Dog Health and Vaccines: Problems With Canine Over-Vaccination

First and foremost, vaccinations are an important component of health care, prevention, and wellness for your dog. I am, by no means, recommending not vaccinating your dog.

Dog Health and Vaccines: Problems With Canine Over-Vaccination

It is vitally important to vaccinate appropriately.

For the core vaccines of distemper, parvo, adenovirus (together called DAP), and rabies, appropriate vaccination is as young puppies not before nine weeks of age and with the final puppy vaccine for DAP at 15-16 weeks of age.

Rabies between 4 and 6 months of age and one year after the initial vaccine.

After these puppy vaccines, boosters of these vaccines should not be given before three years and, in many instances, well beyond three years. 

There is plenty of evidence and research to support that giving vaccines more frequently does not improve their effectiveness and instead increases the risk of adverse reactions.

Research and information from veterinarians like Dr. Ronald Schultz, Dr. Richard Ford, and Dr. Jean Dodds have been available since the 1970s and continue to the present day. In 2006 significant vaccine guideline changes were made and posted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), recommending 3-year vaccination protocols
for the core vaccines vs. annual vaccination.

Here are a couple of research articles from Dr. Schultz –

Consequences of over-vaccinating

The consequences of over-vaccinating can be immediate or delayed reactions, called vaccinosis.

These reactions can occur anywhere between 24 hours to 45 days. The three significant consequences are increased allergy symptoms, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. However, the list of reactions overall
is quite extensive and includes –

  • Autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, arthritis, skin, and even nervous system disorders – seizures, epilepsy.
  • Behavior changes increasing anxiety, obsessive behavior, and/or aggression
  • Cancers such as fibrosarcomas at the injection site
  • Muscle weakness and muscle atrophy
  • Chronic digestive problems such as inflammatory bowel
  • Skin issues such as chronic skin allergies, self-mutilation and tail chewing

What is the root of adverse vaccine reactions?

Although not completely understood, how this occurs can be attributed to the overstimulation of the immune system and inflammatory system. 

There are two parts to a vaccine, the antigen and the adjuvant. 

What is an antigen

The antigen is the specific disease particle that the vaccine is trying to protect against. The adjuvant is the substance that carries the antigen and includes substances that stimulate the immune system.

What is an adjuvant

What the adjuvant does is yell at the immune system – “Hey, look over here, I have a disease particle that needs to be attacked!”

Substances such as aluminum salts, organics, and oil-based adjuvants are all used to stimulate the immune system. These products are good at their job, making for a better immune response to the vaccine. However, the problem with these products is that they are good at their job, which can overstimulate the immune system.

There have been claims that some of these substances can stimulate the immune system for up to 2 years. 

If you are giving vaccines every year, you can obviously see the very likely possibility of immune system overstimulation.

Some new technologies in adjuvants, such as virosomes, appear to have less overstimulating effects on the immune system, less inflammatory response, and have a technique that mimics the natural way the body reacts to an attacking disease. 

Continued research into these types of adjuvants is essential in preventing the reactions to vaccines. However, using vaccines appropriately and judiciously is just as important and gives us an answer right now to reduce the possibility of vaccinosis in our dogs.

Take home message

The core vaccines of Distemper, Parvo, Hepatitis, and Rabies have a duration of immunity much longer than one year and even longer than three years.

Vaccinating more than every three years has no benefit and actually increases the risk of reactions.

If you base your dog’s health only on risk vs. reward, it is evident that vaccinating annually is not in your dog’s best interest. For those of you that your dog’s health is more important than just risk vs. reward, it is even more apparent that you should be reducing how often you give your dog vaccines.

Related articles:
Vaccinosis in Dogs: A Vexing Conundrum. Can Physical Therapy Help?
To Booster or not to Booster

Further reading:
Vaccines and Antibody Titers

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