Vaccinations: More Harm Than Good?

By Lew OlsonFall 1997 Newsletter

Four years ago, a dog of mine suffered some strange reactions. He developed lameness in his right leg, an ulcer on his eye, scaling of his skin, yeast infection in his right ear, loss of pigment in his gums and loss of hair coat. After many consultations and research, I finally found an article on vaccination reactions. My dog's symptoms all came within 10 days of a combination booster and rabies shot.

One year later, I had a young bitch in for her last puppy shot. Within minutes of this shot, she begin breaking out into hives, and her skin turned bright red. She then starting going into anaphylactic shock. Without the quick actions of my vet, she would have been dead in minutes. When I questioned him about this, he stated that this does happen from 'time to time'. He suggested, and I agreed, that she should never have another shot in her life. Since that time, I have read everything I could find on this topic, and this article will address these findings.
This topic can be confusing to some dog and cat owners, and is often a highly controversial subject. There is so much conflicting data on vaccination needs today, that even some veterinary journals are beginning to question the frequency of vaccinations recommended over the years. There is speculation that vaccinations may show side effects within 21 days of vaccinating. These can include:

- Allergic skin reactions
- Joint swelling and/or lameness
- Loss of energy and stamina
- Cornea ulcers
- Yeast infections in the ears
- Stomach and digestion problems
- Hives
- Seizures
- Weight loss
- Epilepsy
- Addison's disease
- Cancer
- Autoimmune Thyroiditis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Liver and kidney failure
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Autoimmune diseases
- Encephalitis

Several veterinarians are now questioning the effectiveness of vaccinations. Dr. Jean Dodds, of Hemopet in Santa Monica, California, has been researching the immunological effects of vaccines since the early 1980s. Last year, an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association addressed the issue, "Are We Vaccinating Too Much?". Several veterinary immunologists were interviewed, and none could state why dogs and cats would need to be vaccinated yearly. Lastly, Dr. Ron Schultz who is with the Scripps Research Institute and University of Wisconsin, reports that annual vaccination has no scientific basis or verification. He reports immunity from vaccinations will last years, with the only exception being tetanus shots. He reports that most vaccines last at least 5 years, and perhaps the dog's lifetime.
In Catherine O'Driscoll's book, "Who Killed the Darling Buds of May? What Vets Don't Tell You About Vaccines," she states that the Canine Health Census research recently reported that 50% of dogs with viral diseases (such as parvo and distemper) contracted them within three months of vaccination. The CHC also reports that at least one in every 100 dogs suffer adverse reactions to vaccinations.

Part of these adverse reactions can also be encephalitis. Catherine O'Driscoll reports that some vaccine manufacturers state their vaccines can cause encephalitis. Symptoms of this include: diarrhea, vomiting, gas, gastroenteritis, breathing difficulties, hyperactivity, mental retardation, seizures, paralysis and aggression just to name a few. It is also reported that behavioral problems can appear much later.
Dr. Dodds is also questioning the use of modified live vaccines. When this type of vaccine is used, the virus continues to grow and multiply in the dogs system, to increase immunity. However, it is also reported that shedding of the virus is caused by this method, and it also lowers immunity more than the killed virus. Dogs that are vaccinated with modified live vaccines have the ability to spread the shedding virus to other dogs and wildlife. Modified live vaccines are currently banned in Scandinavian countries.

She also states that repeatedly vaccinating young puppies only defeats the purpose of the vaccine. Each time a puppy is vaccinated, it lowers the immune system, and actually creates a situation where the puppy could actually get the disease the owner is trying to protect him from, especially in the instance of using modified live shots. This is also true of the combination shots. Dr. Dodds recommends giving shots in single doses, rather than putting several together. Each type of shot needs to be given separately, and spaced out at least two to three weeks from each other. It has been proven that combining distemper with adenovirus 2 (hepatitis) reduces the lymphocyte numbers, which can affect the immune system greatly. It is also reported that single or combination modified live shots containing distemper, adenovirus 1 or 2, and parvo virus contribute to immune mediated blood disease, bone marrow failure and organ dysfunction.
Another complaint is that all dogs are given the same dose of vaccination, from the Chihuahua to the Saint Bernard. Dr. Dodds believes that the dose needs to be appropriate for the size and age of the dog.

The research in vaccinations has also caused Colorado State Veterinary School to issue a release that has been posted on their website. It is interesting, as it recommends giving booster shots every three years, which is a major change in veterinary practice. It is as follows:

Change in Colorado State University's Small Animal Vaccination Protocol (Program 1701)
"Program 1701 has been designed for routine immunization of Colorado State University's clients' dogs and cats living in Larimer County, Colorado, U.S.A. Not all available small animal vaccines may be suitable for Program 1701. Infectious disease risk may vary and Program 1701 may not be suitable for all localities. Anyone using Program 1701 does so at their own risk. Consult your local veterinarian to see if this program is suitable for your pet."

"A recent survey by one of the largest vaccine manufacturers of small animal vaccination practices found 1,700 different vaccination recommendations for dogs and cats from veterinarians across the United States. In January 1999, the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital will be offering its clients one additional vaccination program (1701). We are making this change after years of concern about the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and the increasing documentation that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects."

"Of particular note in this regard has been the association of autoimmune hemolytic anemia with vaccination in dogs and vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats -- both of which are often fatal. Boosters, the annual revaccination recommendation on the vaccine label is just that -- a recommendation, and is not a legal requirement except for rabies. This recommendation could just as well have been every leap year or full moon and is not, in most cases, based on duration of immunity studies. The only commonly used vaccine that requires that duration of immunity studies be carried out before licensure in the United States is rabies. Even with rabies vaccines, the label may be misleading in that a three year duration of immunity product may also be labeled and sold as a one year duration of immunity product."

"Based on the concern that annual vaccination of small animals for many infectious agents is probably no longer scientifically justified, and our desire to avoid vaccine-associated adverse events, in January of 1999 we will be recommending a new immunization protocol to our small animal clients called 'Program 1701'."
"Program 1701 recommends the standard three shot series for puppies (parvovirus, adenovirus 2, parainfluenza, distemper) and kittens (panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus) to include rabies after 12 weeks of age for cats and 16 weeks of age for dogs. Following the initial puppy and kitten immunization series, cats and dogs will be boostered one year later and then every three years thereafter for all the above diseases. Similar small animal vaccination programs to Program 1701 have been recently adopted by the University of Wisconsin, Texas A & M and the American Association of Feline Practitioners."

"Other available small animal vaccines, which may need more frequent administration, i.e., intranasal parainfluenza, Bordetella, feline leukemia, Lyme, etc., may be recommended for CSU client animals on an "at risk" basis, but are not a part of the routine Colorado State University protocol for small animals. Recent studies by Dr. Schultz clearly indicate that not all vaccines perform equally and some vaccine products may not be suitable for such a program."

While Program 1701 does not reach the scope of Dr. Dodd's recommendations, it is certainly an indication that veterinarians are aware of the problem with vaccinations, and that the practice of casual yearly boosters is not necessary.

A new term for reactions to vaccinations is called vaccinosis. It is thought that one reason these symptoms may occur is due to the immune suppression brought on by vaccinations. Some dogs react to the suspension in the vaccine, rather than the actual killed virus itself. There are several things a pet owner can do to exercise caution with vaccinations. These include:

- Do not give all vaccinations at once (such as giving rabies at the same time one gives other shots)
- Give shots separately, rather than combination boosters
- Never give a dog a vaccination if they are sick, have a current health problem or at the time of surgery or other physical or emotional stress
- Avoid modified live vaccinations
- Avoid vaccinating older dogs
- Consider not giving vaccinations for conditions that are not life threatening, such as kennel cough, or eliminate using lepto, if there are no rats or vermin in your yard or pets area
- Giving shots less frequently, as your local regulations permit
- Making sure your new puppies had their shots a week prior to coming to your home, and not immediately giving them shots as soon as you bring them home
- Waiting at least a month between shots for puppies, to give their immune systems a chance to recover from the first shot
- Do not give heart worm preventative or worm your pet at the same time you vaccinate. Do these a few weeks apart, and always have your vet check the stool before worming.

Titers are a test to measure your dog's antibody levels to specific diseases. This can indicate your dog's immunity to the disease. It is done with a blood test by your veterinarian. The results can let you know if your dog needs another vaccine, and also how effective the prior vaccinations have been. For information, you can have your vet get in touch with Dr. Dodds at (310) 828-4804. The titers run about $20 dollars each, and the blood work can be sent directly to her lab in California. The two most recommended are for parvo and distemper.

Things That Can Be Done to Protect Your Dog Before Vaccinating
The idea of a fresh food diet just can't be stressed enough to naturally boost your dog's immune system and keep at their healthiest! Even if the fresh food is foreign to you, it can as easy as adding some whole milk yogurt, canned mackerel or salmon, raw eggs or lightly scrambled and ground hamburger or chicken. Food that has not been cooked or processed has a much better quality of vitamins and minerals, and help enhance your dog's immune system. Since processed dog food is already high in grains and fiber, concentrate on adding more animal protein and fat. Salmon oil is also helpful to regulate the immune system and help the skin and coat. Antioxidants are extremely helpful to keep the dog's system strong, a good mix to consider is the Bertes Immune Blend. It contains vitamin C, vitamin E, B complex and a blend of enzymes and acidolphilus.

It is also recommended to supplement dogs with Powdered Vitamin C with Bioflavanoids to help boost the immune system. In high doses, Powdered Vitamin C with Bioflavanoids can work as a natural antihistamine. I start my dogs on Powdered Vitamin C with Bioflavanoids at weaning time, and make sure the female has this all through her pregnancy. For a Rottweiler, I usually start out with 500 mg twice a day, and slowly raise this level to about 1,500 mg twice a day. Vitamin E is also a good immune booster, and 400 IUs a day is very helpful. Other good immune boosting vitamins and minerals include betacarotene, selenium, Vitamin B-Complex and zinc.

Whenever I have a dog that is going to need a vaccination, I give them a good herbal immune booster for two weeks prior to the vaccination date. My favorite is Immune System Formula. It contains several good herbs to help enhance the immune system, and have the dog in optimum health. Then after the vaccination, I give them the herbal mix called Detox Formula, which helps the dog remove the residue of the shot as quickly as possible. This is also an effective combination for use before and after anesthesia, and worming.
A holistic treatment to protect against diseases is called nosodes. It is an oral type of vaccination, only used in minute doses compared to the traditional vaccinations. It is generally given orally over a period of a few days to help protect against the disease. It must be administered by a homeopathic veterinarian for best use. At this time, there has not been any structured study on the effectiveness or efficacy of nosodes. However, more research is being done on this method at this time.

Deciding when to vaccinate, how to vaccinate and which vaccinations to use, needs to be a thoughtful decision. I am providing websites and book references at the end of this article, and I encourage everyone to read and research thoroughly before making a choice. Your dog's health could depend on it.

Books and Links
- O'Driscoll, Catherine. What Vets Don't Tell You About Vaccines. Abbeywood Publishing, Longnor, Derbyshire, England (previously entitled Who Killed the Darling Buds of May?)
- Dodds, W. Jean, D.V.M. "The Immune System And Disease Resistance"
- Pitcairn, Richard D.V.M. "Vaccinosis"
- Wynn, Susan Gayle D.V.M. "Vaccination Decisions"

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Much more has been learned since this article was written, however, it is an excellent starting point for those of you who are new to this potentially devastating issue. To date it has affected 3 of our dogs that I am aware of - one fatally. Also of note, the problems found in the human vaccination realm are applicable to the animal realm and visa versa!