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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tweaking Your Dog's Vaccinations

by Dr. Julie Buzby
courtesy Chuckumentary via
Annual Vaccinations? Maybe Not!
The idea of dogs going to the vet for their “annual shots” just because one year has transpired, is as outdated as the idea that the earth is flat. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that dogs should be vaccinated based on their individual risk factors. These include age, breed, lifestyle, and environmental exposure.

Why does it matter?  

Vaccines jolt the immune system. This jolt creates an immune response in the body which builds antibodies against an altered, non-infectious bug. These antibodies should be protective if there is exposure to the live version of the germ. However, the jolt that helped create protection can be problematic.  Autoimmune diseases, tumors, thyroid disease, and allergic or anaphylactic reactions (shock) are complications that can occur soon after vaccinations, or much later.

•  Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating every 3 years for Distemper and Parvo, or titering to avoid re-vaccinating individuals with “protective” titers.
•  Discuss your dog’s lifestyle with your vet to design a customized vaccine protocol.
•  If your dog has ever had a prior vaccine reaction, make sure your veterinarian is aware of that.
•  Vaccinate your adult dog for rabies every 3 years, or the maximum interval allowed by law. All states now have 3 year licenses after the second vaccine is administered, but county and city laws may differ. Check out to learn about a grassroots movement seeking to extend the rabies booster interval from 3 to 5 (and then 7) years!

What about drugs? A wise old veterinary professor once quipped, “If a medication doesn’t have side effects, it doesn’t have effects either.” This is true for everything from aspirin to antibiotics. Think about the drug commercials on TV which end with 10 seconds of serious warnings!  

•  Make sure your veterinarian is aware of all drugs and supplements your dog receives, especially when writing a new prescription. If your dog is on chronic medications, such as thyroid medication or arthritis medication (NSAIDs), periodic bloodwork is recommended to monitor organ systems and/or blood levels of the drug.
•  With your veterinarian’s help, work to find the lowest effective pain medication dosage to minimize side effects.
•  In some situations, supplements may be used in place of, or along with drugs to allow lower drug dosages.
•  In terms of potential for toxicity, drugs fall on a spectrum. Some are much safer than others. Ask your vet to educate you on the common side effects of any medication your dog receives.
•  Side effects of drugs can often be counteracted with herbs. An example of this would be using milk thistle along with drugs known to insult the liver.
•  Understand that adverse drug reactions many not occur immediately. Sometimes they occur after the dog has been on the drug for years. 

I’m convinced that vaccinations and medications are a double-edged sword. Both are an integral part of maintaining health. Both also hold the potential for harm.

Yes, I am opening a can of worms. But I couldn’t write a series on helping our dogs reach their maximum health and longevity potential without touching on these issues. Be informed. Be intentional. Be observant, with the ultimate goal of partnering with your veterinarian in weighing the risks versus benefits of anything you administer to your dog.

Dr. Julie Buzby is a homeschooling mom of seven, American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and International Veterinary Acupuncture Society certified holistic veterinarian, and passionate advocate for canine mobility. She can be found at Twitter @DrBuzby and on You'll also find more of Dr. Julie's posts at our Ask the Vet Archives page.

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Dr. Julie's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian.


Anonymous said...

Great article. Vets can tend to push vaccines on your dog when you go. It's good to be informed and this article was wonderful.

618mom said...

We have a 10 month old puppy and when I took her to get her shots she got the Lepto shot along with others. I had never heard of the Lepto shotbefore and I dont recall my other dogs getting it. Well she got hers and had what I consider a scary reaction. But after googling we got very lucky!! After she got the shot she was real lethargic, vomiting, and crying out in pain everytime she moved.

evie said...

i get my dogs titered b4 they get additional vaccines. most dogs that have auto immune diseases cant have rabies shots or it will kill them. there are studies now to test how long rabies shots last b/c some feel they last longer than the 3 yrs...i did not give my 2 younger dogs rabies when they were supposed to b/c my my dog breeder said to wait as well as another min. schnauzer breeder who is also a vet said to wait. also if you have a small puppy that does not weigh enough it is better to wait. i know some states will fine you as well as your vet which mine did, or refuse to see you but i rather be safer than sorry in vaccinating b4 the dog weighs enough to handle the vaccine. my oldest dog almost died b/c of a bordatella vac yrs ago. she has to go to er, stay at vet school for 5 days. i dont do bordatella b/c i dont board and do my own grooming. i also do not let them drink from community water bowls when we go to events or let them get to social w/ other dogs that i dont know. i also carry wipes for their feet when we leave an event so they wont carry things back to my house. when we leave the show ring, my dog breeder uses antibiotic wipes and sprays on their paws, as well as the as not to carry germs back to the van or can over vaccinate your dog and cause more problems

Dawn said...

I was just explaining this to my sister who didn't want to take her older dog in for his annual shots. I told her she didn't have to and if the vet was pushing it, then he is not keeping up with modern veterinary medicine.

I found this out for myself from our new veterinarian. I say 'new' but they have actually been our vet for four years now. The Animal Hospital of Lawrence rocks!

Healing Paws said...

Agreeing to this, too! We recommend titers for all of our patients, and our compliance is very good. Owners want the best for their pets if they are given the chance to make informed decisions.

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