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My thoughts on Vaccines

Vaccines changed the world in the last century, not only for humans but animals as well. We now live in a world where most of us have never seen an Iron Lung for a Polio patient, we don’t have the worry of small pox outbreaks and very likely you’ve never known anyone with the measles or mumps.

In our pets here in BC Rabies is so rare that I can’t remember the last time I heard about a case. It’s very likely in my lifetime there hasn’t been one. However we sadly did have a young man die after being bitten by a bat. The marks were so small he didn't notice them until it was too late.

As a general rule vaccines are safe and very effective way of keeping your family safe from previously fatal diseases. That is not to say however they are without caution or overuse. Vaccines are probably the most controversial topic you can bring up with both human and pet parents. There are dozens of forums both for and against them and both sides have oodles of documentation proving their side of the discussion. Disneyland “the happiest place on earth” has recently become the hot spot for the vaccine discussion. I am not trying to sway you one way or the other, it is up to each individual person to choose the right path for their family.

My vet and I have had many long and open discussions about vaccines for my dogs and which ones to choose and when. For me, I believe in vaccines and the good they do for this world but I don’t think we need to use them for as long as the drug companies say we do. Both my girls have had their puppy sets and I do continue them until the age of 7 or so. That means they get boosters every 3 years. Many people don’t think you need to do any after their 1st year but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. Nor am I willing to over vaccinate a senior dog who likely has built up enough antibodies to provide protection. That is why I stop vaccinating with my Vets knowledge and approval at an appropriate age. The rabies vaccine is slightly different. There has not been a case of rabies in a domestic animal on Vancouver Island since the late 70’s. I give my girls the rabies vaccine at 8 months and then I won’t again unless I have reason to take them off the island. Now if I lived in the interior or the prairies or Ontario I would be vaccinating for it more regularly but since it is such a heavy vaccine and my girls are very very unlikely to contract rabies I feel the 1 time is enough. This is an educated decision I have made alongside my Vet. The only other reason I might vaccinate for it on a more regular basis is if my dogs were spending more time with small children, the reason being is if by chance one of them bit a child ( heaven forbid) it would be much more problematic than just a behavioral problem ( of either the dog or child).

Vaccines are the arguably the best thing that came out of the last century, but the overuse of them is causing such a backlash that the good they do is being overshadowed. You can vaccinate for so many different diseases now but should you? Have an open and frank discussion with your vet before your dog’s next annual exam. Which ones do you actually need? They may offer you a titre test which measures your dog’s antibodies for the diseases you are vaccinating for. Titres can be a useful tool, but they can also cost you more than the vaccine itself. Now, this is not to say never to vaccinate nor to skip your dog’s annual exam. The annual exam is a very important part of your dog’s health. It gives you the chance to take a look at the big picture rather than just the ailment you brought your dog in for.

I am writing this blog not to sway you one way or the other. Your families health be they traditional or furry are the most important things to you. How you choose to keep them healthy is up to you and is no one else’s business or decision. Do your own research and make your own choices.

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