Articles on "Vaccinosis" and

problems associated with "Over-Vaccination"

Attached are articles from Heartland Central Pug Rescue, Catherine Donnelly (founder) and Dr. Susan G Wynn, DVM (see "Vaccination Decisions").  Please read these articles carefully.  To download a copy of the Colorado State University Titer Test Form (in Adobe Acrobat Reader form) click here csumainform.pdf. For further information regarding "titer testing" and relationships between over-vaccination, vaccinosis, pet cancer and other topic related diseases please visit the following web sites:

Canine Hypothyroidism (,
The Immune System and Disease Resistance (
Vaccines ( - vaccines,
Thyroid Testing in Dogs- A Reference for Dog Breeders and Owners (
Cyber-Pets "Vaccinosis" (
Sierra Great Danes (

PubMed Search Web Site (

WHEN YOUR PET'S VACCINATIONS GO AWRY (Excerpts from Heartland Central Pug Rescue)

There is increasing evidence that repeated vaccinations may contribute to immune suppression, manifesting in both chronic and episodic disorders such as arthritis, various skin diseases, diabetes, epileptic seizures, loss of motor control, cancer, and can even result in death. Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XI, states that annual revaccination of dogs and cats "lacks scientific validity and verification." Also, "Almost without exception, there is no immunological requirement for revaccination."

As you become more aware of this problem in your research of this subject as a concerned pet owner, you can shift your approach from automatic yearly revaccination to a physical examination accompanied by bloodwork, or titer testing (a tool to help assess the status of the immune system, and actually quantify its state of immunity in the blood, or the serum antibody level).

While titering has been around for many years and is routinely used in research, these tests are just beginning to be offered to the general pet owning public through veterinarians. Some of the panels available include distemper and parvovirus for dogs, and herpesvirus, rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia (feline parvo), leukemia and calicivirus for cats.

The next time you get one of those reminder post cards from your veterinarian, you can schedule an appointment for a physical exam and titer. If your veterinarian has been keeping up-to-date with the vaccination related literature and new protocols, he or she should agree to draw blood for a titer test. If your veterinarian is reluctant to do so and you are convinced that revaccination can compromise your pet's health, then calmly state your case (bring your research with you). If you still get resistance, it might be wise to look for another veterinarian who is more in line with your thinking.

Your veterinarian should know of a lab that will run the testing because they send in lab work all the time for other things. The titer is usually more expensive than the vaccine ($40 - $80) and the vet might try to convince you to go with the "cheaper alternative," but mounting evidence suggests that over the long run it is probably neither economically nor medically sound advice to automatically and blindly revaccinate your pet.

The use of titer tests is even more important if your pet is geriatric, immune-compromised, or has a chronic degenerative disease, since these animals are most at risk for problems stemming from vaccinations. It states right on the vaccine vial that they are only to be administered to healthy animals. Many times this warning label is completely ignored.

If your pet has ever suffered from vaccinosis after getting a shot, which can include: low- grade fever; weakness; loss of appetite; itchy skin; rashes; seizures; loss of consciousness; loss of motor control; or swelling (anaphylaxis may compromise breathing to the point of death), the effects may be resolved by giving a homeopathic remedy such as Thuja. More importantly, however, these pets should be particularly strong candidates for the titer testing instead of further vaccinations which may result in more severe reactions with each additional booster.

Discuss your pet's reaction with your vet because sometimes it might be related to a particular component of the vaccine given, or the brand or type (live virus or dead) and you will know to use a different vaccine or eliminate a suspect vaccine the next time a "booster" is needed. One anecdotal example is the trouble that many toy breeds and terriers have with the leptospirosis vaccines and that when that component is left out no immediately apparent problems result.

People who do not practice homeopathy may chose to stay at the doctor's office for a while after vaccinations are given to make sure there isn't a reaction, or may routinely use an antihistamine to counter some of these effects. At this point some pet owners wonder if the vaccine is worse of a risk than the disease it is supposed to prevent. Homeopathic literature further suggests that when homeopathic remedies have controlled a disease, the symptoms immediately return after a vaccine is given as the vaccination seems to counteract the positive effect of the homeopathic treatment.

When following the latest vaccination protocol or one agreed upon by you and your veterinarian, it is advised that you should request killed or inactivated type vaccines whenever possible. It is also unwise to vaccinate at the same time as any surgical or medical procedure that requires anesthesia, or during any period of stress for your pet.

Another part of the immunity story is cellular memory, which is described as a healthy body's inherent ability to fight disease when challenged. One of the studies by Dr. Halliwell and Associates suggests that animals can be protected by cellular memory even when levels of serum antibodies are below acceptable levels or are seemingly inadequate in number to fight off the disease. This explains why animals who have never had a certain vaccination can fight off a disease without succumbing to it.

Since the only way to test for cellular memory is to challenge the animal's immune system with the disease in question, we are left with only two mainstream options: to vaccinate, or to test for levels of serum antibodies. Since re-vaccinating is being questioned, then the more acceptable alternative is to test titers at least every three years in a young, healthy animal, and then vaccinate only as necessary to maintain titers at the acceptable protective levels. Older or less healthy animals may be checked yearly.

A less mainstream approach is the use of nosodes. Nosodes are homeopathic remedies that are made from a diseased material--such as tuberculosis, measles, parvovirus, etc. Followers of homeopathic and holistic medicine report that these remedies are effective in protecting the host from the disease even if given immediately after exposure. It has to be mentioned that the ultimate immune-system booster is maintaining optimum health with good nutrition. There are several excellent books available on canine nutrition at just about any bookstore. A good basic natural canine diet and possibly supplementation may be in order depending on the animal's individual needs. Learn how to read the label on your bag or can of pet food. You might be surprised to learn what is really in it.

To further complicate matters regarding immunity, there is always the subject of 'passive immunity', which is what the mother cat or dog passes onto the puppies or kittens in their milk. The reason why puppy and kitten series vaccinations are given multiple times is not because 'more is better,' but because it varies from pet to pet when the passive immunity from the mother is shed from the pet's body. At 16 weeks most all puppies and cats have shed their passive immunity and thus vaccinations should "work" at that point in time which is why it is the age of the last shot in the puppy/kitten series.

Variables regarding passive immunity include how soon the puppy or kitten was weaned, and how strong the mother's immune system was in the first place. The passive immunity attacks disease in the puppy or kittens body and renders it harmless, and then it is shed from the body leaving neither permanent harm nor long term immunity for the animal. This is why it is common that the first shot or even the first two shots are somewhat or completely ineffective.

Colorado State University has a web site source for their article on the revised vaccine protocol of January 1988: (This web site is now suddenly unavailable? I wonder why?). Excerpts are below.

"We are making this change after years of concern about the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and the increasing documentation that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects... which are often fatal."

Based on the concern that "annual vaccination of small animals... is probably no longer scientifically justified, and [the] desire to avoid vaccine- associated adverse events," CSU recommended a new immunization protocol for small animal clients called "Program 1701". This program recommends the standard three shot series for puppies (parvovirus, adenovirus 2, parainfluenza, distemper) and kittens (panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus). It includes rabies after 12 weeks of age for cats and 16 weeks of age for dogs. Following the initial puppy and kitten immunization series, cats and dogs are boostered one year later, and then every three years thereafter for all the above diseases." Additional vaccines may be recommended regionally on an 'as needed' basis by local veterinarians or other universities.



Progard ®-5 (Intervet)

Modified live canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza, parvovirus vaccine

Progard ® KC (Intervet)

Canine parainfluenza, Bordetella bronchiseptica (intranasal)


Protex ® -3 (Intervet, Inc.)

Feline rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia modified live virus

Trivalent (Heska)

Modified live rhinotracheitis, calici, panleukopenia (intranasal)

Fel-O-Vax Lv-K ® (Fort Dodge)

Killed FeLV vaccine


Imrab® 3 (Merial) (Dog)

Killed rabies vaccine - three year duration of immunity

Purvax (Merial) (Cat)

A new canarypox vector rabies vaccine from Merial with a one year duration of immunity replaces Imrab®3 in cats.


To be used just prior to possible exposure to kennel cough carriers, i.e., shows, field trials, etc. May be repeated up to six times per year.

To be used ONLY IN HIGH RISK cats. Two vaccines prior to 12 weeks of age. One booster at one year of age.


Vaccination Decisions

by Susan G Wynn, DVM

Conventional veterinary wisdom states that annual vaccinations have decimated the incidence of formerly common viral diseases such as feline panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, feline leukemia, canine distemper, hepatitis, and canine parvovirus. Vaccinations have certainly worked to decrease the incidence of acute viral disease, but many pet owners and some veterinarians have begun to question both the need for annual, life-long re-vaccination, as well as the long term consequences of vaccination in general.

Although Dr Jean Dodds suggested, as early as 1983, that autoimmune disease was occurring in certain susceptible individuals as a result of over-vaccination, concurring literature began to appear only in 1992. Phillips and Schultz, of the Scripps Research Institute and University of Wisconsin, respectively, reviewed the state of canine and feline vaccine technology in Current Veterinary Therapy XI. One conclusion was that annual vaccination was a widespread practice with no scientific basis or verification. The immune response to most bacteria and viruses lasts years, and the only exception to this rule is immunity to bacterial toxins, such as tetanus toxin (necessitating yearly boosters for horses, for example). Dr Schultz has further speculated that for most dogs, revaccination is probably only necessary every three years, although the persistence of immune competence may vary, since modified live virus vaccines stimulate a stronger response from the animal than do killed vaccines. Dr Jim Richards, of the Cornell Feline Health Center, has written that duration of immunity in cats is also not well understood, despite the fact that the need for annual revaccination is questionable.

Most recently, an article appeared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association entitled "Are We Vaccinating Too Much?" The veterinarians interviewed included Dr Schultz, Dr Dennis Macy of Colorado State University, Dr Leland Carmichael, and Dr Fred Scott of Cornell University. These leading veterinary immunologists admit puzzlement at the current situation but stop short of making recommendations, since no studies have been done to show maximum duration of immunity. When asked directly what should be done, Dr Macy recommends continuing to follow vaccine label instructions, but to pressure the USDA to determine the optimal vaccination schedule. The other experts interviewed did not make specific recommendations but emphasized the need for veterinarians to rationally analyze the individual situation and vaccinate accordingly. In general, they felt that cats should be immunized every three years for both FVRCP and rabies, not annually.

Alternatives to Vaccination

Please keep in mind that this section discusses alternatives to all vaccinations except rabies. Law in most states requires rabies vaccination. Rabies can be an urban disease, frequently found in raccoons and foxes that raid suburban trashcans, and if your unvaccinated pet is exposed, the disease is invariably fatal. The majority of rabies cases in domesticated animals occur in cats.

One argument against vaccination has been that if we keep our animals perfectly healthy, feed raw diets, good water, and give them a perfect lifestyle, they will never succumb to these diseases when exposed. Many students of environmental medicine believe that this perfect lifestyle is simply impossible to achieve. There is not much that can be done about the air we breathe, although indoor cats that live with the luxury of multiple air filters may have an advantage here. It is well recognized that city water systems are far from "clean,", as recent reports seemed to suggest. Animals drinking distilled water may be given a head start here. What about indoor air pollution? A recent review detailed the potential sources of indoor air pollution to which we are all subject, emphasizing that pets experience "comparable, if not greater" exposure to these pollutants, which may include nitrogen dioxide from gas appliances and water heaters, formaldehyde from foam insulation, and household cleaning agents. Of course, outdoor pets walk all over beautiful lawns full of chemicals, then walk into their homes to lick their feet. Add to all of these insults the fact that purebred (and even mixed breed) animals may have genetic tendencies that can lead to greater susceptibility to these diseases and the potential for developing long term side effects from these diseases or the vaccines designed to prevent them.

Because it is my belief that we cannot provide our pets with perfectly healthy environments and bodies (or even determine whether that is possible), it should be clear that we need to increase the odds in favor of our pets. Nosodes may be one way to protect them; unfortunately, there is no convincing evidence that nosodes do prevent disease. A few studies published in homeopathic journals suggest that nosodes may decrease the severity of active disease and possibly prevent the spread of epidemics, but these studies are not well controlled. The results of one recent well-controlled study suggest that parvovirus nosodes are completely ineffective in preventing parvoviral disease under experimental challenge conditions. Until well designed studies are completed and thousands of pet owners make a concerted effort to help with potential retrospective studies, nosodes remain an unknown quantity, and I do not recommend using them as a sole strategy for disease prevention.

I recommend that puppies and kittens undergo an initial vaccination series and that annual vaccination be continued for a year or two, depending on the individual. Unfortunately, many dogs and cats begin developing signs of allergy or other disorders early in life. It is not recommended that sick animals be vaccinated, and chronic illness may include the gamut of every day conditions like atopic skin disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or spondylosis. If we don't want to risk vaccination, and we don't know whether nosodes work, what next? One strategy being used by many veterinarians is to test antibody levels in the blood of our pets. Antibody levels may suggest (but not conclusively prove) how much immunity that pet carries against a specific disease. For many diseases, antibodies are the prime source of protection against disease, and a high level suggests that the animal may adequately respond to the agent causing that disease. Conversely, low levels indicate that the pet may be susceptible to contracting the disease in question. These antibody tests are not perfect indicators of immunity, and most immunologists suggest that we do not place total reliance on them. They are, however, the best tests we have, and can give the pet owner a rationale for not submitting a pet to vaccination, should there be any argument.

Many veterinary school diagnostic laboratories are capable of doing vaccine titers for your pet. Most private practitioners also have access to Antech laboratories, which will run an abbreviated test for a reasonable price. Some labs will set a threshold for protection, although others will only give the veterinarian a number, which must be interpreted in the light of experience. The serologic tests of interest are IgG titers for feline panleukopenia, feline herpesvirus, calicivirus, and feline syncytial virus. Feline coronavirus titers are measurable, but interpretation is difficult, so most veterinarians only use this test if clinical FIP is suspected in a sick cat. Dogs can be tested for parvovirus, coronavirus, herpesvirus, adenovirus, and distemper antibodies. Cats are not tested for feline leukemia virus and immune deficiency virus by antibody levels, but by the presence of the virus. Rabies antibody level tests are not offered or recommended in animals due to the public health implications (although human rabies titers are sometimes measured). Practically speaking, dogs should have antibody titers against canine distemper and canine parvovirus evaluated. Canine hepatitis has been called an exotic disease, and since it is rarely seen today, titer assessment is probably unnecessary. The need for other titers, such as leptospirosis, should be evaluated according to the individual's general health and environment. Cats should have titers to feline panleukopenia, herpesvirus, and calicivirus tested. Be sure to advise the lab specifically of your interest in antibodies to vaccination. The lab should, in this case, change the normal testing technique by starting at lower serum dilutions to give a more accurate answer.

Once a number has been provided, how is this information interpreted? If the levels are in the "protective range" (understand that this is still a fuzzy number, due to the novelty of this technique in clinical practice), you can assume that certain indicators suggest that the pet has made an adequate immune response to those diseases. As wishy-washy as this statement may sound, this information is a much better indicator that the pet is protected than the simple act of vaccinating. Since not all animals are genetically identical or live in identical environments, scientists have no idea how each and every pet is going to respond to vaccination.

Is the pet going to be protected by vaccination? No way to know for sure except to do antibody titers. If the titers already look adequate, why vaccinate? For people who board their pets in facilities, which require annual vaccinations, protective antibody levels actually provide more precise information about a pet's immune status than a simple history of receiving vaccinations. Animals receiving nosodes may or may not develop antibody titers, for reasons that would require pages more to explain. Suffice it to say that a nosode protected animal with sufficient antibody titers should still be considered adequately immunocompetent by facilities asking for this information, and for those animals receiving nosodes that do not develop titers, this rather inconvenient situation remains the same--one cannot prove anything.

Antibody titers are not going to save the pet owner any money, and they should still be done annually, until we know how long these antibodies actually last in the blood. These annual tests will give us peace of mind, while at the same time helping to establish just how long vaccinations actually protect the average dog or cat. Knowledge of how to more safely and judiciously vaccinate our pets will save many thousands of pets unnecessary iatrogenic illnesses.

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This page was last updated on December 8, 2006

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