What is All the Confusion with Vaccines? Part One
For the last several years, the veterinary and pet communities have been turned upside down with revelations about vaccinations and pets. I can assure you I have been studying, reading, and attending seminars on this very subject. So let’s look at the subject of vaccines and try to decipher what is best for our pets (yes, veterinarians have pets).
Cats showing up with vaccine related fibrosarcoma started the whole reevaluation of vaccines and vaccination schedules. Across the country cats were being diagnosed with cancerous growths where vaccines were given. These growths were very aggressive and life threatening. The incidence was 1 cat in 10,000 cats. Throw in the internet and panic ensued.
Up until then vaccines and vaccine schedules were dictated by the drug company’s research and development and labeling for the vaccine. All vaccines were labeled for 1 yr, so we gave boosters yearly. We worried if the patient was overdue, and if exposed to the viral diseases, that they would become sick. Years of vaccinated pets not getting sick and overdue pets getting sick dictated the rational. Reactions did happen with vaccines. Mainly veterinarians saw allergic type of reactions, hives, lethargy, swollen muzzles, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. These reactions were easily treated and easily prevented at the next vaccination. In my experience less than 1% of vaccinated dogs and less than .1% of the cats had a reaction.
So what have we learned?
1. The cats that got the fibrosarcoma were genetically prone. They were reacting to the adjuvant which is an additive in the vaccine.
2. Not all dogs and cats have the same risk. A strictly indoor pet using a litter box or papers has a less exposure rate than an indoor/outdoor pet. Pets under stressful circumstances (shelters, boarding/grooming facilities, show circuits) have a higher risk. Pets having close proximity to feral dogs or cats have a very high risk.
3. Geographical areas have their unique endemic viruses. Salmon Poisoning is endemic to Washington State, but not here in Missouri. Therefore, pets need to be protected for the diseases unique to their area.
4. Not all vaccines deliver what they promise. Ringworm vaccine was a failure. In the beginning bordetella vaccine was barely good for 3 months despite the year labeling. In the beginning Parvovirus vaccine was only good for 6 months. Now given time, a lot of the failures will be weeded out and the kinks in the other vaccines will be worked out.
5. Vaccines last longer than originally thought. Now we have 3yr canine distemper and feline distemper. We also have 3 yr rabies vaccines.
6. Vaccines can be triggers for autoimmune diseases. CAN Be, not will be. Autoimmune disease is a disease of one’s own immune system attacking normal tissue and causing damage.
In conclusion, know your pet’s risk and know your area’s potential diseases. Customize a vaccine plan to protect your pet and stick to it. It is the owner’s responsibility to maintain the conditions they and their veterinarian outline. You can’t say your cat is strictly indoors if the window and screen doors are open and feral cats are being fed outside. Or the dog is strictly indoors except for going to the groomers once a month.
Part 2 will cover titers and part 3 will cover puppies and kittens.