By Amanda K. Vogt
It is Spring, almost summer, and it’s time for your pet’s annual wellness check. But does your veterinary appointment or annual mailed reminder include vaccines or revaccines (boosters) for rabies, distemper and a whole jumble of daunting multi-lettered vaccines you don’t even recognize? If it does, you might want to ask your vet a few pertinent questions before encouraging a cocktail of vaccines be injected into your beloved pet!
More is not necessarily better and over-vaccination occurs, although it is not known how often, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which in 2011 changed its vaccine guidelines to recommend a three-year gap between most vaccines/booster shots.
Unlike a vaccine like rabies, which contains a single virus, many veterinarians now utilize combination vaccines that contain “modified live” viruses mixed with various bacteria. They are both convenient and profitable to veterinarians, but can pose uncertain risks to pets.
Such “cocktail” vaccines, which might show up on your bill or reminder as DHLPP or DHLPPC (see below), contain a number of pathogens and cancer-causing chemicals that injected all at once can potentially overwhelm your pet’s autoimmune system, causing skin disease, severe allergic reaction, autoimmune disorder and even death. Smaller dogs and puppies are more vulnerable than larger animals to poor reactions and side-effects.
For example, giving a rabies vaccine with a Bordetella combination can mean as many as nine shots at once! Imagine if your pediatrician told you your toddler required nine shots in a single visit! You would be out the front door in a heartbeat, right?
In addition, often your pet doesn’t need additional vaccines or “boosters” to maintain immunity. Veterinarians acknowledge that in most cases, if your dog has been vaccinated against distemper and parvovirus even once, it already has lifetime immunity. If you have questions about your pet’s ongoing immunity, you can ask your vet to perform a titer (antibody) blood test to prove or disprove ongoing immunity.
Your vet is required by law to inform you of the risks and benefits, not to mention the alternatives, to any vaccine. But as a rule of thumb, beware the combination vaccine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and come into your veterinarian’s office armed with information about your dog’s past vaccine history. If you don’t want to question your vet’s recommendations, at the very least spread out vaccines over a period of months. Don’t get them all in the same day.