Wondering Whether to Vaccinate?

There are differing opinions among pet parents on the safety and necessity of vaccines. No matter with which side of the argument you agree, you should read on to become more well-informed. Knowledge is power, after all, and you are your pet’s first and best advocate for good health!

Pro-Vaccination Arguments

A dog at the vet getting a vaccine into its shoulder.

There are many arguments given by pet owners and veterinarians who support annual vaccinations. A few of the most common arguments I hear are:

  • My vet says I need to vaccinate my pet every year, and he’s a doctor I trust. Many veterinarians do believe that yearly vaccines are necessary. Conversely, many others agree that evidence shows immunity can last up to the lifetime of your dog or cat.
  • I don’t want my pet to get sick from a preventable illness. Nobody does! It is important to take many factors into account. Know the difference between core vaccines and non-core vaccines, and the risks for certain diseases in your region and with your pet’s lifestyle (indoor vs. outdoor cat, wooded area nearby with lots of wildlife, lots of unscooped poop in your neighborhood, etc.).
  • Vaccines are perfectly safe. Many pets do receive yearly vaccinations with no known problems or side effects, but this isn’t the case for all pets.
  • Vaccines have led to the eradication of some terrible diseases. This is very true! Certain vaccines, when given correctly, are great for prevention and eradication of deadly disease.

Anti-Vaccination Arguments

The anti-vaccination camp most frequently gives these reasons for avoiding vaccinations:

  • We give our pets vaccinations they don’t need. This is often true, but vaccinations are an important tool, especially for animals who have compromised immune systems and to prevent dangerous diseases.

A dog laying down with an icepack on his head in front of a first aid kit.

  • Vets and vaccine manufacturers are just trying to make extra money. Most veterinarians want to take care of your pet to the best of their ability. However, drug companies who make vaccines may only be after profits. Drug companies tell veterinarians that their vaccines should be given yearly when they’re actually effective for much longer. Some veterinarians may have the same mind-set.

Let’s Compromise

Core Vaccines vs. Every Vaccine.

There IS a difference between the core vaccines that your dog or cat should probably receive and the ones that are added in there just because they’re available. Just because a vaccination is available does not mean that your pet is at risk and should receive the vaccine! Dr. Schulz says that the core vaccines that every dog should receive include: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. Every outdoor cat should receive: panleukopenia, calici, herpes and rabies vaccines. Dr. Schultz recommends that indoor cats only receive the panleukopenia vaccine.

Ask Questions.

You are paying your veterinarian to provide a service for you and your pet. If you have questions about a vaccine he or she is recommending, then ask! If your veterinarian does not have the time or ability to answer your questions thoroughly, then you need to find a new veterinarian who can. Ask why your vet thinks your particular animal needs this vaccine and don’t accept ‘because every pet should get it yearly’ as an answer!

Do Your Own Research.

You’re smart, right? When we do our own research and go into the vet’s office well informed, then our vets will have a more difficult time condescending to us or making us feel stupid for asking questions. I’m not trying to talk badly about all veterinarians. I know several who speak to me like I am a smart adult capable of thinking for myself, and who I feel give me the answers to the questions I ask. I’m just saying that if you do have a vet who makes you feel small, then switch to someone else! You can find the answers to many of your questions yourself if you just go looking and if you’re not afraid of doing some reading in your extra time.

Titer Testing.

Did you know that there is a way to find out if your pet is still immunized from his last vaccination? It’s called a titer test. It’s a simple and relatively inexpensive blood test that you can ask your vet to do, or send away for results.

A dog getting his heart listened to by the vet.

When a vaccinated dog or cat gives birth, the babies automatically receive antibodies, or immunity, to the diseases for which the mother was vaccinated. Over the first weeks and months of a puppy or kitten’s life, this immunity wears off-somewhat unpredictably and at different times for different diseases. If a puppy is given his first round of shots, but he still has the mother’s antibodies for certain diseases circulating in his system, then those shots are useless and must be given again after the mother’s antibodies leave. This is so the puppy has the chance for his own body to develop its own immunity. This is the reason that there are rounds of puppy and kitten shots. Since we do not know when the mother’s protection will end, we give all shots multiple times to make sure the pet is fully protected. This means that most puppies and kittens are given many unnecessary shots.

The best way to prevent this is titer testing. This testing can tell you what your pet is already immune to, so he will not have to undergo extra needles and vaccines. You can get this rechecked whenever you like, and titer testing has proven that immunization from vaccines can last much longer than one year, and even for the lifetime of your pet. The fees for titer testing I have seen range from $25 to $150, depending on which lab you go with, and not including your veterinarian’s blood drawing fee.

Follow the Law.

Most states require rabies vaccines. This is understandable, as the rabies virus is frequently deadly to any animal who contracts it, including humans. Some states require a yearly vaccine while others require vaccination every three years. Follow your state’s law.

Consider Individual Needs.

Approach vaccinating your pet with a focus on individual needs! If your pet has an allergic reaction to a certain vaccination, weigh the pros and cons of getting the same vaccination next year, or trying a titer test instead. If your pet has a very weak immune system and is at high risk for disease, consider which vaccinations are necessary and which are not. Let’s all use our common sense!

So, no matter on which side of the argument you lie, consider the valid points made by the other side. Some vaccines are necessary and good, some are not. Vaccinate with your pet’s individual needs in mind, do your own research, and don’t be bullied into anything you don’t want to do!

Other sources: www.wholedogjournal.com

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