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The Pet Vaccine Truth: Part 1

Feb 12, 2008
Most pet owners today are finding the whole issue of pet vaccines more and more confusing. Your local conventional veterinarian is telling you that "you should, as a responsible pet owner, follow my advice - vaccinate your dog and cat every year" with annual boosters. And at the same time you've read the horrible stories about pets who develop cancer right at the site of a vaccine injection, and many other stories about adverse reactions to vaccines in both cats and dogs.

So... are we vaccinating our pets far too often? Are we giving them the right number of vaccines, or too many? By vaccinating yearly, are we really doing what is best for our pets, or is this all about the veterinarian's 'bottom line'?

There are many, often contradictory, points of view. Veterinarians in general are telling pet owners to vaccinate yearly, that vaccines do not harm your pets... and many approach vaccines casually: "at worst, they won't cause any harm". The evidence, along with the experience of many individual veterinarians and alternative pet health practitioners, definitely suggests otherwise.

What are the reasons for vaccinating our pets?

A basic understanding of vaccines, and why we vaccinate in the first place, is important. We give our pets vaccinations to protect against infectious disease. When we give a vaccine, it stimulates our pet's immune system to produce "Opposite Invaders" or antibodies. The new antibody that is produced is just for that particular virus, so if your dog or cat is exposed to the real virus at a later date, she will be able to respond quickly and produce antibodies to overcome the infection before it takes hold.

In theory, since vaccines are able to protect our pets from life threatening diseases like rabies and parvovirus, they sound wonderful. In that sense they most are - vaccines have saved countless lives. If that's the case, why be concerned? Are there real drawbacks, reasons for caution?

The drawbacks of vaccines

The evidence is there for us to see, if we simply look. With the medical advancements we've made, we would expect our pets to be healthier than ever - but in reality, our pets are sicker than ever before. It is more and more common to see cancer in dogs and cats under 5 years of age, and autoimmune diseases are on the rise as well. Diseases such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia, immune mediated skin disease, vaccine induced skin cancer in cats, skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, inflammatory bowel disease and neurological conditions are just a few of the diseases that have shown a link to over-vaccination in our pets. In fact, there are links to most of the common chronic health diseases of dogs and cats due to over-vaccination.

The reasoning for this is that when we vaccinate, the immune system can become 'over-taxed' and respond inappropriately. This is especially true when multiple vaccines are given at once. Pet owners may see adverse reactions directly (within 24 hours) after their pet has been vaccinated, with their pet having diarrhea, vomiting, or an abscess showing up at the site of the vaccine injection. In other pets, it may show up later, as an allergy, cancer, or a multitude of other diseases. One recent study has shown that the more vaccines that are given at once, the higher the risk of developing sarcoma (soft-tissue cancer). The study shows up to approximately 175% increase in cancer risk if vaccines are administered in the same location.

Over-vaccination may not be the only reason for our sick pets today, but it is a major factor. There are many other reasons, including environmental toxins, low quality food, and genetic deterioration because of poor quality breeding. In combination these factors are leaving each generation more susceptible to congenital disorders and chronic disease. But clearly, we are vaccinating our pets far too often, and for more diseases than they truthfully need.

Reasons for over-vaccination

The reasons we have been over-vaccinating are manifold. These include the original belief that "at worst, vaccines won't cause any harm", to the bottom line of both veterinarians and the companies that produce the vaccines. Many veterinarians choose to ignore current research because they feel the benefits of vaccines outweigh any risks, or because they still rely on 'annual booster shots' as a source of income.

At this point you're probably wondering if you should vaccinate your pets at all, if the risks of vaccines are so high. In most cases, you should, but not as often and with not as many types of vaccines as you've currently been doing. There are alternatives, but unless you are willing to make changes in you're pet's care and what risks you are willing to bear for your pet, I still advise a limited vaccine schedule. Stayed tuned for Part 2 of this series, where I'll provide my current recommended vaccine schedule and discuss a few alternatives to vaccines.
About the Author
If you are wondering what the right decision is for your cat's vaccines, grab Dr. Andrew Jones' free dog and cat health e-book and ask for his report on dog and cat vaccines.
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