Minimal Vaccination Schedules

There is decades worth of scientific research documenting adverse effects related to vaccination, especially excessive vaccination.  Excessive meaning too frequent, too many at once, or unnecessary for that pet at that time.

You want your pet to be healthy and safe from the risk of infectious disease.  You don’t want your dog to get sick with Parvovirus, but you also worry that they could have a vaccine reaction.  At The Natural Vets, we make sure your pet is protected from contagious disease using a minimal vaccine protocol and monitoring vaccine response.  We can safely reduce the number of vaccines your pet receives and still be certain your pet is protected against contagious disease by checking your pet’s immune status periodically with a blood test.

 

What is a Minimal Vaccine Protocol?

It has been shown by scientific studies that adult dogs properly vaccinated with most Distemper/Parvovirus/Infectious Hepatitis (C3) vaccines can have immunity to these diseases for seven years or longer, and in some cases for their life, in the absence of any repeat vaccination.  This means that once pups have received their initial course of core vaccines and have mounted an effective immune response (which we check with a blood test), they may not need the C3 component of vaccine ‘boosters’ any more frequently than three-yearly, or possibly ever again.

Studies done with recommended feline vaccines (Feline Panleukopaenia Virus, Calicivirus and Herpes Virus Type I, known as F3 vaccines), have shown a minimum duration of immunity for these core vaccines of greater than three years.

What’s more, vaccine ‘boosters’ in an adequately protected animal do not actually boost their immune status at all, but can over-stimulate the immune system and increase the likelihood of side effects.

How does a Minimal Vaccine Protocol look?

At The Natural Vets we typically follow the following protocol for dogs:

  • Puppies receive only two vaccines for the core diseases (C3), and then a blood antibody test at 16 weeks of age to be sure they have mounted a complete and protective immune response.  At this age we administer a Kennel Cough vaccine as an intranasal squirt if required, so that your pup doesn’t ever receive more than 3 vaccines at once.
  • 12 months later we repeat the blood test to be sure they are continuing to be protected from contagious disease while they are in the high-risk age group for Parvovirus.  Their antibody result will determine whether we need to administer a booster vaccine (rarely), or just repeat the blood test again in three years time.
  • In an adult pet with a stable antibody titre, we repeat the blood test every three years.
  • If Kennel Cough vaccines are required, these are administered on an annual basis as an intranasal squirt.
  • Other vaccines for example for Leptospirosis are only recommended in high-risk areas, and titre tests can help to determine the frequency of boosters required.

For cats, two kitten vaccines followed by a titre test at 16 weeks is usually adequate.  We repeat the titre test 12 months later, then every three years thereafter if their antibody level is stable.  Most indoor cats have a very low risk of infectious disease.

Our recommendations are in line with the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) guidelines.

What can you do to minimise vaccines and the risk of adverse effects for your pet?

  • Ensure your Vet undertakes a risk vs benefit assessment for every vaccine that has been suggested for your pet
  • Be certain your pet is in a state of optimal health before consenting to vaccination
  • Monitor your pet closely after a vaccine for any sign of adverse effects, which may seem unrelated and can be delayed, occurring up to 3 months later
  • Minimise the number of vaccines given at one visit, even if it means returning to your Vet for another vaccine 2-3 weeks later
  • Avoid blanket annual ‘booster’ vaccinations for core diseases without first requesting a titre test be done to check your pet’s current antibody status
  • Know that ANY measurable titre means that the animal has committed immune memory cells that can respond to a disease challenge, and so your pet does not require a booster vaccine at that time
  • Once a stable antibody result has been demonstrated, most pets can be re-tested every three years for continued assurance that your animal remains protected.

Requesting a Titre Test
A titre test is a blood test that can be used to assess an animal’s immune response to previous vaccines.  Any Vet is able to access laboratories that provide titre testing, but not all Vets are supportive of minimal vaccine protocols and may try to talk you out of it.  1ml of blood is required and we send our samples to an external laboratory rather than using in-house test kits, as we have found the laboratory results to be more accurate.  For dogs we routinely test for Distemper and Parvovirus antibodies, and only test Infectious Hepatitis antibodies if there is a need to do so.  For cats, there are titre tests available for the three core diseases they are vaccinated for – Panleucopaenia and both strains of Cat Flu.  Parvovirus is the one remaining life-threatening disease frequently seen in dogs in Australia, and infectious feline viral respiratory diseases are still very common, so these are the most important ones to monitor.

Titre testing is more expensive than administering a vaccine when you look at the cost of the test compared to the cost of a vaccine, however when you add up the cost of annual vaccine boosters over the course of your pet’s life (and all the veterinary visits you are likely to need due to chronic vaccination damage), titre testing becomes a more economical option and is certainly much safer for your pet.  We charge $180 for a titre test that checks Distemper and Parvovirus antibody titres in dogs, or $209 for Panleukopaenia and both Cat Flu viruses in cats.  The in-house Vaccicheck tests are cheaper, but yield less accurate results and your pet may show a false negative suggesting they need a vaccine booster when in fact they don’t.

The Importance of Wellness Checks with your Vet
Routine Wellness examinations are an essential component of proactive pet health care.  Vaccination booster appointments should not be relied upon as the only reason to return to your Vet regularly, and regular comprehensive nose-to-tail examinations are the best way to detect any changes in your pet’s health.  Many owners are surprised by the rapid appearance of disease symptoms in their pet, when the reality is that many diseases show subtle changes long beforehand, and can often be detected in routine wellness exams by an observant Vet, especially if blood, urine and stool samples are also checked.   For young healthy animals, annual visits may be enough, but for older animals wellness examinations may be needed 3-4 times a year.

Book in for a Wellness Consultation at The Natural Vets soon, which includes a comprehensive health check and discussion of diet and lifestyle needs.  If we make changes to your pet’s lifestyle before disease manifests, it is likely that we can prevent major illness from ever developing. Let’s  set your pet on their Path to Wellness so they can enjoy a long life of health and adventure – contact us today!

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