Vaccination has provided our pets and us with a freedom from fear of certain diseases. I am personally grateful to have received Polio vaccination as a child and avoiding the years in a wheelchair that my Great Aunt Alice faced after surviving polio as a young girl. I am also personally grateful that I will not have to euthanize any of my beloved dogs due to canine distemper. This was not the case for my family in the early 1960’s when my father’s dog Sam contracted the disease. I remember being sent to my cousins so I would not be present for Sam’s passing.
Despite the great benefits of vaccination, there cannot be a guarantee, in human or veterinary medicine that every vaccination will be perfectly safe for every individual. That is why you should consider carefully the risk and benefit of each vaccine and follow a vaccination plan keeping the number of vaccinations to a minimum while still providing protection.
Adverse reactions are problems directly related to vaccination. They typically happen within a 3 day window after vaccination. Vaccinosis is a term used in homeopathy which is synonymous with adverse reactions and includes the more difficult to prove chronic health issues that develop years after vaccination.
Most vaccine reactions are mild and include lethargy, hair loss, fever, soreness, coughing, transient anorexia. This type of reaction occurs 1 out of each 100-500 vaccinations. Moderate reactions include behavioural changes, weight loss, lameness, injection site swellings, facial swelling, and skin disorders. Moderate reactions occur 1 in every 1,000 to 5,000 vaccinations. Severe reactions include anaphylaxis, polyarthritis, immune hemolytic anaemia, kidney disease, seizures, and encephalitis. Severe diseases occur at a rate of 1 in every 5000 to 10,000 vaccinations.
One of the big differences between Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives and other more conventional practices is what approach we take to vaccination in the face of any of the vaccine reactions. Some practices continue to vaccinate using steroids and anti-histamines to blunt the body’s allergic reactions to the vaccine. At Full Circle, even mild reactions are taken seriously as they may lead to chronic illness in the future, particularly if repeated re-vaccination occurs. We would recommend titer testing whenever possible to confirm good immunity and avoid re-vaccination unless there is a pressing need (legal requirement, or known epidemic outbreak). For moderate and severe reactions, we strongly recommend no further vaccination no matter the situation. As well any animal with any illness should not be vaccinated.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has published an excellent and detailed discussion of feline and canine vaccination. This document is available online at https://www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines
Dr. Jennifer Bishop
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