If you’ve had your Fabulous Faithful Friend for some years now and she’s getting up in age, chances are you’ve been through a number of veterinary visits together. You may have even had her since she was a puppy and made sure she got all the recommended vaccinations to protect her from all those infectious diseases out there.
But if your Golden Girl is reaching her golden years and you’re still getting yearly vaccination reminders from your local vet, you may also have asked yourself if it’s necessary at this point. Or even wondered, do senior dogs need vaccinations at all? There’s scary evidence that shows that not only is it unnecessary for your older dog, it could also be potentially dangerous.
Why Has My Dog’s Vet Been Recommending Annual Checkups?
If your dog’s doctor is sending you an email or a reminder in your mailbox for an annual ‘wellness’ checkup, that’s great. But if he or she is still recommending that you have your dog vaccinated every year, then that veterinarian is among the 55% or so of vets today that are over-vaccinating.
The core disease components for the canine vaccine (not including rabies) are distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and parvo. In the1970’s the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommended annual revaccinations for dogs without really knowing if the real duration of immunity was one year, five years, or a lifetime.
They did a few challenge studies which basically means exposing a vaccinated dog to the disease a few weeks to a few months after the shot was given. So the USDA’s recommendation to vaccinate dogs every year was more of a “Well, since we don’t really know definitively how long the inoculation immunity lasts we’ll just say once a year, to be safe. What could it hurt?”
These days we know it can hurt plenty and there’s another sad truth about the over-vaccinating-pet-doctor: Many mainstream vets are aware of how unsafe this practice is, but pet vaccines are a general practicing vet’s bread and butter. They don’t want to stop over-vaccinating your pets because of the profit it brings them. Yes, vaccines are big business in the veterinary world.
2003 Brings a “Compromise”
By this time Dr. Ronald D Schultz, PhD had been questioning, researching and proving for years that revaccinating year after year after year was not only unnecessary but potentially harmful. In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force examined and evaluated this data (which fundamentally proved that the core canine vaccines had a minimum immunity duration of 7 years).
After the evaluation, the task force announced that “Revaccination every 3 years is considered protective” and called it a ‘compromise.’
Dr. Schultz’s research used both the serology test (antibody titer) and the challenge test (exposure to the actual virus) on over 1000 dogs and the minimum immunity duration for the core canine vaccine was 7 years, and on the higher end, immunity duration was up to 15 years.This means that after their initial round of puppy shots, most dogs don’t need to be revaccinated at all, let alone once every 1 to 3 years.
And if you own a Geriatric Girl, chances are her normal outdoor routine consists of little else than romping or napping in her own back yard and perhaps your regular neighborhood or nature trail walks. Which means her exposure to dangerous infectious diseases is practically nil.
I hope you getting the idea that the answer to the question: “Do Senior Dogs Need Vaccinations?” is a resounding NO!
POTENTIAL RISKS OF OVER-VACCINATING
When an unnecessary vaccination is injected into your dog’s body, it taxes her immune system and if she is in her geriatric years, this is even more stressful. This is true especially if your old baby has a specific condition, such as cardiovascular disease or if her liver or kidneys aren’t up to their full potential.
Her immune system is already up-in-arms trying to deal with any existing problem, and when an unneeded inoculation is introduced on top of it, it’s doing her much harm, and absolutely no good. Now her body has to deal with a foreign body, (yes, vaccines are foreign bodies to her immune system) and you won’t even come close to getting the desired response to the vaccine (boosting her immune system).
Reactions to vaccine overdosing can happen immediately after the shot, 15 minutes later, or even up to 3 weeks later. And it’s important for you to know that certain vaccines can cause the very same symptoms of the disease they’re meant to protect against.
Here are just a few of the nasty reactions to over-vaccinating:
- Swelling of joints and lameness
- Generalized pain for up to 2 days
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Increased anxiety
- Chronic skin problems
- Liver and/or kidney disease
- Wasting away of body mass
- Adrenal gland and thyroid gland diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
- Anaphylactic shock
Scary stuff. And all the time you thought you were doing her a favor and being a good pet parent.
If You Have To Get Her Vaccinated…
The rabies vaccination is required by law in the United States because the disease is transmissible to humans. There is a ‘1- year rabies shot’ and a ‘3-year rabies shot’.
Get the 3-year rabies shot for your dog. If your vet doesn’t have it, find one that does. Most vets inject it separately from the other canine shots and it’s relatively cheap by itself. Since research shows that any rabies vaccine for dogs lasts roughly 5 to 10 years, all you really care about is that rabies certificate and tag that makes her ‘legal’ in the U.S.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
If your lifestyle requires you to travel or have reason to leave your dog at a boarding kennel, most all kennels will require this inoculation. This is for the ‘protection’ of your dog as well as the other guests. It’s basically liability stuff but you’ll have to do it if you can’t get a friend or neighbor to come in and care for your baby while you’re gone.
The boarding kennel may also require proof of the DHLPP canine vaccine within the last 3 years, as well as the rabies certificate. If you have to go through this and get her vaccinated, make sure you ask for the killed virus vaccine instead of the modified live vaccine.
But again, the best way to handle a trip away from home would be to have a friend or a trusted neighbor tend to your dog in her own home environment. Less stress for her, less stress for you.
Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
Lyme disease is a tick borne disease and the vaccination is so controversial it doesn’t seem worth the risk. But if you live in an area where ticks are prevalent and you’ve found ticks on your dog before, you are understandably concerned. If you trust your senior dog’s doctor, have a talk with him or her about the risks of the disease and the risks of the vaccination.
Do Senior Dogs Need Vaccinations? Make An Informed Decision.
As we’re learning more and more, pet immunizations are highly overused, unnecessary for the health of your pet, and can have devastating side effects for older animals. Now that you are armed with this information, you can “just say no” to that annual postcard from your local vet.
This information is not new, but the big veterinary pharmaceutical companies have done their best to deny it, downplay it, and sweep it under the rug; After all, the love we have for our pets is big business for them.
But we are our animals’ protectors and now that we know that what we thought was helping them was actually hurting them, we can move forward from here and do what’s best for our precious pets!
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