Should You Give Your Fila Yearly Vaccinations?
Conscientious dog owners have been taught that in order to protect
your pup from the many contagious diseases out there, you need to
take your dog for annual veterinary exams and annual booster shots.
But according to more and more research this may not be necessary,
and in fact in some cases may be downright detrimental.
After studying the effectiveness and safety of annual vaccinations,
experts from two national veterinary associations issued extra
guidelines in 2004 on which vaccines should be given to your dogs,
and how often. Their conclusion is that not all vaccines need to be
given every year because most animals do not require them.
These veterinarian researchers recommend that after your puppy
receives the initial series of vaccinations and appropriate booster,
it may only need vaccinations to protect against highly infectious
diseases such as distemper and rabies every 3 years.
is an article by Ronald Schultz, PhD, a veterinary immunologist at
the University of Wisconsin who served on the two national vaccine
task forces created by the American Animal Hospital Association and
the American Academy of Feline Practitioners:
ANNUAL DOG VACCINES MAY NOT BE NECESSARY, SAYS UW VETERINARY
a year, Ronald Schultz checks the antibody levels in his dogs'
blood. Why? He says for proof that most annual vaccines are
Schultz, professor and chair of pathobiological sciences at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, 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.
Based on his findings, a community of canine vaccine experts has
developed new veterinary recommendations that could eliminate a
dog's need for annual shots. The guidelines appear in the
March/April issue of Trends, the journal of the American Animal
Hospital Association (AAHA).
Every year, when we take our dogs to the veterinarian's office, they
could receive up to 16 different vaccines, many of which are
combined into a single shot. Four of these products protect against
life-threatening diseases, including rabies, canine parvovirus type
2 (CPV-2), canine distemper virus (CDV) and canine adenovirus type 2
(CAV-2); the rest protect against milder diseases to which only some
dogs are exposed, including Lyme disease.
as many veterinarians are realizing, over-vaccination can actually
jeopardize a dog's health and even life. Side effects can cause skin
problems, allergic reactions and autoimmune disease. Though the case
in cats, not dogs, tumors have been reported at the site of vaccine
injections. "These adverse reactions have caused many veterinarians
to rethink the issue of vaccination," says Schultz. "The idea that
unnecessary vaccines can cause serious side effects is in direct
conflict with sound medical practices."
30 years, Schultz has been examining the need to vaccinate animals
so often and for so many diseases. "In the 1970s, I started thinking
about our immune response to pathogens and how similar it is in
other animals," says Schultz. "That's when I started to question
veterinary vaccination practices." Just like ours, a canine's immune
system fires up when a pathogen, like a virus, enters the body.
pathogen releases a protein called an antigen, which calls into
action the immune system's special disease-fighting cells. Called B
and T lymphocytes, these cells not only destroy the virus, but they
remember what it looked like so they can fend it off in the future.
It's this immunological memory that enables vaccines, which
purposely contain live, weakened or dead pathogens, to protect
against future disease. But, as Schultz points out, vaccines can
keep people immune for a lifetime: we're usually inoculated for
measles, mumps and rubella as children but never as adults.
can dogs be vaccinated as pups and then never again? While evidence
from Schultz's studies on both his own dogs and many other dogs from
controlled studies suggests the answer is yes, Schultz recommends a
more conservative plan based on duration of immunity and individual
risk. Schultz says that core vaccines, or the ones that protect
against life-threatening disease, are essential for all dogs, yet he
does not recommend dogs receive these shots yearly.
"With the exception of rabies, the vaccines for CDV, CPV-2 and CAV
trigger an immunological memory of at least seven years," he
explains. (Studies testing the duration of immunity for rabies shots
show it lasts about three years.) For these reasons, Schultz
suggests that dogs receive rabies shots every three years (as is
required by law in most states) and the other core vaccines no more
frequently than every three years.
non-core vaccines, on the other hand, have a much shorter duration
of immunity, lasting around one year. But, as Schultz points out,
not every dog should get these types of vaccines, because not every
dog is at risk for exposure. Today, many vaccinated dogs receive a
shot for Lyme disease. However, Schultz says that the ticks carrying
the Lyme disease pathogen can be found in only a few regions of the
importantly, Schultz adds, "The vaccine can cause adverse effects
such as mild arthritis, allergy or other immune diseases. Like all
vaccines, it should only be used when the animal is at significant
risk." He notes that the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the
UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine rarely administers the Lyme
Another common vaccine that Schultz says is unnecessary protects
against "kennel cough," an often mild and transient disease
contracted during boarding or dog shows. "Most pet dogs that do not
live in breeding kennels, are not boarded, do not go to dog shows
and have only occasional contact with dogs outside their immediate
family," Schultz recommends, "rarely need to be vaccinated or
re-vaccinated for kennel cough."
Schultz says that it's important for veterinarians to recognize an
individual dog's risk for developing a particular disease when
considering the benefits of a vaccine. "Vaccines have many
exceptional benefits, but, like any drug, they also have the
potential to cause significant harm." Giving a vaccine that's not
needed, he explains, creates an unnecessary risk to the animal.
Recommending that dogs receive fewer vaccines, Schultz admits, may
spark controversy, especially when veterinarians rely on annual
vaccines to bring in clients, along with income. But, as he
mentions, annual visits are important for many reasons other than
shots. "Checking for heartworm, tumors, dermatological problems and
tooth decay should be done on a yearly basis," he says. "Plus, some
dogs, depending on their risk, may need certain vaccines annually."
Rather than vaccinating on each visit, veterinarians can use a
recently developed test which checks dogs' immunity against certain
Schultz adds that veterinarians who have switched to the three-year,
instead of annual, vaccination program have found no increase in the
number of dogs with vaccine-preventable diseases. "Everyday, more
and more people in the profession are embracing the change," notes
Schultz. And, that the new vaccination guidelines supported by the
AAHA, along with the task force members representing the American
Colleges of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Veterinary Microbiology
and the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists, is
evidence of just that.