Vaccinating Our Pets – Helpful Or Harmful?
Each year people take their beloved pets to the veterinarian for the annual exam. This includes the physical examination, parasite check, and vaccination series. All of this is designed to protect the health and well-being of our pets, but is that what it does?
Vaccinations work by simulating a disease process. The animal is injected with a bacterial or viral agent, either a killed agent or live but modified to be safe. These vaccines stimulate the animals to produce antibodies against the disease so in the future, should the animals become exposed, the body is prepared to recognize and fight off the disease. As humans, we protect children with a vaccination series to build up a lasting immunity, and vaccinate periodically as adults. For pets, each vaccine is given every year of their life. It is this protocol that has pet owners and veterinarians questioning its safety and necessity.
Common reactions to vaccines include lethargy, sensitivity over the injection site, nausea, and vomiting. Animals may be allergic to the vaccination and have severe facial swelling and hives that may become life-threatening if not treated quickly. Through observation, many pet owners and veterinarians have found a connection between vaccinations and a flare-up of common ailments such as skin allergies, behavioral issues, urinary tract infections, and seizures. Pharmaceutical companies have claimed vaccines cause very few reactions of any type, however, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has reported as many as 1 in 10 animals had reactions during a study of 2,000 dogs and cats in the United Kingdom, with smaller breeds having ten times the likelihood of a reaction over large breeds.
The list of reactions seems devastating. Unfortunately, there are very few actual tests done to confirm any of these suspicions. The reasons that vaccinations are given have always been quite clear. They are often required by law or in order to utilize animal care facilities. Lyme disease and rabies can affect humans as well as animals. Of the multiple diseases contained in the distemper vaccine, few can be treated with more than a fifty percent success rate. The feline leukemia disease can only be treated, not cured. No one wants their animals to get sick.
In order to combat pet owner fears and still stay within the law and requirements of dog kennels and obedience classes, many veterinarians have devised new vaccine schedules. A three-year rabies vaccination has been available for many years. The other vaccines can be given only to animals in need of them or at risk for a disease, and can be spread out, giving only one vaccine each year so none is repeated more than every three years. There are also blood tests that can be done to check an animal’s level of antibodies against a specific disease.
The truth about the vaccine issue is unknown. Official tests need to be conducted in order to prove any theories. When more information is available, perhaps then we can make the annual visit to the vet more of a health check and less of a vaccine update.