WHAT ABOUT VACCINATIONS?
Vaccination decisions are a difficult issue for most animal guardians. You want to feel confident that your companion is protected, but do not want to risk precipitating a health problem or aggravating an existing one. Homeopaths and many other holistic health care providers view vaccinations as an assault on the immune system and strongly suggest that you either avoid them completely or adopt a very conservative approach. For those of you new to holistic health care, this can be a difficult concept to grasp. There is much discussion on this topic both on the internet and in veterinary and other medical journals. For an extremely thorough discussion on vaccination, I urge you to read chapter 16 in Dr. Don Hamilton's book, Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs: Small Doses for Small Animals. (See Booklist on how to order. The book also has an excellent bibliography for those who wish to do further research on the subject.) I also encourage you to read the vaccine statement prepared by Charles Loops, DVM. If after reading Dr. Loops' statement, you still decide to give yearly or periodic boosters, here are some guidelines to keep in mind that should not alarm or upset your attending veterinarian.
The first and most important point is to NEVER VACCINATE A SICK ANIMAL. If you take your pet in for an acute or chronic problem--whether it's a urinary tract infection or yeasty ears, or to be spayed/neutered, etc.--and your vet or the technician suggests that you "go ahead and give the boosters since you're here," simply decline the offer and tell them you will come back for the booster once the health crisis is resolved, or your pet has recovered from the procedure. Vaccines state clearly on the label that they are not to be administered unless the animal is in good health. However, vaccine administration is such an accepted part of current veterinary practice that many veterinarians often disregard these warnings. Remember that vaccines must interact with the immune system. Introducing a disease agent when the immune system is already compromised at the very least does not make sense. Many holistic veterinarians even view it as malpractice.
The only vaccine required by law is the rabies vaccine; however, efforts are underway to change current rabies laws to reflect recent vaccine research findings and lessen the frequency of booster requirements (currently every 3 years, but as often as yearly in a few states). Some animal hospitals will refuse treatment unless your pet is "current" on other vaccines such as parvo and distemper. Please note that these are not required by law, and you can not be forced to give these vaccines, although the hospital is entitled to refuse treatment if you do not comply. It is worthwhile to seek out a veterinarian in your area who will respect your wishes and not bully you into giving yearly boosters of these non-required vaccines.
Trials are underway to determine just how long vaccines last, but it has been determined that most are good for at least 3 years (probably longer, most likely for life). Another avenue you can request is a titer. A titer is a blood test that measures immunity to a specific disease through the presence of antibodies in the blood. Jean Dodds, DVM, a noted leader in canine immunology research and founder of HEMOPET (the first non-profit national blood bank program for animals), performs titers for parvo, distemper, and most recently, RABIES. HEMOPET provides a form which you give to your veterinarian, who then draws a blood sample and ships it to HEMOPET for testing. Currently, the cost for a rabies titer is $55 (parvo and distemper titers are less). Dr. Dodds can be reached at HEMOPET in Irvine, CA.
Jean Dodds, DVM