By Catherine O'Driscoll
Catherine O'Driscoll is founder of Canine Health Concern, and author of the book, 'What Vets Don't Tell You About Vaccines'.
Back in 1991, my four-year-old Golden Retriever Oliver died very suddenly. Like any grieving 'mum', I asked why. Two years later, Oliver's sister Prudence died of leukaemia, and again I asked why. My other dogs were also suffering: Chappie had thyroid disease; Sophie had crippling arthritis; Samson had autoimmune disease (he died when he was five); and Guinnevere had dog allergies. I thought I must be the worst dog owner in the world, and tried to discover what I was doing wrong.
I learnt that all of the above can arise from over-vaccination and inappropriate feeding. My research led to the publication of a book called, 'What Vets Don't Tell You About Vaccines', and this led to a TV documentary that caused huge uproar in the veterinary world. At the time of writing, the British government is poised to announce its decision following a working group investigation into canine and feline vaccination. My hope is that the veterinary vaccine industry does not exert its influence too heavily upon the government. My chief concern is that the government's 'independent' working group advisors are, in fact, paid consultants to the UK's top veterinary vaccine manufacturer.
For the truth is, we ARE vaccinating too much.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners, The Academy of Veterinary Internal Medicine, The American Animal Hospital Association, The American Veterinary Medical Association , Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, and 22 Veterinary Schools in North America have changed their recommended protocols for vaccinating cats and dogs. The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) presented their consensus at the July, 2000 137th Annual AVMA Convention. They focused on the following points:
To emphasise what is being said here by some very heavyweight veterinary authorities in America: annual vaccination is unnecessary. This is because vaccines stimulate antibodies against infectious diseases, and these antibodies remain in the system for many years, and probably for life. All annual boosters do is introduce viral challenges that are nullified by existing antibodies - no added protection is provided. On top of this, "vaccines are not harmless".
Having observed that humans got lifetime immunity from most of their childhood vaccines, Professor Ronald D Schultz, head of pathobiology at Wisconsin University, applied the same logic to dogs. He vaccinated them for rabies, parvo, kennel cough and distemper and then exposed them to the disease-causing organisms after three, five and seven years. The animals remained healthy, validating his hunch. He continued his experiment by measuring antibody levels in the dogs' blood nine and 15 years after vaccination. He found the levels sufficient to prevent disease.
Fredric Scott, professor emeritus at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, obtained similar results comparing 15 vaccinated cats with 17 nonvaccinated cats. He found the cats' immunity lasted 7.5 years after vaccination. In 1998, the American Association of Feline Practitioners published guidelines based on Scott's work, recommending vaccines every three years.
"The feeling of the AAFP is, cats that receive the vaccines every three years are as protected from those infections as they would be if they were vaccinated every year," said James Richards, director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell. "I'm one of many people who believe the evidence is really compelling."
However, I would humbly suggest that vaccinating your dogs or cats every three years is probably still over-vaccination. The same logic applies as with yearly boosters: circulating antibodies are merely going to cancel out the vaccine challenge. Rather, the three-year guideline is probably a political concession, mooted by academics to pacify vets who stand to lose a lot if they lose booster income. In Canada, vets are now even being invited to attend seminars to help them increase business in other areas to compensate for reduced vaccine income - so the times are definitely a changing.
But apart from spending money unnecessarily, what else does over-vaccination do for you and your dogs?
The Merck Manual offers some words of caution. It is produced by a giant vaccine manufacturer called Merck, and it's the doctor's bible. Under childhood immunisation, Merck states that patients with B and/or T cell immunodeficiencies, or from families with B and/or T cell immunodeficiencies, should not receive live virus vaccines due to the risk of fatality (ie death). Merck describes features of B and T cell immunodeficiencies as inhalant allergies, food allergies, eczema, dermatitis, neurological deterioration and heart disease. Does this describe any of your dogs?
Children under the care of good doctors and nurses ask parents whether any of the above conditions exist in a family and, if they do, they refrain from administering live virus vaccines (which is what we give to our dogs). So you can't get away from one fact: you could kill your dog (who also has B and T cells) if your dog or his line suffers from any of the above conditions, and you inject live virus vaccines into him. Logically, it makes sense to repeat the vaccine risk as infrequently as you possibly can.
But vaccines are not simply implicated in fatalities. I have found many studies that link vaccines in with a wide range of diseases.
Conjunctivitis: a study was conducted by Frick and Brooks in 1983, involving two groups of dogs with a predisposition to suffer atopic dermatitis. One group of dogs was exposed to an allergen (pollen) and then vaccinated. They did not develop atopic dermatitis. The second group was vaccinated before being exposed to pollen. This group did develop atopic dermatitis, as well as conjunctivitis. The study therefore shows that vaccines sensitise, triggering an allergic state, of which conjunctivitis, as well as atopic dermatitis, are symptoms.
This explains why Canine Health Concern's (CHC's) vaccine survey, involving over 4,000 dogs, should find that 56.9% of all dogs in the survey with conjunctivitis first developed it within three months of a vaccine shot, and 61.2% of dogs with skin problems first manifested symptoms within this crucial timeframe. Our premise is that if the vaccine has no bearing on subsequent illness, then only 25% of all illnesses should begin within each three-month period of the year. Please bear in mind that, across the board, most conditions began within a week of the shot.
Gastro-intestinal problems: I am sure you are aware of the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and the assertion of scientists in the UK and the USA that the vaccine causes irritable bowel syndrome/Crohn's disease. My own research indicates that inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract is a byproduct of the vaccine process, rather than being associated with a specific vaccine, although the practice of injecting a number of different viruses at one time may have a bearing. CHC's vaccine survey found that 2.7% of all dogs surveyed had colitis, with 56.9% of cases occurring within three months post-vaccination.
The Concise Oxford Veterinary Dictionary states that Type I hypersensitivity reactions are brought about by an antigen reacting with tissue masT cells bearing specific antibodies on their membranes. This releases substances which cause inflammation. The signs of Type I hypersensitivity vary with the species affected, but can include bronchial constriction, diarrhoea, vomiting, salivation, abdominal pain, and cyanosis. (The word 'inflammation' is key in the vaccine debate.)
In a paper prepared by R Brooks of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Limited for the Australian Veterinary Journal (October 1991), entitled 'Adverse reactions to canine and feline vaccines', systemic reactions to vaccines are described.
Under Type I hypersensitivity, the paper shows that clinical signs in dogs include an initial restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea and dyspnoea. Brooks tells us that some cases can progress to collapse and death.
As a top level guide, inflammatory (allergic) type reactions post-vaccination can be explained by research conducted by Dr Larry Glickman, and Dr Harm HogenEsch at Purdue University, although there is a good deal of other research to choose from. Their paper was presented at the International Veterinary Vaccines and Diagnostics Conference, 1997.
The team studied the effects of routinely used vaccination protocol on the immune and endocrine system of Beagles. One control group was not vaccinated and the other group was vaccinated with a commercial multivalent vaccine at 8, 10, 12, 16 and 20 weeks of age, and with a rabies vaccine at 16 weeks of age.
The vaccinated group developed significant levels of autoantibodies of fibronectin, laminim, DNA, albumin, Cytochrome C, transferring, cardiolipin, and collagen. This indicates that, when vaccinated, dogs begin to attack their own biochemistry: they become allergic to themselves. Dr William R La Rosa of the sponsoring Hayward Foundation remarked, "... speculation must be that something in the vaccine is one of the etiologies (in the genetically susceptible dog) of such diseases as cardiomyopathy, lupus, erythematosus, glomerulonephritis, etc."
One finding in the CHC survey, for example, was that 53.7% of dogs with kidney damage first developed the condition within three months of a shot. This is hardly surprising when one looks at the Purdue study, since one of the biochemicals being attacked post vaccination is laminin - and laminin coats kidney cells.
Similarly, autoantibodies to collagen might explain the locomotor conditions recorded against cats and dogs in a veterinary practice record survey conducted by the vet Ilse Pedler. Vaccine components have also been found in the bones of arthritic patients, and other studies show that vaccines cause arthritis.
We need also to be alarmed that the Purdue study showed that vaccinated dogs develop autoantibodies to their own DNA, indicating that vaccines cause genetic damage, and we must question the point of scientific research that looks for genetic defects in our dogs when we are constantly introducing new defects with vaccines.
A high number of behavioural problems were found to arise post-vaccination by Ilse Pedler, as well as in the CHC survey. In the CHC survey, 73.1% of dogs with short attention spans first developed this condition in the crucial post-shot period; 72.5% developed nervous/worrying dispositions; and 64.9% began to display behavioural problems.
Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, is a known and accepted possible sequel to vaccination. The Merck Manual states, for example, "In acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (post infectious encephalitis), demyelination can occur spontaneously, but usually follows a viral infection or inoculation (or very rarely, a bacterial vaccine), suggesting an immunologic cause." This points to a connection between encephalitis and behavioural problems in both humans and animals.
It is interesting that Ilse Pedler noted spinal pain in her survey of practice records, since Merck states that many encephalitides extend to involve the spinal cord.
Ilse Pedler also noticed the onset of epilepsy in animals post-vaccination. Indeed, this merely corroborates our own research, which recorded 73.1% of dogs with epilepsy developing it within three months of a vaccine event. Merck lists epilepsy as a symptom of encephalitis. I wonder how many vets think to report post-vaccinal epilepsy to the VMD's adverse events surveillance scheme? In the human field, compensation has been paid to parents whose children were found to be vaccine-induced epileptics, sadly confirmed on autoposy.
Despite this, Intervet has been quoted at public meetings, and in the press, claiming that epilepsy is not vaccine-induced. Conversely, Merck lists epilepsy as a symptom of encephalitis, and vaccines as a cause of encephalitis.
Ilse Pedler also found a number of injection site reactions in dogs, and even more in cats, and this is corroborated by the high number of injection site cancers documented in cats by American veterinarians - in their tens of thousands every year. In a previous CHC newsletter we published a transcript of a presentation made by an American vet at a BSAVA conference, in which he declared that US vets are vaccinating cats in the tail or leg so that they can lop it off when cancer appears.
81.1% of dogs reported to have a tumour or growth at vaccine site in the CHC survey first developed the tumour within the three-month post-vaccine period.
Collapse was also reported by Ilse Pedler, and anaphylactic shock is an accepted possible sequel to vaccination. Anaphylactic shock can lead to death unless adrenaline is administered immediately.
These are but some of the studies linking vaccines to life-changing or life-threatening illnesses. Dr Jean Dodds, an American vet and researcher, has also written a number of scientific papers to illustrate the correlation between MLV vaccines and a rise in immune- and blood-mediated diseases such as cancer, leukaemia, autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, thyroid disease, and Addisons.
There appear to be two factors preventing drastic changes in vaccine policies for companion animals. The first is that vets have been taught that annual vaccination is necessary, and tie-ins between academic teaching establishments and the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, as well as lost practice income, slow the pace of change. The second factor is fear: we dog lovers are used to relying upon the advice of our vets - who surely are more knowledgeable than us - and we are frightened of exposing our animals to infectious disease.
My own conversion came about in an extremely dramatic way. Having grieved the deaths of Oliver, Prudence and Samson, I sought to protect my dogs without exposing them to vaccine dangers. The result is that I have two six-year-old unvaccinated Golden Retrievers who, unlike Ollie, Pru and Sam, never need to see the vet. Their immune systems are supported by nosodes - the homoeopathic vaccine alternative - and, biologically appropriate, raw dog food. I have no cause to regret laying the vaccine needle aside, and delight at their continuing good health. Thousands of people around the world who have read my book proudly proclaim the same story. The book is currently out of print - so this is not a sales pitch! I would, however, like to save you and your dogs the pain I and my dogs have been through.
You can become a member of Canine Health Concern, and receive its quarterly newsletters, by sending a cheque for £12 to Gardener's Cottage, Kirklands, Ancrum, Jedburgh TD8 6UJ
By Dr. Moira Drosdovech
The great news is that annual boosters are no longer considered necessary every year for pets by a growing number of veterinarians, veterinary researchers and over half of the veterinary colleges. The good news is that your pet can be protected for life by a small number of vaccines in its first year of life. The bad news is that many pet owners are not aware of this information.
My object with this article is not to discuss whether vaccinations are effective in preventing disease. I believe they do work to prevent acute diseases most of the time. I also believe they are capable of "grafting" on to the vaccinated individual a debilitating range of chronic problems while causing life-threatening reactions in others. Just as we cannot expect every human being to have the same degree of intelligence, so too can we not expect every individual pet to react smoothly to vaccinations. So, yes indeed, you do put your pet's health at risk each time it is given an unnecessary vaccination.
Although a direct causal relationship is yet to be discovered scientifically, there are now studies by veterinarians, such as Dr. Larry Glickman at the University of Purdue, that indicate an increase in auto-immunity following vaccination.
Dr. Mike Lappin of Colorado State University has shown that the antigens from Crandall Feline Kidney Cell Culture (which are used to produce feline viral vaccines) produce antibodies in cats that attack cat kidney cells. In his study, distemper vaccines given to kittens in a typical pediatric schedule produced these same antibodies and these anti-kidney antibodies persisted for at least six months. Whether these antibodies are involved in the development of chronic progressive renal failure in cats has yet to be determined, but it certainly raises a red flag.
The incidence of fibrosarcomas in cats (a life-threatening cancer definitively linked to vaccinations) is now as high as 1 in 400 cats in some parts of the U.S., possibly higher.
Thus, it is the safety of vaccines that is at issue. No long-term safety studies of more than a couple weeks have ever been done, not just for pet vaccinations, but for human vaccinations as well. Yet, vaccinations have been embraced by the medical community as both safe and effective. Statements implying that vaccines are safe in the long term are without basis.
When puppies and kittens are first born, the milk they consume from mom is loaded with antibodies in most cases that will protect them for the first 6-12 weeks of life. Vaccinations administered during this period will not result in antibody production in the majority of these young animals because the antibodies they received from the milk will "neutralize" the vaccine virus before it can create a response from the youngster's system.
Therefore, it makes little to no sense to be giving vaccines before 8 weeks and my opinion is that they should be delayed to 12 weeks. Prior to 12 weeks, there is minimal benefit, but the immature immune system is placed as risk for bad reactions. I advise my clients with puppies to still socialize them, but to use common sense regarding their out-of-home activities before 12 weeks. This strategy has proven perfectly fine for over 3 years now.
After 12 weeks, giving puppies and kittens vaccinations will result in their own active immunity (antibodies they produce) over 90% of the time. It would be very rare for any animal to require a second booster for any one virus. I also recommend that the vaccines be separated out so they receive only one virus antigen at a time (eg. Parvo first followed by Distemper at 16 weeks), thereby minimizing risk of reactions. In this region, Distemper and Parvo are the only diseases I vaccinate for in dogs, other than Rabies for those requesting it.
In the case of kittens, if they will always be indoor cats, I do not administer any vaccinations. If they will go outside, I wait until 2-4 weeks before their first venture outside (usually after 4 months) and then administer one Distemper vaccine only. Studies from the early 1980's demonstrated that it was virtually impossible to infect cats over one year old, under experimental conditions, with the feline leukemia virus, even by injection.
For all of these animals, the choice is the owner's as to which vaccines they want their pet to have or whether to vaccinate at all. I simply provide the information for them to make an educated decision. I have seen too many vaccine reactions to do anything less.
Blood tests can be done any time from a month following vaccines to measure circulating antibodies and will confirm that your pet's immune system is primed to take on exposure to these viruses. Any level of antibody indicates that memory cells of the immune system are active and boostering is unnecessary. These tests are by no means suggested every year, but can be a helpful tool to guide re-vaccination decisions.
The likely outcome of giving a booster is that, once again, antibodies already "on board" will simply neutralize the vaccine virus and no benefit is gained whilst again risking harmful reactions.
A lot of pet owners are under the misconception that, because their pet goes outside, to the park, etc, where they might be "exposed" to diseases, their immune systems require a regular "reminder" in the form of a vaccine. This defies logic. On the contrary, regular "exposure" helps the immune system stay primed, making the annual vaccine even less needed.
Although I have stated this in previous articles, I cannot emphasize enough that any pet receiving a vaccination should be 100% healthy. This excludes vaccinating pets with any health problems whatsoever, including diseases in "remission" such as skin diseases, cancer, thyroid problems, to name a few, and especially not those with a history of autoimmune disease. Please understand that you are not benefiting your pet at all by vaccinating while unhealthy.
As the American Veterinary Medical Association states, "Veterinarians must promote the value of the exam and move away from their dependence on vaccine income." Unfortunately, veterinarians stand to lose big, according to Dr. Ron Schultz, leading immunologist and outspoken critic of annual vaccine practices, when the numbers of those requesting vaccines drops.
Annual checkups are important to maintain and will help pick up on health concerns before they become a big problem. If vaccines are recommended, don't forget to ask about safety issues and studies to show they are needed. Ask about the blood test mentioned earlier. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Remember, medicine is always in a state of change and change we must in regards to pet vaccinations.
Dr. Moira Drosdovech
By Dogs Naturally Magazine in Vaccine Articles and News
The duration of immunity for Rabies vaccine, Canine distemper vaccine, Canine Parvovirus vaccine, Feline Panleukopenia vaccine, Feline Rhinotracheitis, feline Calicivirus, have all been demonstrated to be a minimum of 7 years by serology for rabies and challenge studies for all others.
In the Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and What We Don’t Know, Proceedings – Canine Infectious Diseases: From Clinics to Molecular Pathogenesis, Ithaca, NY, 1999, Dr. Ronald Schultz, a veterinary immunologist at the forefront of vaccine research and chair of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Pathobiological Sciences, outlines the DOI for the following vaccines:
Dr. Schultz concludes: “Vaccines for diseases like distemper and canine parvovirus, once administered to adult animals, provide lifetime immunity.” “Are we vaccinating too much?” JAVMA, No. 4, August 15, 1995, pg. 421.
Yet vets continue to vaccinate annually. Dog owners feel that their vets are doing their dogs a great service by vaccinating every three years instead of annually – why do we allow it when these studies were done over thirty years ago and have been replicated time and again by other researchers?
Ian Tizard states: “With modified live virus vaccines like canine parvovirus, canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis the virus in the vaccine must replicate to stimulate the immune system. In a patient that has been previously immunized, antibodies from the previous vaccine will block the replication of the new vaccinal virus. Antibody titers are not significantly boosted. Memory cell populations are not expanded. The immune status of the patient is not enhanced.
After the second rabies vaccination, re-administration of rabies vaccine does not enhance the immune status of the patient at one or two year intervals. We do not know the interval at which re-administration of vaccines will enhance the immunity of a significant percentage of the pet population, but it is certainly not at one or two year intervals. Tizard Ian, Yawei N, Use of serologic testing to assess immune status of companion animals, JAVMA, vol 213, No 1, July 1, 1998.
“The recommendation for annual re-vaccination is a practice that was officially started in 1978.” says Dr. Schultz. “This recommendation was made without any scientific validation of the need to booster immunity so frequently. In fact the presence of good humoral antibody levels blocks the anamnestic response to vaccine boosters just as maternal antibody blocks the response in some young animals.”
He adds: “The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given. Few or no scientific studies have demonstrated a need for cats or dogs to be revaccinated. Annual vaccination for diseases caused by CDV, CPV2, FPLP and FeLV has not been shown to provide a level of immunity any different from the immunity in an animal vaccinated and immunized at an early age and challenged years later. We have found that annual revaccination with the vaccines that provide long-term immunity provides no demonstrable benefit.”
Be your dog’s advocate – protect him with knowledge and by taking a stand against unnecessary vaccination. His life may depend on it!