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Should we or shouldn't we?

excerpted fr various Bouvier mail lists

From: Janet Land 
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999

Both my dogs are due for annual vaccinations next month and Bea is due for rabies as well (every 3 years). Bea is hypothyroid and Boudi has what appears to be allergies (licking his paws excessively). In consulting a homeopathic practitioner and a holistic vet I have come to believe that both of these conditions can be triggered and/or aggravated by over-vaccination and I am reluctant to continue the "recommended"
vaccination schedule.

The vet I am now using most of the time will do titers for parvo, distemper and ?(other annual shots) and can have rabies done as well though doesn't recommend not having the rabies vaccination so I thought I was all set to go that route. Today I saw a vet from the adjacent island about Boudi's ear infection and discussed titers with him (there is no vet on our island and this fellow and his wife, also a vet, visit our island every 3-4 weeks). He said that titers were not a good indication of immunity to these diseases and recommended the regular annual shots. Of special concern to me is distemper. A couple of years ago the raccoon population on all the Gulf Islands was almost completely wiped out by canine distemper and I gather some dogs died too. I would never forgive myself if my dogs came down with something like this because I'd believed the titer test and hadn't vaccinated.

The vet today said he was going to send me some info (not drug company generated) on why titers can't determine immunity satisfactorily and I'm wondering if anyone on the list can point me in the direction of sound information on the counter argument. Unfortunately the holistic vet I've been dealing with (long distance) is on holidays so I can't contact her. I'm not one to follow either western or alternative vet medicine blindly and would appreciate some "legitimate" research to help me in my decision. Thanks for any light you can shed on the issue.

From: David Sheckler 
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999

The issue on annual vaccinations has been gaining more steam in the last few years. There have been a number of studies which are indicating that annual vaccinations are too much, and not totally necessary. The issue regarding titers has more to do with the specificity of the antibody to sub-strains of field virus, than the levels of the titers themselves. If you vaccinated with an effective vaccine (and not all commercial vaccines are effective, see the Parvo reference in my WebSite below), you will have sufficient immunity if titers are high enough.

University of Colorado Veterinary College has a very good recommended protocol, where the standard puppy vaccinations at 8, 12, 16 weeks are performed, then a one year booster is given, and then subsequently THREE years thereafter for the life of the dog.

I've gone through much of the vaccine information available, as well as DrDenise wrote a very good summary article in one of the old Dirty Beards regarding Parvo. You can find most of the references and information at my WebSite at:, with further information contained within the reference section of the Colorado Vet College's recommendations.

As for my vaccination protocol, I perform DHPP's (no Carona) at 8, 12, 16 weeks with a one year booster. I do NOT do any vaccinations for Carona, nor do I perform any vaccinations for Leptospirosis. Up to recently, I've done two year period follow-up boosters on DHPP. I have been doing titers for about five years, and I agree that three year boosters now for DHPP. Rabies is another issue entirely, as most requirements for Rabies vaccinations are required by Law.

Despite the probability of creating a real heated argument regarding homeopathic Nosodes, I've seen no well-designed scientific studies which have shown any efficacy of those materials for immunity by dogs or man. I do not recommend them at all, and their use can only be justified by "belief" not by science........ I do utilize some "non-Western" medicine protocols for the dogs, so please don't go off on me regarding Nosodes, thinking I'm adverse to Holistic Veterinary approaches........

Dave Sheckler -- Hillsboro, OR
Gryphon Bouviers -
From: David Sheckler
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999

Responding to the following comment from another lister
Our veterinarian/friend is on the forefront of the vaccine, nutrition issues.  His recommendations are almost exactly as David stated in his post. The only  difference is using single vaccines instead of the combined DHPP, an annual vet visit for the check up and one vaccine at each visit.

I tend to agree that single-valent (one vaccine component) approach makes some sense as far as limiting the immune system challenge to a minimal challenge each time. However, most Vet Offices generally do not stock single-valent vaccines. I suppose more would if asked by sufficient number of their clients. Although it makes some intellectual sense to perform a single-valent approach, I have not seen convincing studies that indicate that much of a difference between single-valent approach, and limited multi-valent approaches.

I've had to ask several of my Vets over the years to order in the specific multi-valent vaccine that I've desired (I use only one specific Parvo vaccine, up until this year when a second high titer/low pass parvo vaccine came on the market). In most cases, having at least the DHPP on stock is utilizable by the rest of their clients. Recently, it's become harder to obtain less than the 25 dose shipping packs from the vaccine vendors, as Federal Law now requires them to sell those shipments in unbroken case packs.

Since I can muster up my own fair number of shots for my own dogs (and puppies as they go through their puppy shots), my Vet has been more than willing to order the vaccines that I've wanted.

From: Kathleen Pollock
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999
Janet, I myself have gone through this dilemma regarding vaccinations of my pets. It was a hard decision but I decided that I had to live up to the stand I had made regarding not doing anything that was not right for my pet. I only give rabies shots (of course, you have to have a history of at least two years of rabies shots before you can get the three year certificate) and I test for heartworm each year. I also give them a lot of herbs and supplements such as garlic, kelp, garden essence. But you have to go with what you feel is right, only you can make that decision. By seeing a holistic point of view it certainly does put ones brain in to overdrive as to what it really is that we are doing to our beloved pets with all the chemicals that we put into them using the word vaccination.
From: Janet Land
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999
When I had Bea into the vet's last night I had a chance to discuss vaccinations and titers with him. He did his training in the UK and worked there for a while before coming to Canada. He said in the UK they routinely vaccinated only every two years and he was surprised to find annual vaccinations being "pushed" here. I asked specifically about distemper because it has wiped out the islands' population of raccoons and he said in his opinion dogs are probably fine with just their initial puppy shot(s). When I asked if this was because distemper was rare in the UK, he said it was the opposite, distemper is rampant and as a result dogs are constantly exposed to it, sort of like a regular booster.

Then I told him the comments of the vet I spoke to last weekend about titers. He thought titers were a very good indicator of immunity and said that (again in the UK) that vaccine manufacturers used to offer free! titer service to clients (breeders?) to show how effective their vaccines were. What a concept!

This morning I got an email message from the vet I spoke to last weekend about titers (too bad I didn't have this yesterday). He says "titers measure only one of the two major types of immunity. One is through the bloodstream (humeral), the other is at the site of infection (cell-mediated). Titers measure only the circulating antibodies. The 'on-site' immunity difficult to measure (even with challenge studies) but very important in disease protection." I've sent this off to my vet for comment but am interested to hear what those on the list think.
From: Janet Land
Date: Mon, 02 Aug 1999
I received the following from my "regular" vet (Dr. Martin Randle in Sidney BC. He did his training and practiced in the UK before coming to Canada.) and [thought I would] pass it along for information and discussion:

" this time there is no comprehensive research that links titer level to protection. The levels, however, are accepted as the best guide. Immunity is still a complex subject. We don't know how much cell mediated immunity is involved in maintaining protection and the antibody titers only measure the humeral response. An animal could have a very low titer but still be capable of exhibiting an amnestic response to disease challenge and indeed be immune. The only failsafe way to measure immunity is with challenge studies. This is beyond the average owners means. [...]"
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1999
Responding to the following comment by another lister:
I spoke to my vet regarding Titers yesterday. His opinion was, that until they can start doing it cheaper than vaccines, then you might as well vaccinate. Again, only if your dog has a reaction and you can't  vaccine. Here is the law - you have to supply the by-law officer with a list of your dogs - their  registration #'s and their vaccination records each year in order to keep your kennel license.

I guess where I am concerned, vaccines are not innocuous, and even if it is more expensive to do titers, it is worth it for the health of the animal especially those with chronic illnesses. And I don't find them that much more expensive.

From: (Pam Green)
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 
Responding to the following comments from another lister:
A vet visiting this area from Colorado said that he sees one case of canine distemper once in ten years while my vet here hardly misses a week without a killing case of the disease.

A lot of vets never SEE a case of canine distemper, but that does NOT mean that the cases are not happening.

Think about it. How does a dog get distemper? Usually because the ignorant irresponsible bastard who owned the dog did not bother to spend the $10 to get the dog vaccinated. Well is that same person going to spend the money to bring a sick dog into the vet? And if he does and is told that the cost of treatment could easily exceed $1000 with no guarantees of survival, what is he going to do.

So most of the cases that a vet actually SEES are cases where the dog has been rescued from a shelter, and now the foster person or the adopter realizes there is a sickness. I've been there and done that. Let me tell you that it is a tremendous lot of blood, toil, sweat, and tears to nurse a dog thru the respiratory phase of distemper. And you can put your heart and soul into that dog for a month or six weeks and just when you think the dog is recovering and the time for neuro symptoms is almost passed, then the neuro problems begin -- maybe just a bit of tremor and maybe a full blown seizure. Maybe it doesn't get worse, or maybe over the next week you see this dog whom you have come to love turn into a total basket case. for those needing to read the gory details , I probably have my Minka posts from three years ago still on the hard disk (I am a digital packrat) and I can send them to you.

My vet said that she seldom SEES distemper, but she does know it is out there , and whenever over the phone she hears symptoms that just might be distemper or anything else contagious, she has the dog or cat come to the clinic back door and she exams and treats there , i.e. without the dog coming into the waiting room or other parts of clinic where someone else's puppy might be put at risk.

Distemper is STILL a KILLER and a very nasty one. and it is still out there for your dog to catch. even if all the dogs in your community were vaccinated, there are various wild animal populations that serve as a reservoir.

Same thing for Parvo, as the recent outbreaks at the Sacramento Animal Control and the Solano County Animal Control (both in N Calif) exemplify. [...]

We all tend to think in black & white terms; [...] we want to think in terms of "safe" vs. "unsafe" and we have an infantile demand for a world that is has only clear choices and that always offers us a "safe" alternative. Well, the grownup fact is that there ain't no such world. the world is full of risks and full of choices between bad and worse (and sometimes good and better, which can also be a hard choice). life is inherently risky -- and the one thing we all know for certain is that for each of us someday our luck will run out and we will die. ditto for our adored pets. so we have to weigh probabilities and often we have only very partial information or even close to no reliable information.

Life is not a cabaret. It's a tightrope.


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