, however, and revaccinating at 5-7 yearly intervals may well be wise. (But perhaps not if your pet has ever had a reaction to vaccination.) I’m also not so concerned if levels are a bit lower for distemper, as it’s such a very rare disease these days. Parvo is the most critical one in Australia.
“Your pet needs a second booster at one year of age.” Not true- as above, once your pet reacts to a vaccine, they will have a long lasting duration of immunity of 5-7 years to life.
“A titer test is a waste of money, you’re better off just vaccinating your pets every year (or three years).” A titer test is a great investment- it will help you not put your pet at risk of adverse reactions from vaccination, and also give you evidence of immunity for kennels etc (though this is problematic in NSW, where it is legislated that your pet must have been vaccinated in the last year to attend a boarding kennel – I wonder what lobby group helped write that one?). My opinion is that this is reckless, dangerous advice, which ignores the evidence base and doesn’t minimise risk to your pet of harm from vaccination. Titer tests can be expensive, but what is your pet’s health and well-being worth? You certainly won;t be better off if your pet has a bad reaction!
“You should vaccinate your pet every three years.” The evidence does not support this at all. A short explanation about yearly and three yearly C3/F3 vaccinations – this only means that the companies that make these vaccinations have gone through the process to register them for yearly or three yearly use. So for yearly use, they have tested them out to a year, and for three yearly use, they have tested them out to three years (i.e. made sure they are effective for that span of time). It has nothing to do with the actual duration of immunity of these vaccines, which research has shown to be 5-7 years to life-long. I would be very surprised indeed if they continued their research out to 5 years, if they didn’t achieve registration for 5 yearly intervals of vaccination.
About titer testing – “They will show that there are antibodies in the system but will not provide protection, because the amount of antibodies aren’t indicated. ie just because there are antibodies present it doesn’t mean there are enough to protect against the diseases and that titer tests are qualitative not quantitative.” Oh dear, what a nonsense. The tests are absolutely quantitative, and will tell you the levels of antibodies. The ones I carry in the fridge in my van do this! Even if levels reduce over time, this does not mean you pet necessarily doesn’t have immunity, as explained above.
What do I think is best practice?
– Always use modified live vaccines, never dead ones (as they have adjuvants in them).
– Vaccinate your puppies at 8 weeks, then titre test a month later – if they have responded, no need to revaccinate! There may be merit in delaying vaccination until 16 weeks of age, but it’s also vital to get your pets out and about into as many different environments as possible before the socialisation window closes at 16 weeks of age – so you would have to discuss and work out the best approach for each individual case. About 60-70% of pups will respond to the 8 week vax, about 80-90% at 12 weeks, and all will take at 16 weeks, after the maternal immunity has waned.
– Titer test every 3-5 years.
– Revaccinate every 5-7 years depending on your individual risk/benefit analysis.
– Be very cautious about ever revaccinating any pet who has had any sort of reaction to any vaccination in the past.
– Never, ever vaccinate your pets while they are unwell in any way.
So, there you have it. Please do mention any other things you may have been told by vets that confuse you, and I’ll discuss them in the comments.