Shot in the dark: what to know about pet vaccination programs

April 1, 2010

With his twinkly eyes and beautiful white beard, veterinary immunologist Ronald D. Schultz bears a passing resemblance to Santa Claus. He even appears to share Santa’s rock star status, always crowded ’round with people who want to ask him questions.

Dr. Schultz’s passion is canine and feline vaccination programs (well, his real passion is cattle, but that’s another story), and you can tell it when he speaks. I’ve heard him twice recently, first at the American Animal Hospital Association meeting in Long Beach (hi Jason!) and a week later at the Safer Pet Vaccination and Health Care seminar in Del Mar, where he and Jean Dodds were the featured speakers at a day-long event to raise money for the Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust.

That’s a nonprofit with the dual goals of proving that the duration of immunity for the rabies vaccine is longer than three years and establishing a blood titer standard that would allow pet owners to avoid giving their animals unnecessary rabies booster vaccinations, which are linked to autoimmune disease, skin and digestive problems, injection site tumors and other adverse reactions. The event drew approximately 210 attendees and raised at least $30,000, with a possibility of more if further donations come in to take advantage of the remaining $6,500 in matching funds put up by two anonymous dogs.

At both AAHA and Safer Pet, I was looking forward to hearing about the progress being made in changing veterinary hearts and minds about the frequency of vaccinations–the need for decreasing them, that is. But it looks like a lot of education is still in order.

I’ve been attending sessions at vet conferences for a good 20 years now. I don’t know that I could stand up there and give a talk on vaccinations just off the top of my head, but I feel like I have a reasonably good grasp of the subject. So I was a little surprised at AAHA when I slipped into Dr. Schultz’s presentation and heard what seemed to be a pretty basic talk on vaccinations: the differences between modified live and killed vaccines, core and non-core vaccines and when each should be given, and how often vaccines should be boostered.

When I introduced myself to him in Del Mar, I asked about that. “Don’t they already know that stuff from vet school?”

Not necessarily, he told me. Not a huge amount is known about immunology, so it sometimes gets short shrift. Immunology is a very new science and so complex that immunologists know only a little part of it. As he told the AAHA group, vaccination is the easiest yet most complex medical procedure a veterinarian will ever perform. It’s also surrounded by misconceptions. Just a few that he’s heard from practitioners:

If the vaccine label recommends annual revaccination, that’s proof that immunity lasts for only one year. False

If the animal is not revaccinated at or before the age of 1 year, the whole vaccine program must begin again. False.

Even if annual boosters aren’t necessary, they won’t hurt. False.

What we do know:

Vaccinating too often confers no benefit.

The minimum duration of immunity for canine distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus-2 vaccines (the core vaccines, which are considered essential and should be given to every dog) is seven to nine years, and they are essentially 100 percent effective.

Running the risk of adverse reactions, no matter how low, is unacceptable medical practice.

At both events, Schultz emphasized that only 50 percent of all puppies in the U.S. get vaccinated and only 25 percent of all cats. To reduce the incidence of disease, it’s better to vaccinate more animals than to vaccinate the same ones year after year. Schultz would like to see 70 percent of puppies get vaccinated to provide better population, or herd, immunity, but only with core vaccines and only as often as needed. “We need to find a way to get more animals immunized at least once,” he says.

The current AAHA vaccination guidelines call for a puppy to receive a final dose of core vaccines at 14 to 16 weeks, followed by a booster at 1 year. After that, core vaccines should be given at a minimum interval of every three years or longer. The recommendations by the American Association of Feline Practitioners are here. Non-core vaccines–things like lepto or giardia–are advised only if the animal is at high risk of the disease.

The AAHA recommendations are a middle-of-the-road approach. A minimalist, like Schultz, would give rabies (the other core vaccine) every three years, as required by law, and would never give the core vaccines again.

How old should a puppy be when the first vaccine is given? Eight to 10 weeks is the earliest Schultz would start vaccinating. The exception, he says, is shelter animals, which can be started at 6 weeks. “I’m very liberal regarding vaccination of shelter animals and very conservative regarding vaccination of pets.”

Note to horse people: None of this applies to you. Horses don’t have a great immune system, equine vaccines are less effective than those for dogs and cats, and they often have a very short duration of immunity.

I don’t want to leave out Dr. Dodds, who is a rock star in her own right in the holistic veterinary community and an internationally recognized expert on immunology. Her talk focused on the benefits of vaccines, vaccine-associated risks, titer testing and current issues surrounding vaccination.

The takeaway–Dodds suggests these alternatives to current vaccination practices:

Measure titers, if for no other reason than peace of mind or proof of immunization to boarding kennels. “The presence of any measurable antibody shows protection,” she says.

Be cautious in vaccinating sick animals or animals with a fever. Vaccines are meant for use in healthy animals.

Avoid revaccinating animals with prior adverse reactions, and don’t use them for breeding.

Be aware of and tell clients about factors that increase the risk of vaccine reactions in dogs and cats: young adult age, small-breed size, neutering, and multiple vaccines given per visit.

Know which breeds and types of dogs are at risk of adverse reactions. They include Akitas, Weimaraners and small white-coated breeds.

Avoid unnecessary (non-core) vaccinations or too-frequent vaccinations.

She says veterinarians need to understand duration of immunity, accept the potential for adverse events (aka vaccine reactions), recognize adverse events rather than dismissing or denying them, inform clients of the issues surrounding vaccinations and of options such as titers or less frequent vaccination, and become educated about breed and other predispositions. When veterinarians don’t do those things, the public loses trust in them and the principle of “do no harm” is violated.

Does all of this mean that there are hard and fast rules about exactly when to vaccinate, which vaccines to use and how often? Nope. Schultz says pets need an individualized vaccine program based on their lifestyle, health, medical history, age, the prevalence of disease in the area and other factors.

If you’d like to purchase a video of Dr. Dodds’ presentation and the Q&A session with Dodds and Schultz or a copy of the program guide, which contained several articles by both, sign up here. You’ll be contacted when they’re available, and the proceeds benefit the Rabies Challenge Fund.

Your virus trivia for the day: human measles, canine distemper and rinderpest (cattle) viruses are all members of the same genus — Morbillivirus — and are virtually identical.

Filed under: non-profits and charities,pets, connected,veterinary medicine — Kim Campbell Thornton @ 11:19 am


  1. I actually found it a little alarming the questions some veterinarians asked at the veterinary conference. They were so basic that *I* could have answered them. (And no, I looked: They weren’t being asked by techs, some of whom asked AWESOME questions.)

    Fortunately for us all, those vets were the minority, and most of the questions were of the caliber you’d expect from doctors.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 1, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  2. Wonderful! Thanks, Kim.

    Dax’s liver disease years ago taught me to look twice at my dogs’ vaccine schedule and I’ve become very conservative.

    Comment by Liz Palika — April 1, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

  3. Kim, thanks for your excellent recount of the event. As the event organizer and host, it was my dual purpose to both impart the latest knowledge and raise funds for the Rabies Challenge Fund. To both ends, I appreciate your mention of the sale of DVDs and Program Guides, and also to the matching fund.

    MATCHING OPPORTUNITY: All donations to the Rabies Challenge Fund ( will be matched dollar for dollar until the remaining $6500 matching funds are used — or until the end of April when matching ends.

    SMALL DOG ALERT: One important thing mentioned by Dr. Dodds is the major problem faced when vaccinating small dogs with multiple vaccines (combo shots). Dr. Dodds sent me the study results published in the AVMA Journa. I’ve written at length about it at

    Comment by Jan Rasmusen — April 1, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  4. Hi Kim :0)! We (AAHA) are in the process of revising our canine vaccine guidelines. They should be available in September.

    Comment by Jason Merrihew — April 1, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  5. Great article, thanks, Kim! It’s always shocking to me how many veterinarians are still not informed about these changes in vaccination recommendations. This is great information for pet owners.

    Comment by Ingrid King — April 1, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  6. Thanks for the excellent write-up.

    I am always amazed at people who don’t think of vaccinating their animals for rabies. A few years ago a neighbor took in a cat that had been dumped in our neighborhood. We have lots of wildlife in the area. He was kind of taken aback when I told him he had to get the cat vaccinated for rabies, not because of the law, but because of the environment. Once I explained it, he saw the logic and did get the cat vaccinated. For much the same reason (the wildlife, including rattlesnakes), my Shiba gets leptospirosis and rattlesnake vaccines. I just adopted an older male Shiba (almost 13 years old). He will probably get these vaccines on a staggered schedule with the lepto first and then the rattlesnake. (I’ve had a rattlesnake in my garage, so this is a real concern. The vaccine buys you time to get the dog to the vet if bitten.)

    Comment by glock — April 1, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  7. I can’t remember where I read it…but there was an article once about how many dogs are euthanized after a bite because the vaccine was a few weeks or months “overdue”. Apparently, the owners were often frightened that this meant the dog would be rabid…so, they refused (or were advised) not to wait out the quarantine period. And, once killed, all of the dogs in this study/survey tested negative for rabies.

    Comment by Joy — April 1, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  8. Oh, Joy. That’s so sad. But I can sure believe it.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 1, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  9. Yes, they told some of those stories at the RCF event. Very sad.

    Comment by Kim Thornton — April 1, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  10. Here is an interesting item from Pro-Med about rabies in Russia (Moscow):,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000,82013

    Comment by glock — April 1, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  11. Kim, Great reading. I was happy to read what Dr. Dodds mentioned:

    Dodds suggests these alternatives to current vaccination practices:

    Measure titers, if for no other reason than peace of mind or proof of immunization to boarding kennels. “The presence of any measurable antibody shows protection,” she says.

    I wish our local daycare boarding kennels and their insurance carriers could grasp this concept. One of my friends had her dogs turned away because the daycare said their insurance policy mandated current annual vaccinations. Titers (used all over Europe) would not suffice.

    Comment by ericka — April 1, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  12. I agree the whole vaccine issue is a mess, and a major revamp is in order.

    I, too have seen many, many ill effects from exuberant vaccination, most notably the incidence of autoimmune diseases (specifically, autoimmune hemolytic anemia) in older dogs who have been vaccinated.

    The on, single-most, important thing that must not happen is forgetting that young (6-8 weeks to 2-3 years) dogs are in dire need of parvo/distemper virus vaccines. Parvo is still a very real and prevalent disease with significant mortality associated with it, and the vaccine is very effective.

    Painting with an overly broad brush that vaccines are the most awful thing in the history of ever runs the risk of someone thinking “I’m not going to kill my puppy with one of those devil shots!” and killing them with an easily preventable disease instead.

    We need to target the population of dogs being over-vaccinated while protecting those who actually do need it.

    Comment by Dr. Tony Johnson — April 2, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  13. So true, Dr. J. Yesterday I got a scathing e-mail from a person whose cat contracted vax-associated sarcoma. (She also commented here on the blog.) She accused veterinarians (and pet-care journalists) of a vast global conspiracy to sicken and kill pets (for the money, I guess), said she was very bitter (yes, and I do understand that) and that she would never, ever have another pet vaccinated under any circumstances.

    Well, good luck with that. Overvaccinating and vax-related illness is a problem, and there’s no denying that. But not vaccinating at all? That completely ignores the millions and millions of lives saved (human and animal) by vaccinations.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 2, 2010 @ 6:38 am

  14. Thank you so much for this article. It is very hard to get vets to understand that these boosters are not always the best thing for our fur kids. I have been fighting this with my own vet for a few years now. I foster cairn terriers for Col Potter Cairn Rescue Network and sometimes think that if you work in rescue you just seem to know more about some things than your vet. I am definitely not a vet and would never presume to say I know more, but I have done so much research on vaccinations that proves that boosters are way overdone. I used to feel guilty for making them wait three years to get their boosters, but not any more. I do take my fur kids in for annual checkups and also if I feel they need to be seen before an annual. I do regular senior blood panels on my older kids and have teeth checked annually. I sometimes think that vets use vaccinations as a way to see pets that are never brought in except for those shots. My personal thoughts, I would not go have my own vaccinations done yearly! Even the tetanus shot is not given to us every year. I love all of my fur kids enough not to have them over vaccinated!

    Clovis, NM

    Comment by Debbie Williams — April 2, 2010 @ 6:45 am

  15. Why is it that rabies “boosters” are not required and titers are accepted for humans working in high-risk jobs – like veterinarians, lab workers and animal control staff?

    Are the titer tests my veterinarian gets for himself more reliable than the ones I could get for my dog?

    Comment by Joy — April 2, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  16. I know vaccines are definitely a big money maker for Vets and some are scared of new protocols coming into effect one day which will greatly reduce their income. But, the revenue vaccines generate should not overide the oath to Do No Harm. I once had a Vet tell me that I must give my dog a rabies booster even though I showed him my rabies certificate from the year before which clearly showed it was a 3 year vaccine and was to expire in two more years. He claimed that that was only the expiry date of the vaccine itself not for my dog. However that was not at all true. The scheduled revaccination was 2010 from 2007. I showed him and he knew it was true, but he still tried to make a buck lying to me at the risk of over-vaccinating which would be to the detriment of my pet. Unfortunately when it comes to vaccines and nutrition, the Vets Ive encountered are not at all skilled in those areas, thus they over vaccinate and sell corn based, meat-by-product food laced with the carcinogens BHa and BHT in their office. I am wholeheartedly hoping that one day Vaccines will be given at the minimal and that Vets will stop selling those horrific kibbles in their office and get back to recommending only healthy products.

    Comment by Sara Lowe — April 3, 2010 @ 7:33 am

  17. The 2003 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines note that “when MLV vaccines are used to immunise a dog, memory cells develop and likely persist for the life of the animal”. The veterinary profession has known for years that revaccination of adult dogs against parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus has not been proven to be necessary. Yet this information has not been passed on to pet owners, and this useless, and possibly harmful practice, has been allowed to continue.

    Is it really possible that some veterinarians are unaware of the latest scientific evidence and guidelines re veterinary vaccination ‘best practice’? If so, ignorance is no defence when you claim to be a provider of ‘professional’ advice. It is the veterinarian’s professional responsibility to stay abreast of ‘best practice’, particularly in common areas of practice, such as vaccination.

    There is no scientific evidence to support MLV revaccination of adult dogs after the final puppy vaccination at 16 weeks. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA) Guidelines for Vaccination of Dogs and Cats explain that “dogs that have responded to vaccination with MLV (modified live virus) core vaccines maintain a solid immunity (immunological memory) for many years in the absence of any repeat vaccination”. (The international WSAVA guidelines are the most recent guidelines, being published in 2007. They are based on the 2006 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Revised. Both sets of guidelines are currently under review, and revised guidelines are expected to be available later this year.)

    The WSAVA Guidelines advise that “the principles of ‘evidence-based veterinary medicine’ would dictate that testing for antibody status (for either pups or adult dogs) is better practice than simply administering a vaccine booster on the basis that this should be ‘safe and cost less'”.

    A fundamental problem is that government regulators have allowed on the market MLV vaccine products with unproven revaccination recommendations. Many veterinarians continue to use these unfounded revaccination recommendations as an excuse to dictate that pet owners have their pets revaccinated. This is not evidence-based medicine.

    Dog and cat vaccination guidelines have been developed to take account of flaws in the regulatory process, and these have been described as “a bridge between official requirements and the daily use of vaccines”. These regularly updated guidelines contain information on the latest scientific evidence re vaccination and should take precedence over unfounded vaccine product label revaccination recommendations. (Refer to this article:

    However, many veterinarians are ignoring vaccination guidelines and, more importantly, not relaying the crucial information contained in these guidelines to pet owners for their consideration. These veterinarians are not obtaining ‘informed consent’ from pet owners before revaccinating their pets.

    Here in Australia, annual MLV core revaccination has been ‘accepted practice’ until very recently and, despite the Australian Veterinary Association’s recent reduced vaccination policy, annual revaccination remains common practice. Ostensibly Australia has now moved to a triennial protocol, but triennial vaccination also has not been proven to be necessary.

    The reference to ‘triennial’ vaccination in vaccination guidelines is ambiguous, and this must be addressed in future revisions of vaccination guidelines. I understand that ‘triennial’ vaccination is a compromise reached by the veterinary profession (without consultation with pet owners), it is not evidence-based. So-called ‘triennial’ vaccine products merely demonstrate a minimum duration of immunity due to limited trials. Immunity with MLV vaccines has not been proven to ‘switch off’ after three years…

    Pet owners trust their veterinarian and rely on their advice. Sadly, in many instances, their trust is misplaced, as pet owners are still not being informed that there is evidence of long duration of immunity with MLV core vaccines, i.e. that duration of immunity after vaccination with these vaccines has been demonstrated to be at least seven years, based on challenge and serological studies.

    Recently in Australia, after agitation by ‘concerned pet owners’, the government regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), issued a Position Statement on Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats. I understand this is the first time a government regulator has publicly addressed this issue. While the APVMA’s Position Statement is far from perfect and contains many flaws, it includes important statements, i.e.:

     “the aim should be to ensure that all susceptible animals are vaccinated, rather than that already well-immunised animals are re-vaccinated”;
     “…veterinarians should provide pet owners with pertinent, up-to-date information on vaccination best practice to assist in a joint decision as to whether and when to re-vaccinate their pet”.
     “Veterinarians and pet owners are under no obligation to follow revaccination intervals recommended on vaccine labels”; and
     the APVMA “does not support the retention of label statements that direct or imply a universal need for life-long annual revaccinations with core vaccines…and is working with vaccine registrants with a view to updating labels”;

    A major flaw in the APVMA’s Position Statement is that it says the incidence of adverse reactions to vaccination is low. This is a misleading statement. Due to limited research, the full range of adverse reactions, and possible longer term health problems, to core and non-core vaccination, is unknown. The cumulative effects of repeated vaccination are also unknown.

    The WSAVA guidelines warn that “vaccines should not be given needlessly…we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on individual animals in order to minimise the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products.” The WSAVA guidelines also admit that “there is gross under-reporting of adverse events which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products”. Yet unnecessary, and possibly harmful, revaccination continues…

    The key message of the WSAVA guidelines is: “We should aim to vaccinate every animal, and to vaccinate each individual less frequently”. The focus should be on vaccinating animals appropriately, not unnecessarily, and possibly harmfully, revaccinating some animals over and over again…

    This issue has been dragging on for far too long. It is now time for decisive action to stop unnecessary and possibly harmful vaccination of pets, which is an example of blatant over-servicing. Pet owners are being forced to unnecessarily revaccinate their pets to access boarding kennels, pet insurance, pet grooming facilities and veterinary services. This is unacceptable. Non-core vaccines of questionable safety and efficacy are also being pushed indiscriminately. This is a serious consumer protection problem, and it is high time the ‘self-regulated’ veterinary profession was brought to account. If the veterinary profession allows risky and non-evidence based practices to continue, its reputation and credibility will be in tatters.

    I am keen to freely share the information I have gleaned on this topic (with the help of others), since my own dog’s suspicious illness and subsequent death after her last unnecessary vaccination.

    Here is a link to my article: “Too many needles ! Unnecessary vaccination of pets” which provides an update on developments in Australia, and which is also relevant in an international context:
    My submission titled “Unnecessary, and possibly harmful, use of companion animal vaccines”, in response to the Australian government’s discussion paper on the national regulatory system, provides more information and references:

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 4, 2010 @ 3:52 am

  18. Thank you so much for sharing this information with the rest of us. I do have a question about the Bordetella vaccinations. We require the vaccine be given at least 3 wks prior to a dog coming into the kennel, if they don’t already have the vaccination. Yet, every year someone in our kennel gets kennel cough. By speaking with a couple of vets we found that a new dog park in the area was creating a major problem spreading kennel cough around the area. They told us the intra nasal vaccine was the one that was working against the bordetella being past around. I was also told, by them, the injectable vaccine did not have the additional vaccine in it and to require it be given every 6 months. The other vets in the area insist the intra nasal and the injectable have the same exact vaccines in it and it’s required every 12 months. Can you shed any light on this for me? Also, some of the vets are out right refusing to give the intra nasal vaccine saying it’s the same as the injectable so they can’t be bothered fighting with the dogs to give the intranasal.In our kennel the dogs that have gotten the injectable vaccine get kennel cough. Are they picking it up from the dogs that received the intranasal vaccine?

    Comment by Kathleen — April 4, 2010 @ 6:10 am

  19. I’ve always been a firm believer that re-vaccination of pets is a money-making scam to pad the pockets of veterinarians. Laws aside, why is the rabies vaccine any different than the core vaccines at providing life-long immunity? My impression is that the rabies vaccine requirement is a convenience for counties who need a way to track pets for licensing purposes.

    Comment by Dave — April 4, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  20. Dave, you’re not along in this feeling, and it makes me sad all those people who have such a bad view of veterinarians. It’s largely undeserved, in my experience.

    I work with veterinarians all the time, and in this issue (and some others, such as such a strong and visceral hatred of home-made diets), I think it’s they’re bombarded from the day they enter vet school with “standard thinking” from pharma and food. Now, to be sure, much of the information (if not most) is good, and has helped keep many pets alive and healthy. So veterinarians continue on as they have been, until really hit over the head with new information.

    But it’s not about “padding their pockets.” More like “change is hard.” And any veterinarian who has ever seen a dog with distemper is forgiven in my book for thinking that an more vax is better than fewer.

    This is changing, and will continue to change as more science makes the case.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 4, 2010 @ 8:02 am

  21. I have always wondered why rabies vaccination is required before a dog can be spayed/neutered. Around here, the vets require the vaccination be “up to date” and will vaccinate or re-vaccinate the same day as surgery.

    My question is, what does this accomplish as far as health or prevention? Vaccines don’t immediately create or “boost” immunity; the response takes as many as 28 days, right? So, even if a dog has never been vaccinated, vaccinating him right before or on the day of surgery does nothing to protect the dog, other animals or the veterinary staff. So, why do they vaccinate for rabies right before or even on the day of surgery?

    One vet said it was to protect the other dogs at the clinic. That makes no sense to me. The U.S has officially been declared free of canine rabies – so a dog is not going to transfer rabies to another dog.

    Another vet said it was to protect his staff. That doesn’t make any sense either. A dog isn’t going to be immune to rabies immediately after vaccination and a vaccine wouldn’t make a rabid dog rabies-free so, how is this protecting the staff?

    Still another vet said it was to protect the canine patient from possibly contracting rabies from other animals in the clinic. But again, if the dog was vaccinated right before surgery, he won’t have any protection against rabies for many days later. Vaccinating him right before surgery cannot offer him any protection against rabies from other animals.

    It makes no sense to me. But if the policies are there for tracking of licenses, to comply with local law or even just to make money, that’s fine…but why don’t they just say that?

    Comment by Joy — April 4, 2010 @ 8:33 am

  22. Rabies comes in many varieties – just because the “US has officially been declared free of canine rabies” doesn’t mean the rabies found in raccoons, bats, etc. has ceased to exist, and these varieties can infect dogs, and humans.

    Rabies is lethal, and unless a human gets post-exposure shots soon after exposure, it is incurable.

    And yes, humans do die of rabies. Check out the WHO stats on rabies in other countries (like India). Check out the deaths from rabies in North America – generally one or less a year here, but it does happen.

    This is why rabies vaccinations are mandated by law in most areas – not just as a way to track dog owners. In fact, I need proof of rabies vaccination to license my dog, but the town has no way to track me if I don’t license – the vet clinics do NOT give information to the town (and no one says I have to go to a vet in my town to get a rabies vaccination).

    This is also why other vaccinations are not mandated – distemper, parvo, etc. do not affect humans. The vaccination laws are designed to protect humans, not dogs or cats, like it or not.

    I agree that vaccinations are given too often, but I don’t agree with the “conspiracy” theories that often pop up when discussing vaccines (money grubbing vets, big pharma, government interference, etc.).

    Comment by K.B. — April 4, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  23. Kathleen, this is a very complex issue.

    First is that there’s no single pathogen that causes “kennel cough.” “Kennel cough” is a syndrome, not a specific disease, and it’s a term used to describe an infectious (or apparently infectious) respiratory infection in dogs. It can be caused by any number of bacteria and viruses, only a small number of which we have vaccines for.

    In order to determine if a vaccine is “working” or not, you’d have to do testing to figure out what pathogen is causing the outbreak in question (or pathogens, because sometimes an outbreak turns out to be multiple outbreaks) and compare it to the antigens in the vaccine.

    One of the main causes of “kennel cough” is a bacteria, bordetalla bronchiseptica. Unlike viruses, which almost always convey lifelong immunity once a dog has been infected with them, bacterial immunity wears off over time. That’s true of natural immunity as well as that from vaccines. That’s why vets say that people need to give bordetella vaccine more frequently than other vaccines, although I don’t think we can say “six months” with any great authority. It might be more and it might be less, depending on a number of factors.

    And even if a dog is immune to bordetella it doesn’t mean he’s immune to any of the other many causes of canine respiratory disease.

    Intranasal bordetalla vaccine creates more rapid immunity because it provokes an immune response in the mucous membranes of the respiratory system, which is how dogs contract natural bordetella infection. It’s not that it contains different antigens or works “better” per se, but that it can be given immediately before exposure and still potentially provide protection. Injectable vaccines, because they go directly to the bloodstream, don’t create this immediate local immunity and thus take a lot longer to protect. They may also not work as well for bacteria that infect through the nose.

    Additionally, bacterial immunity is not necessarily completely protective, as viral immunity typically is. A dog might be immune to a mild or single exposure, but when he encounters a massive exposure or repeated exposure, or is under stress, that immunity might not be sufficient to protect the dog.

    Personally, I don’t vaccinate for bordetlla. In a normal, healthy dog, it creates a very mild transient infection, just like when we get a cold. And yes, in a few rare cases this can turn into pneumonia. But I don’t consider that risk to be great enough to outweigh the risk of giving my dog a vaccine that has to be repeated, provides poor immunity (as all bacterial vaccines and even natural bacterial immunity tends to be) and has risks of its own.

    Comment by Christie Keith — April 4, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  24. Christie, 2 years in a row, the same exact thing happened. During the late summer, early fall. Dogs with intra nasal kc were ok but the dogs with the inj.kc got kennel cough. What are your thoughts on that? Thanks!

    Comment by Kathleen — April 4, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  25. Great article and a topic that needs to be something we are thinking about regularly. I began doing titers with my Bernese Mountain Dog who had inflammatory bowel disease and found our county even accepted a rabies titer for licensing and for our animal assisted therapy work. Dr. Nancy Kay has an excellent chapter in Speaking for Spot ( and is one of the veterinarians who definitely advocates for full discussion with your veterinarian and assessment of your own dog’s risks in deciding which vaccines to administer and when. I happy when our regular vet initiated the discussion of titers before I did.

    Comment by Kathie — April 4, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

  26. Kathleen, I remember Schultz preferring the intranasal vaccine, but I don’t have extensive notes on that part of the session, and I wasn’t allowed to record it. But what Christie says above is a large part of what I heard.

    Comment by Kim Thornton — April 4, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  27. K.BB. For spay/neuter, veterinarians often insist the pet be vaccinated for rabies before they will do the surgery and generally offer that vaccine on the day of surgery.

    I was just wondering about how vaccinating for rabies right before surgery protects the humans or animals during a pet’s hospital visit.

    Comment by Joy — April 5, 2010 @ 5:42 am

  28. KB (April 4, 2010 @ 8:55 am)

    Some points for you to consider:

     According to a recent article in Veterinary Practice News, “up to one-fourth of global animal health product revenue comes from vaccines”:

     Here’s a quote from notes regarding implementation of the 2006 Canine & Feline Vaccination Guidelines:
    “Loss of Revenue…Impact of implementing the Guidelines on Revenue Flow. ($298 million [sales to veterinarians] vs. $3.1 billion [sales from practice] over 10X mark-up)”

     A vaccine industry newsletter, published in Australia in 2005, reported that: “89% of veterinarians indicated that dog and cat vaccinations were indeed the number one contributor to practice turnover and 91% of veterinarians felt that a change from annual vaccination would have an adverse effect on their practice turnover. 80% of veterinarians also indicated that it would be difficult to attract clients on a regular basis should there be a change from annual vaccination.” The newsletter concluded: “Annual vaccination appears to be an important source of income for many veterinarians and veterinarians believe that annual vaccination imposes the discipline on the pet owners. The results indicate that veterinarians will continue to vaccinate annually.”
    Ref: Virbac Newsletter “Facts on Vaccination”, August 2005.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 5, 2010 @ 5:42 am

  29. “80% of veterinarians also indicated that it would be difficult to attract clients on a regular basis should there be a change from annual vaccination.”

    One thing I do and encourage others to do is make sure we take our pets in for regular checkups even when/if we are refusing re-vaccination.

    I think the veterinarian community needs to know they don’t have to rely on vaccine scares to get people into their clinics. There are plenty of us willing and eager to pay for good thorough well-checks, titers, blood panels and other preventative procedures …even those of us who are not willing to subject our pets to unnecessary re-vaccination.

    My veterinarian makes a whole lot more money from me (and sees my pets more frequently) on regular preventative checkups than he ever would if I just blindly went in every year or three for vaccine “boosters”.

    Comment by Joy — April 5, 2010 @ 6:21 am

  30. Kathleen, here’s a link that has information on Bordetella and other vaccines:

    Also, here are some points for you to consider about the Bordetella vaccine:

     This information is noted on the label of an injection commonly used in Australia. Note that this vaccine includes aluminium (and thiomersal which is also controversial):
    Protech BB Bordetella bronchiseptica…an inactivated killed vaccine prepared from a cell-free extract of Bordetella bronchiseptica (20ug/ml). An aluminium salt is included to enhance the response to vaccination and to increase the duration of immunity. Thiomersal 0.1 mg/mL is added as a preservative.

     Aluminium is associated with fibrosarcomas in dogs. A study by Vascellari et al identified “distinct similarities between canine fibrosarcomas from presumed injection sites and feline post-vaccinal fibrosarcomas, suggesting the possibility of the development of post-injection sarcomas not only in cats but also in dogs”. In this study “aluminium deposits were detected in eight canine fibrosarcomas from presumed injection sites”. (Ref: Vascellari, M., Melchiotti, E., Bozza, M.A., and Mutinelli, F. Fibrosarcomas at Presumed Sites of Injection in Dogs: Characteristics and Comparison with Non-vaccination Site Fibrosarcomas and Feline Post-Vaccinal Fibrosarcomas. J. Vet. Med. A 50, 286–291 (2003)

     In his paper “Infectious Triggers of Immune-Mediated Disease”, Michael Day (a member of the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group) says: “We now recognize that vaccines (particularly multicomponent, modified live products) appear to be able to trigger a range of immune-mediated and autoimmune diseases. For example, much attention has recently focused on vaccines as an initiator of immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia in the dog. The mechanism by which this effect occurs is not well investigated. In theory, three separate components of the vaccine might be involved. Many vaccines contain adjuvant (particularly alum), the function of which is, in part, to non-specifically activate the immune system. It is theoretically possible that this activation might include autoreactive lymphocytes, and as alum is very effective at stimulating antibody responses, the activation of B cells and their particular helper T cells (Th2 cells) might readily arise.”

    Remember this key message from the WSAVA Guidelines:

     “…vaccines should not be given needlessly…we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on individual animals in order to minimise the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products.”

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 5, 2010 @ 7:12 am

  31. Joy asked: Are the titer tests my veterinarian gets for himself more reliable than the ones I could get for my dog?

    Yes, actually. There is no established titer standard for canine rabies antibodies. The human standard is used as it is believed humans and dogs have similar immune system function,

    One of the most important things that the Rabies Challenge Fund is doing is establishing that standard. Although it is believed that the human standard is accurate, sketicism will continue until a canine standard is proved by scientific method.

    Comment by Jan Rasmusen — April 5, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  32. You said: “This information is noted on the label of an injection commonly used in Australia.”I will look into it and see if it is also used in the USA brands. Thanks for the article, it was very enlightening!

    Comment by Kathleen — April 5, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  33. Infuriating…I just paid $50 for a rabies shot. 33 for the “office call” and 17 for the actual vaccination. The “Office call” consisted of an “exam”. Look in the dog’s mouth, try to wiggle one tooth. Run hands over dog. Talk to me non stop while pretending to listen to the heart. Shifting positions to look at dog’s rear. I see this at dog shows all the time, the judge has already picked his dog but is just going through the motions. It isn’t an exam. It’s a $33 2 minute petting session for my dog. So long as vets do this (and I do see it a lot, can’t remember when a vet sat down and really went over my dogs), I’ll continue to give the other vaccinations myself and go as little as possible.

    Comment by Have to be anonomous, unfortunately.... — April 5, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

  34. So long as vets do this (and I do see it a lot, can’t remember when a vet sat down and really went over my dogs)

    Comment by Have to be anonomous, unfortunately…. — April 5, 2010

    I remember when: It’s the last time one of my pets saw my veterinarian, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that, etc.

    You ever consider that instead of painting all veterinarians with a the broad brush of condemnation, you actually find one of the good veterinarians?

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 5, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

  35. Jan Rasmusen: “There is no established titer standard for canine rabies antibodies.”

    But don’t the vaccine manufacturers rely on titers for the vaccine approval process? If we don’t know at what level a dog is protected, how are vaccines determined to be effective?

    Comment by Joy — April 6, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  36. I mean, I do understand that laboratory dogs are killed and tested for rabies for initial DOI studies, but not for each and every vaccine batch produced after that. I would think the initial study would require some sort of titer “standard” for the rest of the vaccines produced thereafter. Right?

    Comment by Joy — April 6, 2010 @ 6:13 am

  37. i doubt anyone who has seen an entire litter of puppies suffer terribly, gasping for air and die following their first vaccination would like a vaccination vial anywhere near any of their other dogs ever again.
    i know i wont

    Comment by abbie — April 6, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  38. i doubt anyone who has seen an entire litter of puppies suffer terribly, gasping for air and die following their first vaccination would like a vaccination vial anywhere near any of their other dogs ever again.
    i know i wont

    Comment by abbie — April 6, 2010

    Until you’ve seen an entire litter die of parvo …

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 6, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  39. I work with many people that have “pet” dogs and it’s amazing what their vets tell them regarding vaccinations. Many state that they MUST have all the vaccinations, even rabies every year. I try to tell them that a one year rabies vaccination is the same as a three year, but their vets tell them, “no thats false”. well, who do you think they believe? Are so many vets just out for that holy buck?

    thank you for more “fuel for my fires”.

    Comment by Linda Holpuch — April 7, 2010 @ 7:00 am

  40. “Are so many vets just out for that holy buck?”.

    Comment by Linda Holpuch — April 7, 2010 @ 7:00 am

    Depends on the vet, I guess. My vet actually recommends at least 3 years between ALL vaccinations (after the puppy series), even though that is against the label recommendations for everything except rabies. And *he* brought the subject up to me on our first visit (which was almost 2 hours long – no problems, just the first “getting to know you and your dog” visit).

    If your vet isn’t listening to your concerns, then find a new vet.

    Like any other profession, there are good ones and bad ones. Let’s not tar & feather the entire profession because of a few bad apples, mis-information and rumour-mongering.

    Comment by K.B. — April 7, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  41. K.B. (Comment 40) says: “If your vet isn’t listening to your concerns, then find a new vet.”

    We’re not talking about shopping around for a new plumber or a new mechanic, we’re talking about trusting professionals who are supposed to be providing expert advice on the health and welfare of our pets. Surely we should be able to expect a high standard of safe, evidence based practice across the profession?

    Veterinarians have the privilege of professional status, and it is their duty to stay up to date with the latest science, particularly in common areas of practice such as vaccination. Their clients’ pets’ well-being should be their uppermost consideration. Sadly, in many cases where pets have been unnecessarily, and possibly harmfully, revaccinated at the behest of veterinarians, this is not the case.

    Where do you go to complain about a bad vet? I don’t know about the situation in the US, but in my experience in Australia, there is no objective and effective means to complain about bad veterinary practice. Veterinary Surgeons’ Boards are supposed to handle complaints, but there seems little point in complaining to these organisations as they actually promote and endorse unproven revaccination practices. For example, as at 9 April 2010. the Veterinary Surgeons’ Board of South Australia still ‘strongly recommends’ that dogs be revaccinated against diseases such as parvovirus in the 12 months before admission to boarding kennels.
    Ref: VSB of SA Code of Practice for the Operation of Boarding Establishments:

    Last September I and a colleague met with senior members of the government regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, and the Australian Veterinary Association, to discuss the problem of unnecessary vaccination of pets, (including non-evidence based revaccination recommendations on vaccine product labelling). Before the meeting I conducted a brief telephone survey of ten randomly selected veterinary surgeries in the South Australian city of Adelaide, to check if they were heeding the Australian Veterinary Association’s new reduced vaccination policy (which was publicly announced in August 2009). All ten surgeries contacted were still recommending ‘annual’ revaccination with MLV core vaccines, only two veterinary receptionists indicated their surgeries offered ‘triennial’ revaccination, and this was only when pressed. Needless to say, none of them mentioned long DOI with MLV vaccines.

    Gina Spadafori (Comment 20) makes excuses for the vets saying “they’re bombarded from the day they enter vet school with ‘standard thinking’ from pharma and food”.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this excuse. The inordinate delay in updating vaccination practice is not acceptable. The veterinary profession must be well aware of this issue by now. Discussing the 2003 AAHA guidelines in February 2003, Ronald Schultz was reported as saying “It’s hard to believe it’d be controversial to any DVM who’s lived on earth for the past year or two. You’d have to be from outer space if you haven’t heard about the issues”.
    Ref: “AAHA wraps up canine vaccine guidelines”:

    I would expect that veterinary schools are teaching their students evidence based medical practice, which the British Medical Journal describes as “the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research….”
    Ref: Editorial. Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t. British Medical Journal. 1996. 312. 71-72 [13 January])

    So, are veterinary students being taught evidence based medical practice, or the latest sales pitch from the pharma and pet food industries?

    It would be interesting to know more about the relationships between veterinary schools and the pharma and pet food industries, and this article “Vet school relies on external funding” is interesting reading:

    After my own experiences with the veterinary profession, my confidence in their capability is shattered. Those people who have vets that don’t push them to have unnecessary interventions for their pets are lucky. I have no idea where I will find a veterinarian who follows evidence based practice. This is a very bad state of affairs.

    The veterinary ‘profession’ really needs to clean up its act and quickly, otherwise its privileged ‘self-regulated’ professional status should be called into question.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 8, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  42. Gina Spadafori (Comment 20) makes excuses for the vets saying “they’re bombarded from the day they enter vet school with ‘standard thinking’ from pharma and food”.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this excuse.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 8, 2010

    It’s not an excuse. It’s context.

    The veterinary ‘profession’ really needs to clean up its act and quickly.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 8, 2010

    Yes, well, your vet-bashing sentiments aside, it’s a fact that veterinarian, like MDs, are people, and some people are better at what they do than others are.

    As the late advice columnist “Dear Abby” used to say in recommending second opinions for people: Never forget that fully half of all doctors graduated in the bottom 50 percent of their class.

    Those people who have vets that don’t push them to have unnecessary interventions for their pets are lucky. I have no idea where I will find a veterinarian who follows evidence based practice.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 8, 2010

    Amazingly enough, I bet most of the people who regularly read here have found such veterinarians. And let me tell you: It ain’t luck. It’s effort.

    If you really “have no idea” maybe you ought to put in some of that effort.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 9, 2010 @ 6:32 am

  43. Elizabeth Hart asked “Where do you go to complain about a bad vet?”

    If the matter is an operational or medical issue, contact your local veterinary medical association’s Ethics and Grievance Committee.

    If the matter is a malpractice issue, contact your state’s veterinary licensing board. This is the agency that investigates allegations of misconduct.

    Another option is to file a lawsuit against the veterinarian in question.

    —- or if by “bad vet” you mean a veterinarian with vaccine protocols you don’t agree with or feel are not in your pet’s best interest….just hire a veterinarian better suited for you.

    Comment by Joy — April 9, 2010 @ 6:56 am

  44. —— or if by “bad vet” you mean a veterinarian with vaccine protocols you don’t agree with or feel are not in your pet’s best interest….just hire a veterinarian better suited for you.

    Comment by Joy — April 9, 2010


    When Ilario was a kitten, my regular veterinarian was on vacation, so I thought I’d get his initial check-up and vax from a veterinarian I knew from a couple of people who liked her a lot.

    She IS a very nice person. But the vax protocol she laid out — and from which she would not budge — was two decades behind the times. I thanked her, paid her for the exam and waited for my veterinarian to return from vacation.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 9, 2010 @ 7:19 am

  45. Gina and Joy suggest I should put some effort into finding a vet who doesn’t unnecessarily vaccinate. I’ve been working on this for 18 months now, and I think I’ve put in more than my fair share of effort, thank you.

    In April 2009 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) convened a meeting of senior scientists to discuss my concerns about over-vaccination of pets in Australia, where annual vaccination is prevalent practice.

    I submitted a fully-referenced report to be tabled at this meeting titled “Is over-vaccination harming our pets? Are vets making our pets sick?” The report is accessible via this link:

    This report was a summary of information I had gleaned with the help of others in the six months after my own dog’s suspicious illness and subsequent death after her sixth unnecessary annual vaccination. I also forwarded my report to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and international veterinary associations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Australian and US veterinary schools, and other veterinary representatives and interested parties.

    I subsequently prepared a shorter fully-referenced paper titled “Over-vaccination of pets – an unethical practice” which was also widely circulated, as above. The paper is available via this link:

    Soon after this paper was circulated the Australian Veterinary Association announced a new reduced vaccination policy, accessible via this link:

    I understand some academic vets and holistic vets in Australia had been pushing for change for years, but change did not occur until ‘concerned pet owners’ got up on their hind legs and demanded the problem be addressed.

    Along with other concerned people, I have undertaken a great deal of correspondence with the various authorities on this matter. I have also written articles providing updates on the situation which were published in specialist Australian dog breeder magazine, National Dog. My latest article “Too many needles ! Unnecessary vaccination exposed” is accessible via this link: and is to be published in the next edition of National Dog.

    After campaigning by me and my colleagues, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority finally issued a Position Statement on Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats in January 2010, accessible via this link:

    As mentioned in my previous Comment 17., this document contains useful statements, but it is still not satisfactory, as both the APVMA and AVA are now trying to slide over to triennial vaccination with MLV vaccines, which has also not been proven to be necessary.

    Recently I made a submission titled “Unnecessary, and possibly harmful, vaccination of companion animals” in response to the Australian government’s discussion paper on the national regulatory system. The submission is accessible via this link:

    My colleagues and I have had to fight very hard to get attention for this problem in Australia. We have had to spend an extraordinary amount of our time pushing for the Australian veterinary profession to take notice of vaccination guidelines which had been issued years ago by the AAHA and more recently by WSAVA.

    Our thankless task has not been made any easier by people who continue to let vets off the hook of transparency and accountability.

    So please, don’t tell me to make some effort, I’ve think I’ve done my bit. It’s now up to the veterinary profession to start doing what they should have been doing all along, and provide their clients with evidence-based ‘best practice’ advice on the health and well-being of pets.

    If vets want to push so-called ‘preventive’ products such as vaccination for healthy animals, they must provide evidence that this intervention will be of proven benefit to the animal, and ensure pet owners are properly warned of possible short term and longer term adverse reactions, both those listed on the vaccine product label and in the scientific literature.

    Vets should also heed the advice of the WSAVA Guidelines, e.g. that “vaccines should not be given needlessly…we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on
    individual animals in order to minimise the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products.” Ref: WSAVA Guidelines:

    The final decision on any intervention should rest with the properly informed pet owner.

    Note: If links to the AVA and APVMA documents cited above break, search these organisations’ websites for the latest details.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 10, 2010 @ 3:01 am

  46. Wow, Elizabeth, I am really impressed with the effort you’ve put into this cause.

    For the past year, I have been struggling with my own issue involving veterinary care, transparancy in practice, the right way to expose poor practices, etc.

    Still working on it.

    Comment by Mary Mary — April 10, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  47. Thanks Mary Mary, and please persevere with your efforts to expose poor veterinary practices. We need more people like you who are willing to put in the effort to try and make a difference.

    While others may be content to sit back and allow vets to continue to get away with unprofessional practices, (and leave others to bear the consequences…), those of us with a bit of backbone need to stand up and demand that the veterinary profession be brought to account.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 10, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

  48. Comment by Elizabeth Hart – “The final decision on any intervention should rest with the properly informed pet owner.”

    Initially, I was trying to say that this was already the case; that ultimately the decisions DO rest with the pet owner. That if a pet owner does not agree with their veterinarian, they should actively seek a second (or third, forth, ..) opinion.

    In reading your initial comments I was responding to what I thought was someone who felt they were already informed; someone who did not want to re-vaccinate but felt they were being forced/coerced to do it anyway.

    After reading your latest post I realize you’re pointing out that the veterinary community is not always honest or transparent in what they know/suspect about the risks of over-vaccination. That too many pet owners cannot make informed decisions because that information isn’t being offered to them. And that the veterinary community needs to be held accountable for the doctors and vaccine makers who are refusing to share this information with pet owners….in that, I agree wholeheartedly.

    At the same time I do believe strongly that pet owners, as consumers, have the power to influence change. The more we buy it (or buy into it) the more willing they’re going to be to continue selling us misinformation or, at best, partial information.

    Comment by Joy — April 11, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  49. While others may be content to sit back and allow vets to continue to get away with unprofessional practices, (and leave others to bear the consequences…), those of us with a bit of backbone need to stand up and demand that the veterinary profession be brought to account.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 10, 2010

    A couple points here:

    What I was objecting to was your painting the veterinary profession with the broad brush of ignorance, greed and incompetence. And that’s neither fair nor true.

    As for “sitting back and allowing” … well, you’ve picked the wrong people to use as a point of example, if you’re talking about us. Doubt it? Read back. We’ve challenged just about every orthodoxy there is.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — April 11, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  50. Elizabeth Hart. You have written some amazing, well-researched articles on this subject. I assume you write so that others will read and hopefully join you in the quest for more accountability.

    Respectfully, might I suggest that coming at your audience for “sitting back” and “allowing” unethical veterinarian practices is kind of off-putting.

    I don’t “allow” vets to get away with unprofessional practices any more than I allow dog food makers to purchase melamine-laced gluten or the FDA to ignore the deadly side effects of some veterinary drugs.

    Your fight is a good one but please, don’t blame others for the problem just because you feel they aren’t fighting as hard as you. You don’t know the half of what people on this board have and are doing to create transparency and demand accountability.

    You have a lot to teach but remember, education is for the uneducated. Know your audience. I think a lot of people here agree with what you’re saying…but the approach is just a bit insulting. At least to me.

    Comment by Joy — April 11, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  51. Gina and Joy. Yes, I know I’m pretty hardline, but I reckon you would be too if you’d put up with what I and my colleagues have put up with here in Australia, where most vets have dictated that pets be revaccinated annually.

    You’ve had the benefit of evolving dog and cat vaccination guidelines in the US for years, yet vets in countries such as Australia and Britain failed to acknowledge these guidelines. The WSAVA guidelines were actually launched here in Australia, at the WSAVA Congress held in Sydney in 2007, but most Australian vets just ignored them, and failed to pass on important information in these international guidelines to pet owners for their consideration.
    Link to WSAVA guidelines:

    I didn’t have the faintest clue about the international over-vaccination scam before September 2008, when my dogs were last unnecessarily revaccinated. I completely trusted the vet when he sent his annual vaccination reminder letter, cutely addressed to my pets, saying they needed repeated vaccination to ‘stay healthy’. I was badly misled. My dogs were needlessly put at risk with this unnecessary intervention, and I am very angry about it, particularly as my eldest dog suffered cruelly after her last unnecessary vaccination and was subsequently put down. I strongly suspect unnecessary vaccination was implicated in her illness.

    Certainly, if I had known then what I know now, my dogs would not have been revaccinated. The vet concerned refused to consider my dog’s illness could have been an adverse reaction to vaccination. That’s a pretty effective way of keeping adverse reaction report numbers down…

    When I started campaigning 18 months ago I was ignored. I wrote to the Australian Veterinary Association and most of the veterinary schools here to complain about vaccination practice and I just got the brush off.

    I found other people who also strongly suspected their dogs had been adversely affected by unnecessary vaccination, and they generously shared with me the research they had gathered on this topic. Together we’ve worked very hard to get attention for this problem, but it hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to be persistent, and endure some very patronising attitudes from the veterinary profession.

    Things are now slowly improving as the AVA has changed its vaccination policy and the government regulator, the APVMA, has acknowledged the problem of unnecessary vaccination, but this didn’t happen by magic. There’s still a long way to go to change the culture of over-vaccination here.

    While you and I know what is going on, many pet owners are still in the dark and still trust their vet’s advice. That’s why it’s incumbent upon those of us ‘in the know’ to demand the veterinary profession update its practice. Obviously there are ‘good’ vets who are developing guidelines and adopting ‘best practice’, but these are mostly in the US, they’re pretty light on the ground in Australia and Britain.

    This isn’t just about vaccination of pets. This is about broader issues related to professional responsibility, ethical behaviour, and abuse of authority, which are also relevant to other ‘self-regulated’ professions in which consumers place their trust.

    Gina, I realise that you are a major contributor to Pet Connection Blog and I greatly appreciate the information your blog freely provides for pet owners. The internet is a powerful and democratising medium, and gives people the opportunity to discuss ideas and air concerns that are being ignored by the mainstream media. Thanks for allowing me to comment here.

    Best wishes

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 12, 2010 @ 5:33 am

  52. PS: The British government regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, recently issued a Position Paper on Authorised Vaccination Schedules for Dogs in response to an ‘open letter’ from Canine Health Concern and adverse media coverage. See documents accessible via this link:

    I haven’t had time to analyse the VMD’s Position Paper in detail yet. A quick read-through indicates it’s a backside covering exercise, with some challengeable material. However, there’s lots of interesting information in this document and it merits a close and critical reading by those interested in this topic…

    So, the Australian and British government regulators have now, albeit grudgingly, publicly acknowledged the unnecessary vaccination problem. How is the Center for Veterinary Biologics going on the vaccine product labelling issue? I gather this has been limping along for years? See for example this correspondence:

    – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Veterinary Biologics Notice Draft No. 327 on the subject of “Studies to Support Label Claims of Duration of Immunity:

    – American Veterinary Medical Association letter, re Center for Veterinary Biologics Notice Draft No. 327: Studies to Support Label Claims of Duration of Immunity dated October 27 2008:

    We’ve been mainly focussing on unnecessary vaccination in Australia, but we followed up with the CVB a little while ago on the US labelling issue, and there didn’t seem to have been much progress. I also made enquiries to the CVB to try and find out how to access vaccine product labels electronically, but my emails were ignored… I might try again later when I have time. Or does anybody on this blog know how to access US vaccine labels via the internet? We have a system called PUBCRIS in Australia.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hart — April 12, 2010 @ 5:58 am

  53. Elizabeth, I really appreciate what you’re doing and am impressed by your tenaciousness.

    You’re right, there are a whole lot of pet owners out there who are in the dark when it comes to even the IDEA that they can question veterinarian (or MD or pediatric for that matter) practices to create a situation where they are able to make more informed decisions. The USA is full of “stethoscope worshipers” as it sounds like is also the case in Australia.

    I don’t want to speak for someone like Gina; she’s one of the most intelligent and informed bloggers I’ve ever read and she certainly knows better than me about these issues. But I THINK what she’s saying is that its not fair to make sweeping statements that imply ALL veterinarians should be distrusted.

    I trust my veterinarian, I do. But its not a blind trust. Its a trust that has been built over time from a lot of talking and a lot of listening. And even with that, there are times we disagree. But ultimately I win every time because its MY dog and MYself I have to live with if I make a bad decision. And ultimately, my veterinarian can’t force me to allow something done to my pets that I don’t want done.

    I guess I just don’t see it as a big conspiracy as much as a big pharma/food-driven mess of misunderstanding and misinformation. And I can’t wrap my mind around blaming all veterinarians or accusing them of knowingly running a worlwide scam meant to kill our pets. I think a lot of vets are just as poorly informed as the average pet owner.

    Sure, its true that not all veterinarians are innocently out there trying to create healthier pets for their clients. In fact, in the US the vast majority of DVMs are employed by pet food makers and vaccine makers; most of which, in my opinion, are unscrupulous at best. But there ARE great veterinarians with great hearts and even greater minds who are making a world of difference for pets. A lot of those veterinarians are on the same page as you when it comes to demanding transparency, accountability and protocol change. …I’m rambling but…all I’m saying is, they’re not all the enemy, ya know?

    Comment by Joy — April 12, 2010 @ 7:50 am

  54. To me, one of the most pernicious effects of decades of over-vaccination is the over-reaction is has provoked. Having had a bad experience with excessive rabies vaccination of one of my Scotties, I used to count myself among those who suspected *every* vaccination. Then I acquired a puppy who had survived parvovirus infection at ten weeks old from a breeder who subscribed to the natural immunity theory. After I was obliged to put that puppy down at 21 months owing to liver failure, I revisited the vaccine issue and what I can only describe as my biases about it. I agree with Elizabeth and others who have spoken here that what is needed is evidence based protocols and more professional responsibility. I am an ardent supporter of what Drs. Schultz and Dodds are attempting with the Rabies Challenge Fund.

    Lisa in Cape May County, NJ

    Comment by Lisa — April 12, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  55. The vaccination question has been prominent with me for many years,and I follow the findings of proven scientific research of Drs Schultz and Dodds.Being an Australian I am aware of the campaigning by some to get some common sense and justice in this matter.
    Why is it so hard people?I will let you into a secret-and it is very simple.It is the bottom line-MONEY!Do the sums-it runs into billions.
    But-let me mention another aspect which I don’t see much mention of at all,and that is side effects.Many of us have seen side effects,but what might the cause be? There are 2 main dangers in my view.One is the adjuvants in the vaccine-nearly always contain heavy metals like Mercury or Aluminium.The second danger is the security of the vaccine-is it compromised in the transportation to the vet or storage at the vet?The ‘human’ factor.And a VVM(vaccine vial monitor) can be on the label of every vial for the matter of a few cents.Why are they not?Perhaps the more pertinent question would be-who would pick up the tab for vaccines that have been temperature compromised.No these faulty batches are used and we see problems like Parvo AFTER the vaccinations-clusters-of course they are of groups as the batch is crook.
    These cases I call vaccine induced Parvo.
    Does any of this ring a bell with you all?
    Peter in Sunshine Coast Australia.

    Comment by peter dykstra — February 21, 2011 @ 6:03 am

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