By Dr. Shawn Messonnie
Pet’s Don’t Need Annual Shots!
Before you make an annual trip to the veterinarian’s office for your pet’s annual shots this year, you might want to seriously reconsider the reason for that trip. That’s because all of the current research on the topic of vaccinations proves that most pets do NOT need vaccines every year. The current recommendation by many experts, including all of the veterinary schools in the US, is to vaccinate pets every 3 years with only those vaccines that each pet needs. In other words, based upon your pet’s needs your doctor is supposed to work with you and make recommendations for your pet, which may be different from what another pet requires.
I should point out that these recommendations are from CONVENTIONAL veterinarians, not holistic doctors. Therefore, every veterinarian should, at least, be following these guidelines and not immunizing pets on an annual basis.
These guidelines, which were actually developed about 10 years ago and are now being updated, came about as a result of an increased incidence and immune diseases, including cancer, in pets which were receiving annual vaccinations. Additionally, the current vaccines on the market produce excellent immunity in most pets. While we don’t know the maximum duration of immunity for all of the vaccines, we do know that many vaccines produce immunity in dogs and cats that can last five years, 10 years, and possibly even the life of the pet. This makes the need for annual immunizations a thing of the past for most pets.
Holistic doctors like myself go even further to prevent the unnecessary use of vaccines in pets. Most of us like to do a titer test in place of vaccines. A titer test is a simple, inexpensive test that tells us your pet’s antibody status. If the titer test comes back normal, your pet would not receive any benefit from a vaccine, might be harmed by it, and therefore would not receive the shot. If the titer is low, a vaccine might be needed IF your pet is young and healthy.
For example, if your pet is due for a parvo vaccine, I would draw blood and do a parvo virus titer test instead. If it comes back in the normal range, there would be no reason to do the vaccine as your pet is protected against parvo virus and would not need additional vaccination.
For rabies, you must follow state laws. Most allow vaccination every 3 years. You should keep in mind that if your doctor does it every year, the 1 year and 3 year vaccines are the same, only the label is different. Therefore I recommend finding a doctor that will administer the vaccine only every 3 years. There is currently a study underway to show that immunity to the rabies vaccine actually lasts 5-10 years or longer, so hopefully we can reduce the need to administer that vaccine as well.
Some veterinarians may tell you that they “don’t believe in titers” or that they “cost too much.” That’s interesting, since every veterinarian does blood testing that involves titers (such as the annual heartworm test, FIP test, and tests for tick-borne disorders.) As for cost, I charge $55 for all the vaccine titer tests each dog or cat requires.
Since unnecessary vaccines do not help the pet, and there is always a risk of side effects anytime we administer a medication, it’s vitally important to minimize the number of immunizations given to your pet.