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By:
Peter Dobias, DVM

A Holistic Approach to Vaccination for Dogs

When I was a veterinary student, I was taught that vaccinations are a cornerstone of healthy pets. As I went on to practice, however, I saw severe acute vaccine reactions, as well as the clear onset of a variety of health problems soon after vaccination. I also saw several cats with feline fibrosarcoma, a tumor thought to appear in the vaccination site of 1 out of 1,000 cats. Now, after more than 20 years in practice, I believe that pets with fewer or no vaccines do better than those who are vaccinated. I also believe that vaccines can cause serious side effects that are often not noticed or recognized by conventional veterinarians. Here are some thoughts and suggestions for concerned pet owners.

First, keep in mind that pathogens mainly affect individuals with a weakened immune system, so healthy food, fresh water, the right amount of exercise, and low stress is the best disease prevention. With the exception of rabies, most bacteria or viruses enter through the mouth or respiratory tract, so an animal with a strong immune system, in most cases, will respond by eradicating the pathogen before it gets a chance to grow and spread. It also is rare to have more than one serious pathogen attack the body at the same time.

In contrast, vaccines introduce multiple pathogens by an injection that bypasses the natural gateways. Vaccines can cause symptoms similar to the disease they are supposed to prevent. Combinations of vaccines also can overwhelm the immune system and cause long-term problems. Repeated exposure to vaccines can create toxic buildup and lead to chronic disease, like arthritis or even cancer. Indeed, vaccines often contain carcinogens, such as mercury and formaldehyde.

We also should note that vaccines sometimes are made by infecting healthy laboratory animals, including dogs, cats, and horses. When I was a student, I saw these poor souls locked in perpetual isolation, often losing their lives under torturous conditions. The path of “no harm” is to limit vaccinations when possible.

Steps to keep your dog disease free:

1. Maternal antibodies protect puppies fully until the age of 10 to 16 weeks. Vaccination before 12 weeks of age may neutralize the maternal immunity, leaving your pet more vulnerable. I have confirmed this by running antibody tests on these puppies.

2. When your puppy is 12 weeks old, get an antibody “titer test,” available in most veterinary clinics. The most significant diseases are distemper, parvovirus, and leptospirosis. Most clinics run just the first two tests.

3. If antibodies are present, socialize your puppy on a moderate basis with other dogs. Being exposed to other dogs, while being protected by maternal antibodies, is “nature’s way of vaccination.” Some labs warn of low (insufficient) antibody levels, but I have not seen any dogs with any antibody presence that got sick. Retest your dog for antibodies at the age of five months.

4. If a titer test shows zero antibodies, consider vaccinating against parvovirus at 12 weeks and against distemper four weeks later. Never give more than one antigen at a time.

5. Avoid boosters and unnecessary vaccine exposure by getting a titer test one month after the last vaccine and then two to three months later.

6. Do not use vaccines for kennel cough, Lyme disease, or Giardia. These have the highest rate of side effect. I have seen many dogs that were vaccinated for Lyme disease that have symptoms of arthritis at the age of two to three years. This vaccine has not been approved for people because of safety issues. Kennel cough is self-limiting, much like a cold. The vaccine causes frequent side effects, including kennel cough itself.

7. If you live in an area with rabies or travel with your dog, the vaccine may be necessary. Give it at least four to eight weeks from other vaccinations.

In my experience, healthy puppies may not need any vaccination and will maintain their antibodies (protections) for a lifetime. This is the safest way. Of course, no one can give you a 100-percent guarantee that your puppy will not get infected, with or without vaccines, but I have not seen any dogs with parvo or distemper since starting to use this protocol in the late ’90s. If your health practitioner, day care, or boarding facility demands vaccines, remember that you make the final decision. Be polite, state your request clearly, and notice how much you can stand your ground. If they do not respect your wishes, you are free to choose