Barking Blondes: When to vaccinate
Dr Ron Schultz, professor and chair of pathological sciences at The University of Wisconsin, joined us on the radio show a few months ago, via Skype. This method of broadcasting instantly adds kudos to any guest as their voice takes on a Dalek-type quality. On this occasion, what he actually told us was spellbinding enough.
Ron Schultz has been studying the effectiveness of canine vaccines since the 1970s; he’s learned that immunity can last as long as a dog’s lifetime, which suggests that our “best friends” are being over-vaccinated.
Picture this, you’ve just got your new puppy and you’re faced with the lifelong responsibility of its healthcare, so the first thing you have to do is get him vaccinated. Vaccination is critical for the core diseases in the UK’s that’s Parvo, Hepatitis and Distemper.
Most of us return home with a new puppy at about eight weeks having been told “its had its first jabs”. We then keep it removed from the rest of the world until it has its second jabs at 12 weeks. Dr Schultz , however, believes that the maternal immunity to disease is still within the puppy up until 14 weeks. Which is when the puppy should be vaccinated and then Titre tested thereafter. He believes that in 98 per cent of cases, dogs don’t need boosters.
How interesting then, that this week, the WSAVA (World Small Animal Association) introduced new vaccination guidelines that suggest vaccinating at 14 – 16 weeks. The guidelines also stress that the amount of vaccines given should be minimised over its lifetime. They suggest an annual visit to the vets is recommended, with the focus not on vaccination, but the overall ‘wellness’ of the dog. This is quite a step change from the annual routine check- ups which are all about the ‘booster’.
The new puppy owner vaccination guidelines also clarifies the WSAVA’s position that dogs should not be vaccinated more frequently than every three years, commonly misconstrued by vets as meaning every three years. Science has proved that immunity from puppy shots provides immunity for many years and probably for the life of the animal.
Like Dr Ron Schultz, the WSAVA recommends using titre tests regularly to prove your dog’s immunity after its puppy shots. A titre test is a simple blood test that tests for circulating anti-bodies. If anti-bodies are present, the dog is immune to the core diseases and will not need a booster jab. The guidelines recommend a titre test once a year rather than routinely giving your dog a booster. If your pup is immune, an extra booster at this point would be superfluous to requirements and wouldn’t provide any additional immunity.
The concern with over-vaccinating, i.e. giving shots that are not needed (when the dog is already immune) is that rather than helping your dog, it can compromise his immune system and trigger serious adverse reactions such as epilepsy, arthritis, allergic reactions, brain tumours, autoimmune Haemolytic anaemia and cancers.
Up until now titre tests have been prohibitively expensive up to £300, however last year a new in-house and affordable test called VacciCheck was launched in the UK. It is recommended by WSAVA in the new guidelines as a cost effective in-house solution at your vets. It only takes 20 minutes to get the results and vets can charge owners the price of a booster for the test, so Vaccicheck works for vets and owners alike!
Finally, we hope the person who stole our smart phone at the Pet Show last weekend enjoys looking at the pictures on it of our dogs. Although maybe you are more of an opportunist than an animal lover!
The Barking Hour, every Thursday, 3-4Pm, BBC London 94.9FMdogs, pet care, puppy vaccination
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