By Wendy Volhard © 2000

Over the past 20 years we have seen a steady increase in the number of vaccinations that dogs receive. Sadly, instead of improving the dogs’ health and longevity, the practice has had the opposite effect.

It has created unintended and undesirable reactions to vaccinations, which are called vaccinosis. Reactions can range from none or barely detectable to death. These reactions may occur as a result of

  • One vaccine,
  • Several vaccines given at the same time, or
  • Repeated vaccinations in a relatively short time frame.

We recall one consultation involving a four-month old Great Dane puppy, Caesar. When he came to us, he was virtually paralyzed. The veterinarian had told the owners that Caesar probably had contracted some spinal disease, not uncommon in giant breeds, and that nothing could be done.

The owners came to us as a last resort. By that time, Caesar did not want to eat, had become urine incontinent and constipated. Before doing anything, we took Caesar to our own veterinarian. After a blood test and X-rays, a number of diagnoses were considered, but nothing clear-cut could be determined.

In the meantime, we went through Caesar’s history with the owners, and here is what we learned:

  • The breeder gave Caesar distemper and parvo vaccines at 6 weeks of age.
  • Caesar is picked up by new owners at seven weeks of age.
  • Under the terms of seller’s guarantee, Caesar is taken to the owners’ veterinarian within 48 hours of purchase for a health evaluation.
  • On that visit Caesar, is wormed and given a 5 in 1 vaccination.
  • These vaccinations were repeated at nine, eleven, and thirteen weeks.
  • During that time span, Caesar was wormed two more times as a "precautionary matter," even though no fecal sample was taken to see if he actually had worms.
  • At fifteen weeks of age, Caesar gets another set of shots, to which the rabies vaccine had been added.
  • Two days later Caesar collapses, having received 23 vaccines in nine weeks.

At this point in our narrative we want to make it clear that we are not against vaccinations. What we are against, is random, repetitive, routine and completely unnecessary vaccinations.

The story does have a happy ending. Through acupuncture, chiropractic, diet and homeopathic remedies we managed to piece Caesar back together into a normal dog.

Aside from too many vaccinations too close together, where do the annual booster shots fit in? Actually they don’t. According to Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy, the textbook used in veterinary schools, there is no scientific basis or immunological reason that would necessitate annual revaccinations. Immunity to viruses lasts for many years or for the life of the dog.

When your dog already carries the antibodies against a particular virus, a revaccination can cause havoc with his immune system. The many adverse reactions to unnecessary vaccinations have caused breeders, dog owners and veterinarians to begin questioning the need for boosters and become more cautious in the way vaccines are administered. By law, you only need the rabies vaccination, and the booster only every three years. A rabies shot should also never be given before 6 months of age.

Some breeds of dogs have extreme, even fatal reactions to vaccines that are tolerated by other breeds of dogs. Some develop odd and peculiar behaviors such as

  • Aggression,
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders,
  • Excessive licking,
  • Anxiety or fear,
  • Insomnia, and
  • Snapping at imaginary flies.

How do you know if your dog will have a reaction? You don’t and therein lies the problem. Fortunately, you don’t have to take the chance. When you take your dog in for his annual physical check-up, you can ask your veterinarian to do a titer test. This is a blood test, which will tells you if your dog has antibodies (or resistance) to the diseases for which he has already been vaccinated. If he has a high titer or level of antibodies to the disease, there is no point in revaccinating him. This process of titering is becoming more and more popular.

Immunologists are discovering a direct correlation between the increase in autoimmune and chronic disease states with the increased use of vaccines. Many holistically trained veterinarians now believe that the benefit of many vaccines are outweighed by the risks and that dogs are better off either:

  • Not being vaccinated, except for rabies, but having frequent titers taken
  • Only being vaccinated once for parvo and distemper as young dogs, or
  • Using a homeopathic alternative called nosodes, to vaccines.

To work out a vaccination schedule for your puppy, consult the "Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog" 2nd edition.

Before vaccinating your dog, discuss the safety with your veterinarian if he:

  • is on any kind of medication,
  • is not perfectly healthy,
  • has any skin, eye or ear infections,
  • has recently been treated for fleas or ticks,
  • has had prior reactions to vaccines,
  • has not been supplemented with vitamins and minerals, and
  • is scheduled for teeth cleaning, or spaying or neutering, or any other surgical procedure.

The vaccine companies specifically indicate in their literature supplied to the veterinarian, that no dog should be vaccinated unless in perfect health.

When You Have to Vaccinate

Sometimes you have to vaccinate your dog. Many boarding kennels require proof of vaccination, as do obedience schools. For the latest research on vaccines and learn about the new vaccines that are on the market refer to the 2nd edition of the Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog.

Reprinted with permission from Volhard Holistic Care Articles by Wendy Volhard — — The site for the discriminating dog owner.

Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.