If you're similar to most pet owners today, you're probably finding the whole pet vaccine issue more and more confusing. Your conventional veterinarian tells you in no uncertain terms that "as a responsible pet owner, you must do the right thing and follow my advice: vaccinate your pet every year" with annual booster shots. On top of that, you've also heard the horror stories about pets who have developed cancer at the site of vaccine injections, and a number of other stories about adverse vaccine reactions in both dogs and cats. Are we vaccinating our pets too often? Are we giving them too many vaccines? Are veterinarians doing what is best for our pets' health, or is this just about the '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. Why are we 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, vaccines sound wonderful, if they are able to protect our pets from life threatening diseases such as rabies and parvovirus. And in that sense, they are, because vaccines have saved countless lives. So if that is the case, what are the drawbacks - what is the reason for caution? Reasons for caution with vaccines We simply need to open our eyes to see the evidence. With current medical advancements we've made, our pets should be healthier than ever. But in reality, our pets are sicker than they have ever been.
It's common to see cancer in cats and dogs at less than 5 years of age. Diseases including skin cancer, immune mediated skin disease, immune mediated hemolytic anemia, leukemia, allergies, arthritis, neurological conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease are just a few of the diseases that seem to have a link to over-vaccination. There are links to many common chronic pet health diseases because of 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 in our pets The reasons are many, and include the original belief that "at worst, vaccines will not cause your pet any harm", to the bottom line of the drug companies that produce vaccines and individual veterinarians. Veterinarians might be ignoring current research because they feel vaccine benefits outweigh vaccine risks, or simply because they continue to rely on 'annual boosters' as a major source of income.
By now you are probably wondering if you should vaccinate your pets at all, with the risks of vaccines being so high. In short, I do currently advise a limited vaccine regimen for most cases - just not as often and not as many vaccines as you currently are giving your pet. Alternatives to vaccines do exist, but only if you are willing to make changes in how you care for your pet and how you view the risks involved. In Part 2 of this series, I will provide my recommended vaccine schedule and an overview of vaccine alternatives.
If you are wondering what the right decision is for your pet's vaccines, grab Dr. Andrew Jones' free pet health e-book and ask for his pet vaccine recommendations.