Vaccinations save lives. But how much is too much?
What vaccines does a dog need? And how many boosters should they receive? Is there a way of measuring immunity?
For a long time, having a long list of Jasmine’s health challenges we were dealing with, the vaccination issue ended up on the back burner.
As it wasn’t the most pressing issue, I continued with the traditional annual boosters as directed. When things have settled down, though I had time to pay more attention to the matter.
How does one navigate through this?
You can read more about the issue here: Dog Health and Vaccines: Problems With Canine Over-Vaccination
Deciding what is the best answer caused me quite a bit of anguish. What to do? Of course, I could have taken the easy way out and just booster and get it over with.
Living with the decision
Would that be the best thing to do for my dog? There are compelling arguments about the consequences of over-vaccinating which include things such as autoimmune diseases, allergies, and even cancer. As time goes on, the issue of over-vaccination is becoming more broadly accepted.
I could have simply decide not to booster.
But the diseases in question are dangerous and can be deadly. Should I dare to leave Jasmine vulnerable to this risk? That was a leap of faith I was not willing to take.
What on Earth are titers?
A titer is an antibody blood test. It measures the level of protection your dog’s immune system has against a particular disease.
If you think that there are no arguments about the reliability of such testing, think again.
However, the consensus seems to be that if the antibody levels measure high enough, the dog is protected against that particular disease. That’s something, isn’t it?
Jasmine’s titer results
We decided to run the titers for Jasmine. A year and a half since her last booster she had plenty of antibodies for both. No booster was necessary!
Titers are more expensive than the booster itself. But to me it is worth it.
Note: Some vaccines, such as for Leptospirosis and Lyme disease do provide protection for one year only. Before deciding on any non-core vaccines (vaccines other than Rabies, Parvo, Distemper, and Adenovirus), I recommend a thorough evaluation of your dog’s exposure and risk.
Retesting four years post last booster
As time went on, it inspired further debate whether titer testing is sufficient to confirm immunity. It was, however, what we decided to do in the end.
The lab results said that she had enough antibodies. A booster wasn’t needed. We did this every year because I didn’t want to subject Jasmine to unnecessary vaccination but I did not want to leave her vulnerable to the infections either.
Four years past last booster the antibody levels haven’t changed. Jasmine’s vet said that either the vaccines are lasting long enough or she is boostered by exposure to field (wild) strains of the virus.
I suppose that either could be the case. The important thing is that she is protected.
JD also still has immunity against these viruses.
Why measure antibodies?
The equation is simple. The purpose of vaccination is to generate antibodies. If the antibodies are still there, what is the vaccine going to change other than excite the immune system?
As we were signing JD up for another year of veterinary care plan, I saw that a discount for titers is now also included …
Yes, I could have saved money just insisting on following the AAHA guidelines. But this way, Jasmine’s vet and I went through our own verification process and we could both have been satisfied that Jasmine truly did have the protection she needed.
I am glad I did that. If nothing else, for my own peace of mind.
The last thing I would wanted to do was to take chances with Jasmine’s already frail health.
Dog Health and Vaccines: Problems With Canine Over-Vaccination
An update on vaccines and titer testing for dogs and cats