For the past 50 years, vaccinations for diseases such as Parvovirus and Rabies have played an important, life-saving role in veterinary medicine. Many fatal infections were prevented following the birth of what would prove to be one of the most influential industries in animal health care.
With the history of these diseases, the overwhelming fatalities from parvo and distemper outbreaks, and the desire of most pet owners to do everything they can to protect their furry family members from such fates, it is unsurprising that annual vaccines became an integral and routine part of animal wellness. Also unsurprisingly, the initial discovery that too much of a good thing can turn foul had not been particularly well-received or taken very seriously by the drug companies or many of the veterinarians that purchase vaccines from them. Everyone thought that they were doing what was best for their pets; even veterinarians believed they were giving their patients top-notch care by vaccinating annually!
It wasn't until the 1990's, when cats (the heroes of vaccine controversy) began to develop sarcomas, or cancerous skin tumors, in apparent association with Rabies, Distemper and Feline Leukemia vaccinations, that the potential for harm from over-vaccination became even a minor subject in mainstream veterinary medicine.
If cats were experiencing this reaction, could it be possible that the combined effects of multiple vaccinations, or even just a single vaccination, are actually causing more problems for our pets than they are solving? Are annual vaccines overkill?
As the affects of over-vaccination began to become more apparent, it came to light that the vaccination protocols we currently follow were based only on the suggestions of the vaccine manufacturers - there were no independent scientific studies and no standard protocols accepted by the AVMA or the FDA to back it up.
Jean Dodds, DVM, is a pioneer in vaccine protocol studies. According to her research, at least 95% of dogs actually retain immunity against the viruses in question (Rabies, Distemper and Parvovirus) for YEARS after being vaccinated. She also discovered that "evidence implicating vaccines in triggering immune-mediated and other chronic disorders is compelling."
Reactions can range from short-term (24 to 48 hours onset), including anaphylactic shock, to long-term (10 to 45 days onset), including, but not limited to, fever, stiffness, soreness and nervous system problems, and even chronic, longer-term damage such as an increased susceptibility to disease, permanent immune-deficiency and organ damage.
So... where is the middle ground? We obviously need these vaccines to prevent life-threatening viruses from infecting our pets, but we must also consider the risks involved in OVER-vaccination, especially with the evidence that immunity from one vaccination can last for many years.
With a simple blood test we can determine the current status of your dog's or cat's immunity against Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus and Feline Leukemia and avoid unnecessary vaccination.
A "titer" is defined as the strength of concentration of a substance in a solution, such as the presence of an immunological response to a virus. By running a titer test instead of simply vaccinating annually you can avoid over-vaccinating AND feel confident that your pet has the protection he or she needs.
Here are The Animal Doctor, Dr. Bozeman typically recommends that HEALTHY (as vaccine labels clearly state that they are meant for healthy animals only) dogs and cats be vaccinated with their regular puppy/kitten shots, recieve their first annual vaccines one year later, and then have a titer test run two weeks after their annual shots.
If that first titer test shows sufficient immunity we do not vaccinate again for at least three years. We recommend running titer tests every three years after the initial test and only vaccinating when the test indicates that it's necessary.
As of September 2012 we now offer in-house titers for distemper and parvo. By running this test in-house it gives us the opportunity to offer them at a lower cost than previous titers we would send off to a lab.
Of course, there are laws concerning the Rabies vaccination which we must keep in mind.
The state of Texas considers the Rabies vaccine to be good for three years after your pet has had two annual sets in a row, but some cities and towns are still requiring it every year. It MIGHT be possible to legally fight this law with a titer that shows sufficient immunity against Rabies, but this requires time and money.
Another common problem regarding our efforts to limit our patients' vaccines are boarding and grooming facilities. Many of these facilities are either not educated on the subject of titer testing or simply will not accept it in place of vaccines. In particular, the Bordetella, or Kennel Cough, vaccine is often required every 6 months at boarding and grooming facilities. There is no titer test for Bordetella, and in our experience it produces fewer side effects than Rabies and Distemper/Parvo do. It is still a vaccine, however, and we recommend it only in cases where it is necessary for boarding and grooming requirements.
For more information about The Animal Doctor's titer-testing and vaccination protocols or for titer-testing pricing, please don't hesitate to give us a call at 817-572-2400. We would LOVE to assist you in giving your pet the best care possible.