Yesterday we were asked an important question on our Facebook page
“I’ve read a great deal about yearly booster injections for dogs not being necessary and the harmful have side effects. Do you offer any alternatives – titre tests, less frequent boosters etc?”
and here is our answer. …
At Castle Vets we offer a thorough and comprehensive annual health check which is important for your pet in order to ensure he or she is in full and good health. During these annual health checks, vaccination is always discussed but not always given depending on the individual’s circumstances.
Providing that the dog has had its two initial (puppy) vaccinations and its first year booster, Castle Vets will only give the full booster vaccination for Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus every three years. We do recommend an annual booster for Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza, because studies have shown that immunity to these viruses does not last very long. This of course is always based on the individual dog’s needs and circumstances.
Why we recommend vaccinations
Vaccinations are one of the most important weapons in the fight against infectious diseases and many diseases have been virtually eliminated through vaccination control programs. Vaccination is necessary in order to protect our pets against life threatening disease and is the only proven method of doing this. In the past many animals became severely ill because of diseases which, thanks to vaccination, are now rarely seen. Although these diseases are less common, they have not been completely eradicated and if the number of pets protected by vaccines drops our pets could be at risk from an outbreak of infectious diseases (this is similar to the human measles outbreak that has been seen recently in the UK, because so many children were not vaccinated.) When you vaccinate your pet, not only are you protecting them from these diseases but you are preventing the spread of disease to other animals.
Remember that there are no specific cures for diseases such as Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus, and that these diseases are often fatal. In the case of Leptospirosis, treatment is available but can be extremely expensive and it may not always be successful.
It is worth noting that most boarding kennels require proof of annual vaccinations before admittance. Some pet insurance companies also insist on annual vaccinations, but more are now moving towards an annual health check which we fully endorse.
Blood testing antibody levels
It is possible to perform blood tests to check for the levels of antibodies in the blood, which will show us how well an animal is protected against a certain disease. Some owners request these tests so that they know whether or not to have their pet’s annual booster vaccination. Castle Vets are happy to do this for you if your wish, but because of the prices charged by the laboratories few owners take up this offer.
What about harmful side effects?
Serious side effects such as anaphylactic shock and vaccine associated fibrosarcoma are extremely rare. Very occasionally an animal may have a localised reaction such as, swelling or irritation at the site of vaccination, or they may have systemic affects such as fever, loss of appetite or lethargy. These symptoms can occur within minutes to 1 week after vaccination but usually disappear on their own.
The very small risk of a vaccine side effect is greatly outweighed by the benefit of protection against serious disease. This point has been endorsed by the Working Group set up by the government’s independent expert Veterinary Products Committee who undertook a thorough review of all UK licensed dog and cat vaccines. An independent and scientifically peer reviewed study carried out by the Animal Health Trust, has produced the clearest evidence yet that routine vaccination of dogs in the UK does not increase frequency of illness.
There is no independent evidence to show that these vaccines work in protecting pets against disease. A few properly designed trials have been carried out using homeopathic vaccines and have shown no evidence of protection.
Do not be worried about asking your vet questions when you bring you pet to see us. If you have any concerns or would like to know more about vaccination or any aspect of your pet’s health and care please discuss this with one of our vets who will be happy to advise you.
Much of the above information has come from the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) and we would urge you to visit their website if you would like more information on vaccines.
You can also visit our WordPress site and see our previous article on the importance of vaccination and how vaccines work