Does your pet need vaccinations every year?
Veterinarian Reviewed on June 17, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Even though the importance of vaccinations has been stressed to pet owners, it may not be necessary to vaccinate your pet every year.
The vaccinations stimulate the pet’s immune system and are done to protect the pet against a specific type of infectious disease, depending on the vaccine being administered.
However, it is not as simple as that, as there are other risks involved as well. When a vaccine is administered to a pet, it spurs the pet’s immune system to produce ‘Humoral Immunity’. This is simply a form of disease protection that is then mediated or controlled by antibodies.
If an animal has encountered a pathogen, their bodies produce antibodies that circulate in the body’s fluids. These are molecules that attach themselves to the pathogens and stop them from wreaking havoc.
In order to keep these antibodies working, annual booster shots are usually recommended to pet owners. This is because it is thought that the vaccines themselves only provide immunity for about a year and so vaccinated a pet again each year would help maintain the pet’s immunity system.
This protocol has been advised by most major veterinary associations for many years.
However, evidence is coming to light that proves that annual boost shots are not necessary. In fact, there is now proof that many of today’s advancements in the vaccines have caused them to last much longer, almost for the entire life of the pet. Therefore, annual vaccinations are not necessary.
There are veterinarians who insist on annual booster shots because they do not feel confident enough in the medical evidence and that the benefits of these vaccines far outweigh the risks. Sadly, most of these veterinarians do not want to lose any potential income from the pet owners who bring their pets in every year to receive these annual boosters.
It is good to know that most of the recommendations for annual boosters for a vaccine actually come directly from the manufacturer of that vaccine, and not from any major veterinary association (although a re-vaccination recommendation must first be approved by such association).
The American Veterinary Medical Association has even started to change their tune: “While there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year, revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.”
Because of this statement, most veterinary schools in the USA have started changing, or already have changed, their stance on teaching students that annual boosters are vital to the health of a pet.
There are side effects of vaccines that pet owners should be made aware of, most of which are immune related diseases, such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia, immune mediated skin disease, vaccine induced skin cancer, skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, inflammatory bowel disease and neurological conditions. These days, cats and dogs under the age of 5 that have some type of cancer, have become more and more prevalent in today’s society. Besides the cancer, autoimmune disease cases are increasing amongst pets as well.
There are many links between these medical conditions and over-vaccination. It is believed that this is due to the immune system being over worked when a vaccine is given to a pet and will, therefore, respond poorly to the vaccine itself. In some situations, the outcome is an autoimmune disease or an infection or swelling and pain at the site of the injection. Most common are cats that have injection site sarcomas and dogs whose allergies are worsened after a vaccine is given.
All this being said, by using conventional vaccinations to increase a pet’s immune system, they are actually causing them to become weaker. Most sick pets today are ill due to over-vaccinations, poor nutrition, bad breeding practices and no enough supplementation in their diet.
Although vaccines are used to prevent illnesses, they should always be used with extreme caution. Pet owners should always do their research on the vaccine and the disease to decide for themselves if the risks outweigh the potential benefit of the vaccine. The decision to vaccinate your pet is yours alone, not your vets. If you have an indoor cat, it may not be necessary to vaccinate her yearly as the chance of her coming into contact with a disease is very slim.
If you do decide to vaccinate your pet, you should realize that not all vaccines will actually work in preventing a specific disease. There is still a chance that your pet may become ill with the disease that the vaccine is supposed to prevent.
Make sure to feed your pet a nutritious diet and offer plenty of supplementation as well. Try to avoid toxic allopathic medications and opt instead for more herbal remedies.
Photo Credit: Zaldylmg
Sign up for our newsletter and receive more articles and the latest pet health updates and special offers.
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan