The sun was beaming down upon us in the little vet van as we hummed along the highway. Then we turned off at the lights, before wending our way through the streets to find our destination. This was a revisit, as I’d seen this very intelligent, bright and beautiful German Shepherd pup a week before. She was a bit less than 16 weeks of age when I’d seen her, and had been vaccinated at 8 weeks of age before coming to live with her new family shortly after that. Within 2 weeks after they had got her, she had developed a nasty skin condition – she became very itchy, and was licking her tummy continually, to the point where it was red raw. She was really distressed and uncomfortable.
Her mum had tried a few different things – coconut oil topically, and some other herbal creams. Nothing had made any difference. As I explained on that visit, whenever any animal has an illness (and especially allergies) break out within 1-3 months of any vaccination, I have a very high index of suspicion that the vaccine has caused harm. AND – in these cases, if you re-vaccinate, it’s highly likely to make things worse.
This makes things tricky when you have a puppy who hasn’t had a vaccination at the age of 16 weeks (or older). I can’t titer test until after 16 weeks of age, because until then I can’t be sure that maternal antibodies (from the mother’s milk) won’t give a false reading. This is why the general protocol for puppies is 3 vaccinations at around, 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, too.
This is why the general protocol for puppies is 3 vaccinations at around, 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, too. This way we can be sure that all puppies will receive at least one vaccination after the maternal immunity has waned (if that’s still present, it soaks up the vaccine, and the puppy can’t respond to it). However, it also means that about 60% of puppies have 2 unnecessary vaccinations (at 12 and 16 weeks of age) because about 60% of puppies will have no maternal immunity left at 8 weeks of age. At 12 weeks 90% or more will have no maternal immunity, and by 16 weeks 100% will be able to react to the vaccination and mount an immune response. So you can see that 90% plus of puppies will have at least one unnecessary vaccination.
Vaccines are a biological medicine, and they carry a well-documented risk of acute and chronic adverse reactions, or vaccination injury, sometimes called vaccinosis. They can dysregulate the dog’s immune system, leading to allergies and/or auto-immune disease. So (in contrast to the majority of the veterinary profession) I make it an absolute priority to never give any pet an unnecessary vaccination. And I avoid the misleading terminology of the word “booster” altogether! Why?
Why? Because a C3 (for dogs) or F3 (for cats) modified live virus vaccine given to a healthy animal older than 16 weeks of age will cause a long lasting duration of immunity of at least 5-7 years, with many animals having a duration of immunity longer than that, up to life-long in some cases. Giving what many vets call a “booster” vaccination does nothing except expose your pet to the risk of vaccination injury if they already have high circulating antibody levels. Their antibodies lock onto the virus in the vaccine and neutralise it before their body can respond to create more antibodies – BUT injecting this foreign material under the skin (an unnatural route of infection, that as a result bypasses the normal layers of your dog’s immune response) can still trigger the onset or worsening of allergies and auto-immune diseases, or even death in rare cases.
It’s all downside risk, and no benefit – this is why titer testing your dogs before re-vaccination is so, so important. I’m sorry to tell you that my profession largely ignores the very strong scientific evidence, and re-vaccinates hundreds of thousands of pets with unnecessary “boosters” every day. Some pets are injured severely as a result.
But back to our puppy! I treated her homeopathically with several doses of nosodes on the visit, another homeopathic specifically great for helping with vaccinosis to take home and have every day, and some acupressure work. I was pretty excited to see how she responded…
We all got settled inside, and the pup did some super excited zoomies around the room. Her mum told me (with a happy smile) that she was heaps better- she’d stopped licking and chewing, her tummy had dried up, and wasn’t red and damp anymore. She was a lot happier. I checked it out, and yes, there was a huge improvement.
The main reason for our visit today was to do an in house titer test, as the pup was now older than 16 weeks. She wasn’t happy about the clippers and the needle, but with a little patience we collected a bit of blood, I measured 10 microlitres into the first well of the test kit, and then it was watching the clock, dipping the plastic test strip into each well in turn. It took about 20 minutes before we got the result.
Canine hepatitis = inadequate immunity (though there was some colour in the spot, so there were low levels of antibodies in her blood). Canine Parvovirus = inadequate immunity (the spot was even paler than the hepatitis one). Distemper = strong immunity. My interpretation is that when she had her single vaccination at 8 weeks of age, she had quite high levels of maternal antibodies for CHV and CPV, and so her system only partially responded to them.
These results led to a long discussion about what was best to do – and there are no easy answers in a situation like this: A puppy with antibody levels that equate to inadequate protection, but who has had a bad reaction to her vaccination. Subsequent vaccines are likely to cause worse problems! BUT then you want your dog to be protected, so there’s risk on both sides of the fence.
There is the alternative disease protection option of homeo-pathic prophy-laxis (and I have to mention that the hyphens are there because the last time I wrote these words in a post on this page, I was actively and nastily trolled by someone I later found out was a vaccine research scientist – it was a very aggressive, nasty, personal attack – so if you see anything like that in the comments below, you’ll know that their intent is to squash anything that competes with vaccines). As I explained, I don’t have high-quality scientific evidence to support their efficacy, but I believe they give a good level of disease protection. Certainly many holsitic vets over many years in practice have drawn the same conclusions from their clinical experience. I use them for my own pets instead of vaccinating.
I explained all of this at length, answered many questions, and asked my client to make an informed choice – she elected not to re-vaccinate, and to use homeopathic nosodes along with another natural exposure method that has been developed by a vet in the USA, Dr Manziano. This protocol consists of taking your puppy to a high traffic area (dog park etc) and letting them run around on the ground for 5 minutes only one a week for 3 weeks. She then titer tests on week 4 and consistently finds that these puppies have seroconverted, and have high levels of antibodies from this low-level natural exposure. If your puppy is exposed to only low levels, then there is enough virus to trigger a protective response without causing disease (your dog has to take a critical number of virus organisms into their system for the disease to be able to overwhelm them and make them sick).
We will be re-testing this pup in a month or two, and I’ll be very interested to see what the result is!
It’s really important to understand that there is risk with whichever choice you make. My job is to tell my clients what the risks and options are, and then allow them to make an informed choice. Most vets minimise the risks of vaccination. I know I used to before I learned better. We were taught at university that the risks of vaccination were minimal, and always outweighed the need to vaccinate regularly, and I was not taught about how long these vaccinations give protection for, either. I do know that vet students today are better informed, but I also know that vaccine companies influence what is taught at uni, and I know that the professional veterinary bodies recommend three yearly “boosters” which is in direct conflict with what is best practice according to the research on duration of immunity from core vaccinations in our pets.
My best practice is to titer test vaccinated pups after 16 weeks of age, and then titer test every 3 years. Some people will wait until 16 weeks and give only one vaccination, perhaps giving homeopathic protection before that. This newer natural exposure method is also an option. When you get to 5-6 years after their last vaccination it would be wise to titer test yearly. If titer levels drop below that which correlates with immunity, then re-vaccinate. I will never re-vaccinate any dog without titer testing to see if it is needed.
It’s complicated! so if you have any questions, ask them in the comments… And share this to build greater awareness, and save dog’s from unnecessary re-vaccinations that may cause life long harm and disease!