Wednesday, Mar. 5th 2014

Immune, or Vaccinated?

March 2014 Veterinary Alternatives Newsletter

Is Your Pet IMMUNE, or just VACCINATED? Many pet owners are still told that they need to bring their pets to the vet every year to have booster vaccinations administered.  I think it is important that there be an understanding of how the immune system works and what current research has indicated so that you, as a pet owner, can make an informed choice about this important medical decision.

Vaccinations are a form of a disease-causing virus or bacteria that has either been killed or genetically modified in some way so that it can no longer cause disease but can still be recognized as a foreign substance by the immune system.  When a vaccine is injected, the immune system recognizes the presence of something “other” and attacks it, forming cells that can remember what this foreign material looks like and can form antibodies to it.  These antibodies are what enable the body to fight off this disease if it again enters the body.  Once formed, these antibodies are a long-term or even permanent “memory” in the body.  If an animal has what is called a protective antibody level, or titer, then it is protected against exposure to the disease.  This is called immunity. These titers can be measured with a blood test for many of the common pet diseases.

About 11 years ago, the American Animal Hospital Association revised their recommendations, stating that annual vaccinations for most core vaccines (like distemper, parvo, and feline respiratory viruses) are probably life-long and only need to be administered every three years.  This recommendation was a compromise, after all, if the protection is life-long, why re-vaccinate at all?  While it is yet unknown from research how long all of the common vaccinations last and it will vary from animal to animal, it is known that several of the core vaccines may indeed have a protective titer for the life of the pet.  Vaccination of a pet already protected is not only wasting money, it is over-exposing the pet to altered proteins and over-stimulating the immune system.    Some diseases or disorders suspected to result from this over-stimulation may include cancer, seizures, auto-immune disorders, chronic inflammatory conditions, and more.  While the occurrence of these diseases is not necessarily related to vaccines the pet has received, why contribute to the possibility?

Not all vaccinations are bad.  Young animals, or those who have never received vaccines, can certainly benefit from receiving them to bring up their titers.  It is much better to give a puppy a few parvo virus vaccinations than to watch it contract parvo, suffer, and possibly die.  Rabies is still ubiquitous in our country and all pets should be vaccinated against it.  However, using a vaccination reminder just to get an animal in the door is, in my opinion, no longer state-of-the-art veterinary medicine.  Frankly, I think once a year examination isn’t enough anyway.  To take care of a pet properly, they should be seen at least twice a year by their vet because of their higher metabolism and faster aging, plus their ability to hide disease and pain.

At Whole Health Pet Center, puppies and kittens will receive at least two vaccinations plus a rabies shot, preferably all before four months of age.  I will then suggest doing a titer for any of the vaccinations for which it is available to see if their immune system has responded.  If so, they are done with vaccinations for a year, at which time another titer and three-year rabies booster can be performed.  After that, adult animals can receive a rabies shot every three years, titers on a schedule determined to be appropriate depending on their lifestyle and potential exposure, and additional vaccinations only according to their needs.  I will carry single-disease vaccinations, so if your pet needs a parvo booster but not a distemper booster, they will receive only the parvo instead of a vaccination containing up to seven different diseases.

There are still some vaccinations that may be recommended.  Dogs frequently exposed to ticks may need a Lyme vaccine.  Dogs spending a lot of time in day-care, at the groomer, or at shows may need bordatella (kennel cough) vaccines periodically.  Cats going to cat shows may need a ringworm vaccine.  Not all vaccinations have titers readily available, so it may be safest for the pet to err on the side of caution and re-vaccinate more often for those.  But I pledge to my clients to never use a vaccination reminder as my excuse to get an animal into my office just to make sure they get an examination.  I know my clients care enough about their pets to have them examined twice a year just because that is the best way to catch any incipient health problems early and to make sure they get their chiropractic examinations.  Then we can discuss the optimal vaccination and titer schedule for that pet according to their lifestyle.

Whole Health Pet Center Update: By the time you read this, I will have closed on my new clinic.  Up next is updating the website, getting a clinic phone number, and getting the renovations underway to turn the building from an equine facility to one serving small animals.  The April newsletter should have all kinds of important information.  Be watching for emails as well, I may send a few extras with invitations to the grand opening that you can share with your friends, dates of official opening, information about services, and more.  Grand Opening teaser—I plan to have door prizes, tours, tasty goodies, and am working on trying to get a local celebrity or two to come!  I will ask that pets stay home for the grand opening—I don’t want any of my patients to get upset by the crowds of people I hope will be attending!  Look for the grand opening on a Saturday at the end of May or beginning of June, assuming all goes well.  Plan ahead on which friends you’d like to bring along to introduce to a new way of doing veterinary medicine!

I am looking into new ways to send out emails, including this newsletter, which will soon be in the form of a blog attached to my website.  At that point, expect to receive an email containing a link to the blog, rather than the entire newsletter.  Also, I am looking into more automated email services so you may get newsletters from a different address in the future.  I may even send this one out twice, once the usual way and a second time via the new service, just to test.  If you get this one and not a second, please check your spam filters to see if they need adjustment.   Remember you can always receive “to the minute” updates by liking my Facebook page and clicking “get notifications” under the “Liked” button on my page. is where it’s at! Please share my page, I’m trying to reach 400 likes by the time I open the new clinic.  The name of the page will be changing to Whole Health Pet Center assuming Facebook allows me to change it so be watching for that.

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18011 E St. Rte 58
Raymore, MO 64083

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