Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Is your dog or cat over-vaccinated?
First of all, let’s discuss what over-vaccination means, because there is a difference between being properly vaccinated and being over vaccinated.
Over-vaccination occurs 2 ways. The first is that your pet receives necessary vaccines more often than needed. The second is that your pet receives unnecessary vaccines.
Core vaccines are those that protect a dog or cat against a dreadful possibly fatal disease that is very common. They are called core vaccines because every single dog or cat needs to be vaccinated against them. Rabies in both species is considered a core vaccine. It is also government regulated and we can’t change the frequency of vaccination for rabies. The rabies vaccine is required in all dogs, cats, and ferrets in North Carolina between the ages of 12-16 weeks, it is administered again a year later, and then every 1-3 years thereafter depending on the vaccine used. We’ll discuss this in much more detail in a future blog all about rabies.
These are our Canine Core vaccines. We use the Merial (now Boehringer Ingelheim) vaccines because they are the safest available. Our canine rabies vaccines are Thimerosal Free (TF).
DAP, which stands for distemper, adenovirus, parvo, is a core vaccine in dogs. Sometimes it is referred to as a DHP vaccine, for hepatitis, which is what adenovirus causes. It’s the same vaccine either way.
The feline distemper vaccine - which is a terrible name BTW as there is no such thing as feline distemper virus- is really against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Here’s the funny thing, panleukopenia is a parvovirus of cats! So why the FVRCP vaccine is called feline distemper is beyond me but I wasn’t in charge of naming the vaccines! Anyway, FVRCP is the core vaccine for cats.
Our feline vaccines are all PureVax, which contain no adjuvants. Adjuvants can cause Vaccine-Associated Sarcomas, an aggressive type of cancer that can kill your cat. Never ever allow anyone to vaccinate your cat with anything other than adjuvant-free vaccines!
We’re going to go over each of the core vaccine diseases in a lot more detail in future blogs, so stay tuned. We discussed vaccinology and immunology in our first blog, so if you need a refresher on some of these terms, check it out here.
Both DAP and FVRCP are considered core vaccines because naive animals- those without either maternal antibodies or without vaccination- are at risk of dying from these diseases. Since all of these disease are extremely widespread in the environment, we have to rely on vaccination to protect our pets.
Our vaccine schedule for the core vaccines is all dogs and cats undergo a puppy/kitten series of vaccines. This ensures that as maternal antibodies wear off, the pet is protected. We administer the puppy/kitten vaccine series starting at 6-8 weeks, and every 3 weeks until the pet is 18+ weeks of age. Then we give a booster a year later. That booster in the now-adult dog or cat is good for the lifetime of the pet.
That’s right, the FVRCP and DAP vaccines last a lifetime. There is very good evidence that when given to a healthy adult dog or cat, these vaccines will protect the pet for a life time. I’ve included references at the end of this blog.
So why do most practices still vaccinate adult dogs with distemper/parvo vaccines and cats with FVRCP vaccines?
Here are the excuses, I mean reasons, that I have heard from vets who are over-vaccinating:
1) They haven’t figured out how to explain to their clients that the most important parts of the annual veterinary visit are the examination and consultation with you. They tell you vaccines are needed because most clients don’t know better. Since most people understand the importance of vaccines, they come in for the vaccines they don't need but hopefully get the exam and consultation they do need.
2) They think they are following the AAHA Canine Vaccine or AAFP Feline Vaccine Guidelines. Both Guidelines state that core vaccines should be given no more than once every 3 years. A lot of vets missed the “no more than” part and vaccinate every 3 years. They haven’t evaluated the research that clearly shows the duration of immunity is for life.
3) Vaccine clinics have packages that include the core vaccines. If you take your pet to a vaccine clinic and get the package every year, I guarantee your pet is woefully over-vaccinated! They don’t have the time or desire to explain what vaccines your pet really needs.
4) Some vets believe that more vaccines gives a pet more protection. This isn’t true. A healthy adult pet vaccinated with core vaccines is just as protected as one that gets vaccinated every year. The way the immune system works, the pet is either immune or not.
The second way pets are over-vaccinated is when they are given a vaccine that they don’t need. For example, a totally indoor adult healthy cat does not need a feline leukemia vaccine because it is never exposed to cats with feline leukemia. The exception would be if the owner of the cat picked up a new cat and brought it home without testing it for FeLV first. That said, healthy adult cats over 3 years of age are naturally very resistant- but not immune- to FeLV. So it would definitely be wise to test any new cats before introducing them into the house hold, especially since FeLV can be transmitted in food and water bowls, on your clothing or shoes, etc.
Just a reminder, NEVER let anyone vaccinate your cat with an adjuvanted vaccine. Despite this MASSIVE surgery, this cat will most likely die because someone vaccinated it with an adjuvanted
vaccine that it probably didn't even need (FeLV). Maybe $20,000 in radiation therapy can save it.
The reason we ask so many darn que