What are veterinarians afraid of ?
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a new client, let’s give her a fictional name Paula. She got my name from her friend, Andrea, a Great Dane breeder and a long time client of mine, who’s dogs have been known to live well into the teens.
I can only think of two things that she does differently:
- She doesn’t vaccinate routinely and measures her dogs’ antibodies against the most common diseases like parvo and distemper instead.
- She feeds her dogs natural raw or cooked food.
I have always admired Andrea for having the guts to go with what felt right despite being ostracized and looked down upon by many of my colleagues. Her reward for holding her ground is that her dogs are healthier and live longer.
Vaccination has always been a very controversial topic of many discussions and a few months ago, I posted a blog on how to reduce vaccines and keep your dog safe. However, what I forgot to mention in the blog was that if you decide to follow my recommendation, many of my colleagues will tell you that you are risking the health of your dog.
Paula’s problem was exactly that. Her personal decision to not vaccinate her puppy and instead do titers at the first vet check-up. The issue was that she could not find any vet who would agree.
What is my experience with this alternative approach?
For years, I have been seeing many puppies in my practice. Instead of vaccination, the antibody levels for parvovirus and distemper are measured at the age of 12 weeks.
What I have seen is that puppies that are vaccinated early, around the age of 6 – 8 weeks havemuch less protection than the puppies that have not been vaccinated at all.
There is a relatively simple explanation. Very young puppies have a very immature and dormant immune system and are incapable of making any antibodies. Their protection comes from the mother’s milk in the form of maternal antibodies.
What happens to the maternal antibodies after premature vaccination?
The vaccine simply neutralizes the antibodies which, ironically, makes a large number of the early vaccinated puppies unprotected.
Why is this not common veterinary knowledge?
My sense is that for years most vets have simply followed the vaccine manufacturers’ guidelines without asking if their recommendations have solid ground. There is also the fear of making a mistake and being held liable or loose their license, which would threaten their reputation or license.
What is the Healing Solution?
- First, read my blog on vaccination.
- If you would like to vaccinate, wait until your puppy is at least 12 weeks old when the immune system is more mature and can create new antibodies.
- If you prefer avoiding unnecessary vaccination - check antibody levels at 12 and 20 weeks of age. Many puppies are fully protected first with maternal antibodies until they build up the new antibodies. It may surprise you that some dogs never need any vaccines at all.
- Talk to you practitioner and explain to them that you have decided to do titers with your puppy and request them to be done.
- Be prepared for your vet to disagree. Tell him or her that you appreciate the opinion, however, you would like to get titer tests done and base your decision on the results.
- If your vet is unwilling to follow your wish, consider going elsewhere.
How to interpret the titer test results.
I have never seen any puppies getting sick if they are tested even with low levels of antibodies. Some people say that lower levels are not protective, however, it doesn’t appear to be true in real life.
If your puppies test comes back negative, you may want to vaccinate with one antigen for Parvo and then one antigen for Distemper at least 2 – 4 weeks apart.
Rabies antibodies will always be negative in animals who have not been vaccinated. However, quite often, one vaccine at six months of age or later, often provides lifetime protection. I recommend running rabies titer test 3 years after the first vaccine and yearly thereafter to ensure good protection.
As in many other areas of life today, vaccines are a hot and confusing topic. Some vets are afraid to challenge the status quo, others simply believe that repeated vaccines are necessary and only a few vaccinate to make the extra dollar.
What you need to do is to inform yourself, make the decision and go to your vet determined that you have made your mind up.
Remember that you are the decision maker and that you are not there to please your vet. If you still find it challenging to make the right decision, go with your gut. Deep inside, you know what feels right…
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM