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05 March 2009


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Colorado Transplant

Christie Keith:

This is a remarkable article.

My county law requires that you license your cat and show proof of a rabies shot--now it is a three year shot.

Rabies is not prevalent in this county. Nevertheless, I had to get a letter from a vet in able to forego a shot and be within the law with my then 15 yr. old sick cat.

In Massachusetts, the law required that the cat get a booster rabies shot after every bite from a strange animal--even another cat--if you did not know the exact source of the bite. Unfortunately, rabies was prevalent there.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the science does not back up so many vaccinations and my veterinarian still wants me to on the same track, lots of vaccinations.

I am happy you are alerting the readers of this column--for even though this is a money-maker for the vets, it sometimes is disaster for the pets. Too many shots given without scientific reasons is bad, bad, bad!


Well, yes but think about the fact that we all get those yearly boosters for diptheria and mumps and polio and.... oh wait.

That was the argument that finally got my veterinarian to just laugh and drop the issue with me for good. I looked him in the eye and told him I'd revaccinate for parvo if he got a new measles booster.

I do get the the ever-lovin flu shot every year. I am considered high risk as i've had meningitis (viral) and am asthmatic as is one of the boys. Apparently new genetic research may be leading to a long term flu vaccine which would make me quite happy.

My big issue is with the push push push for non-core vaccines. How does everyone feel about lepto?


I suspect that many vets think that without regular vaccinations, they won't see their patients except for illnesses. It's more compelling to a lot of people to bring a dog in for "shots" once a year rather than a "wellness checkup" (particularly in these tough economic times).

Vets are trying to get their patients in more often with "dental health month" and all that (which is good), but there must be a way to get people in with their pets without the threat/perceived need of "shots".

I'd much rather see animals come in once a year for a blood panel than a vaccination. At least that way the client gets something for their money (without the risk of vaccine-induced illnesses to the animal).


Great article Christie!

If folks whom I place a puppy with will not stand up to their vet and turn down the annual revaccinations, I try to get them to use the "three year" vaccines.

I've no doubt that the traditionally labelled vaccines last a lifetime after being boosted at a year. Far as I'm concerned for the routine stuff they're done.

I have some folks in the UK interested in breeding to my older boy. He's pushing seven and is nearly "due" for rabies. The titer we had taken as part of the looong process of fulfilling the UKs protocol for importation showed his antibody level is still seven times what is required for protection from the virus. My vet is willing to write a letter to the tune that he is very protected and that a revaccination would be potentially harmful as he formed a granuloma at he site last time. Hopefully the local AC will accept that. He clearly does not need another dose of potentially harmful rabies vaccine.

Christie Keith

I have to be honest: I don't think most pets need an annual check-up.

I think annual check-ups are terrific, don't get me wrong. And I'm sure sometimes they do catch things early that would otherwise be missed. But I don't know of any scientific basis for an annual exam any more than for annual vaccinations.

But I do love my veterinarians and I want them to stay in business, and I understand that providing some kind of structure for ongoing care builds a stronger client-vet relationship, which does in the long run serve my animal's health care needs best.

I don't do an annual exam on my pets. When they're young and again when they're older, they do go in at least annually -- I absolutely DO think senior pets should get bloodwork and a simple urinalysis every three months if possible. But during their middle years, I don't think it's really necessary.

But at least an annual check up is harmless, at least, if you have a normal dog who doesn't freak out at the vet, and you can afford it!

Barbara Saunders

Oh, it gets scarier. I just read an article about the same issue in human medicine. No one wants "bureaucrats" deciding when "back surgery" is appropriate. So, people in city #1 are 5 times more likely than people in city #2 to have "back surgery" - dependent on the habits of the doctors in their area.

As with the safe food problem and the health care cost problem, it ain't just the pets!

Christie Keith

I didn't really touch on the "money making" issue in my article, because I have a high level of resistance to believing that vets would knowingly practice bad medicine just to keep the bucks coming in.

I am quite sure some of them would, because veterinarians are human beings and some human beings suck. But while I know it does happen, I think that the allegations that veterinarians recommend unnecessary procedures or drugs, or push commercial pet foods, out of greed is misguided. I think most vets make their recommendations about treatments, diagnostics, drugs, and diet out of genuine belief in what they're prescribing.

But I do think that there's more of an economic basis to their vaccine protocols than with those other things. The use of "annual shots" to create an economic model where pet owners stay connected to their vet's practices with reminders, that force/urge an annual visit, has clear economic implications for general veterinary practices.

It's not so much that they make money off the shots themselves, but that the model for building and sustaining a practice was developed using annual vaccination as a cornerstone.

But there's a kind of irony here, too, because the successful "selling" of the idea of annual vaccines led to the very "shot clinics" that keep the animals over-vaccinated but don't include the annual exam they're supposed to be ensuring.

(I'm talking about clinics for "booster" shots for already-immunized dogs and cats here; obviously shot clinics that give initial immunizations to under-served communities are something else entirely.)

In the long run, of course I care about my vet's business, because if she goes out of business she'll no longer be there for my pets. But good vets will change with the times and new information, and develop business models that aren't based on bad science. I'm sure as hell not going to subject my dogs and cats to unnecessary and potentially harmful procedures just to keep my vet's bills paid.

Fortunately, that's not a choice I have to make, since my vets don't work that way.

Colorado Transplant

Christie, I had to go for a walk with hubbie so I could not finish.

I am not accusing the vets of knowingly calling for yearly shots for material gains. However, I believe it is an unconscious desire to keep the revenue flowing Maybe they want to make sure the animals are staying healthy. Maybe both.

My vet stresses yearly dental cleaning, also.

Sometimes it has been necessary.

About the shots, I had a sixteen year-old cat a long time and I wanted to make sure he had his shots. However, he was partially paralyzed after I took him home from the vet. I felt very guilty. He didn't need any yearly shots at that time. Boy, I was stupid.

I, also, want the vets to keep in business. I want them to be there for my cats. However, the County will have to come after me with a "Shotgun" before I give any more UNECESSARY SHOTS' to my cats.

Christie Keith

Rabies is always going to be a problem because of the health risk to humans, but for the other canine viruses, I am inflexible for my own dogs: once they're immune, they're immune. I will simply not allow re-vaccination for those viruses, and no training club, therapy dog program, boarding kennel, or behind-the-times veterinarian can change my mind, unless and until new scientific evidence comes to light that shows I'm wrong in my understanding.

Immunity to bacterial diseases is different, and I can imagine certain circumstances in which I might consider lepto or bordetella vaccination on a case-by-case basis, but routine administration? Not a chance.

My mind is open to new information, absolutely, but based on what we know today, my dogs are done with vaccines.

Anne T

I am sorry for the loss of your beloved Raven. It doubly hurts because you thought you were doing the right thing for your cat. Sigh.

I have never vaccinated my cats. I don't let them out other than occasional strolls through the garage to the dog yard when the weather is totally acceptable to 'delicate feline sensibilities'.

My dogs don't get vaccinated anymore either. I began to learn about the hazards of vaccines and over-vaccination when I got reliable Internet access, and started researching canine ideopathic epilepsy. I have 2 11 1/2 year old littermates with this disorder. In their youth and my ignorance, I followed the standard procedure of yearly vet visits and boosters. After all, I wanted to do the best for my dogs that I could? 5way, 6 way vaccines? Sure, Doc, whatever you say! Now, I still do a yearly visit, but for a SNAP test for heartworm. No vaccines!

I have always wondered, ever since Chris Christine started the fight against unnecessary rabies vaccines, culminating in the Rabies Challenge project, if the accepted procedure of renewing rabies every 2 or 3 years had something to do with it, since my more effected dog exhibited his first seizure 5 days after receiving his rabies booster as required by state law every other year. I didn't have his previous records as he was an informal adoption. His litter sister is far less afflicted with IE, but she does have it, and she was also an informal adoption.

My youngest dog came to me needing his 3rd series of puppy shots. His breeder followed Dr. Jean Dodd's vaccine protocol for puppies, and I had my vet do the same. After his 1 year booster, that was it for him for life.

I won't quit the yearly checkups and heartworm tests, especially as my dogs age. 2 years ago, my vet discovered the female littermate had a mild heart murmur. I wouldn't have known and now have it managed so far with just supplements and 2 ultrasounds per year.


"My big issue is with the push push push for non-core vaccines. How does everyone feel about lepto?"

They teach us at the U of MN vet school that the efficacy of lepto is questionable, and the duration of immunity is quite short (maybe 6 months at most). There also isn't cross-protection between the various serovars of lepto, so who knows if the type of lepto your dog is most likely to come across is a type that's included in the vaccine. The lepto vaccine also has the highest rate of reactions, especially in small breeds and puppies.

They said the only indication to give it is in very high risk dogs (farm dogs with access to contaminated water sources, hunting dogs with exposure to wildlife), but in order for it to really be effective it would need to be given at least every six months.


Last year I had reason to have titres run on myself for all of the childhood immunization stuff. All of them came back that I have adequate antibody levels. I'm 45. That's all I need to know about the need for re-vaccination!

Re: vax for bacterial diseases (lepto, kennel cough), I'm on the side of the fence where we nurture the dog's immune system so they can fight off disease rather than poking them with another needed. Besides, a littermate to one of my dogs had a reaction to the lepto vax that kept him at a specialty hospital for days. Not gonna chance it! (As prevalent as lepto is, I figure they are all exposed to it a lot.)

Raven's Mom

I lost a cat to Fibrosarcoma in December 2007. We made a big move out of state in 2004, and the vets in that area all followed the new protocols. Sadly the damage had been done already and we lost Raven to that horrible disease. We've since moved back and finding vets who don't over vaccinate was very difficult. At one point I thought I was going to have to start taking them way out of town to get what we needed.

It angers me that so many vets are still pushing annual shots and the rabies vaccine for cats that has been associated with VAS. I thought I had been a good pet owner by getting all those vaccines when my cats were young.:-( Now my cats get the Purevax rabies vaccine and distemper vaccinations on current recommendations.

Karina A.

I guess not too many practitioners will put this into effect or even think about broadening their perspective considering the state of the economy. @Raven's Mom - so sorry to hear about your feline pal... Thanks again Christie for your in-depth analysis of really interesting topics!

Colorado Transplant

Well, I did at one time believe everything the human and animal doctors said.

Then, I began to question. That is when I was no longer the trusting good girl.

You can laugh if you want to, but last year my husband was scheduled for a stress test. You see, he had no heart symptoms but the doctor thought it was a good idea.

Lo and behold, the two female voices in the family were not enough to persuade my husband not to take one. Ha,ha, I told my son (a male doc). The day before the scheduled event my son said that there is no reason to take one.

If you thought I was concerned about the test, you are right. He is 79 going to be 80 tomorrow.

Human and animal doctors can give great advice.

However, I prefer not to follow anyone blindly.

You see, I am no longer the good follower. That is why the doctors and veterinarians have to convince me, either by research or by logic,

before I follow their advice. I question a lot.

Susan Fox

Our vet is very conservative and has just gone to the three year protocol. I'm going to talk to her about the no-vaccine option, but I know that she is concerned about exposure from me working with shelter dogs and cats, which is not something an average pet owner has to worry about. What do you think about that consideration, everyone?

I do like the peace of mind that comes from everybody getting a basic exam once a year, since the dog and four cats all go in and out of the house, but I don't like to use drugs unnecessarily, either on them or me.

The great thing is that she comes to our house (she does house calls only), so we aren't trying to haul four cats to the vet every year ::shudder::.


Megan, thanks. That backs up most of the reading I've done.

I'll feel terrible of course if someone has a severe case someday, but I have simply heard of too many severe reactions to subject my low risk group of dogs to it.

Susan G.

A few years ago, I was visiting with a college friend who is a practicing veterinarian in CA. I asked him about his vaccination protocols. I was shocked that he still did annual vacs. I questioned him some more and could tell he considered it a tiresome topic. He finally said he considered vaccinations so safe that he would feel comfortable vaccinating a animal every day. I was stunned. Thank goodness I do not live close to him, as I would never want him to see my animals.

Christie Keith

Your friend is scary.


Susan G., he doesn't practice in Ukiah does he? If not, I know his twin.

Ramen Connoisseur

I never had chicken pox when I was younger. After numerous exposures to infected kids (a number of whom spent the night the day before developing symptoms) I was subjected to the vaccine. We forgot to go back for the obligatory booster, so my college forced me to choose between re-vaccination and a titer. I was "undervaccinated" thirteen years ago- titer says I'm immune.

Our clinic no longer vaccinates yearly. Right now, they go every two years and try to work it so that multiple vaccines aren't given at once. They're considering the three-year protocol. I do vaccinate as directed, because titers for all the cats are outside of my price range, and I sometimes work with stray and feral cats. If I'm bringing an animal with an unknown history into my house, I want to *know* that the boys are protected.. even if that means risking a few extra "boosters" over the course of a lifetime. (I know vaccines aren't 100% effective, but something is better than nothing.)

I also have a cat with a condition that causes periodic neurological episodes that, if he ever snuck out and happened to have one, might cause someone to suspect rabies. Rabies is an issue in our area, and frankly, I don't want him to wind up in quarantine, where he could die if they don't give him the appropriate meds because 'he's a rabies suspect and the shelter techs can't touch him until the vet (who works once a week) clears him'. (Could be wrong, but I doubt an "unvaccinated" rabies suspect would ever be released to the owner.) Unless there are valid medical reasons, this cat will never go so much as a day overdue on his rabies vaccine.. even if the protocol is asinine.

Ramen Connoisseur

Regarding the Purevax (which is gaining popularity in our area).. a vet I know suggested that any inoculation site on a cat has the possibility of developing a VAS, regardless of what the cat was inoculated with (rabies, distemper, water, you name it).

I have seen a number of articles referencing a possible link between the inflammatory process and the development of certain cancers in cats, so I am wondering if there might not be some truth to that. (This is why I've avoided the Purevax thus far, since, as far as I know, it hasn't been given the three-year clearance yet, and the state would require that I give it yearly.)

Some of you guys are way more knowledgeable than I am.. anyone know if there's any veracity to this?

Susan G.

The vet I mentioned is practicing in Los Altos. It is sad to hear that there are others out there like him.


It's almost fifteen years now since my then-regular vet, who worked weekends doing pathology at Angel Memorial in Boston, told me about injection-site sarcomas in cats. Her preferred practice was to minimize the total number of vaccines, and the total number of injections (which meant combos on everything possible that we were giving except rabies, which she wanted separate), and varying the injection site so that the same spot didn't take the insult every time.

Both my soon-to-be-ex vet and my new vet, their practices take an even more conservative attitude towards what vaccines should be given, have told me flatly, in a manner suggesting some clients have given them an argument about it, that "there is an approved three-year protocol so we are using it," and believe in separating vaccines as much as possible, including as far as logistically possible no two higher-risk vaccines in the same year. E.g., they do recommend Lyme because of where we are, but don't want to give it in the same year as rabies.


Susan G. wrote, "He finally said he considered vaccinations so safe that he would feel comfortable vaccinating a animal every day."

Yup. Heard that. Heard that when I took a dog in that I'm caring for to be vax'd for rabies. (Owner wanted it.) I was lamenting to the vet how unorganized the owner is, not keeping records, going from clinic to clinic each year with each one assuming the dog has never been vax'd for Rabies, thus causing the dog to be vaccinated 4 times in 4 years. The vet shot back the "so safe/comfortable vaccinating every day" comment. I shut my mouth. (I know! Rabies vax!)

Same clinic pushes vaccines beyond what I am comfortable with. Why do I keep going there? Because their staff is filled with skilled diagnosticians who have served us well when my dogs have real problems. And they let me be regarding my dogs' vaccination status. :-)

Colorado Transplant

It shouldn't be this hard, I agree, also.

My vet in Framingham, Ma. had to give Batman a lot of Rabies boosters. He did get into fights with an "unknown animal", specifically another cat. The vet had to follow the law.

And then there was the confinement period after that. Home confinement, thankfully.

What did I do when he bothered me so much to go outside and relieve himself--I let him out.

The dog officer wanted to check that he was in home confinement. I said what time are you coming? He told me that evening and I brought Batman in that evening.

He was a ferral cat originally and was almost impossible to keep in the house all the time.

I only break the law for my cats. But he had so much vaccine in him that he was not endangering the public!


Lis, if any vet told me “flatly” anything, that is leaving no room to refuse or respectfully disagree, I would thank them for their time, settle my bill and either reschedule my appointment with someone else in the clinic or take my business elsewhere.

Deanna, the context was that they were getting people who still expected annual vaccs on everything. They refuse to vaccinate at intervals more frequent than what current science has proven is the minimum effective period. Rabies is the only thing they insist on for adult animals, and only on the legally required schedule of every three years.


Lis, I see our disconnect. I was coming at this from the POV that the 3-year protocol is still nuts! (See above where my titres came back adequate after 40+ years.)

If you investigate, the 3-year protocol is a compromise since studies proved the efficacy of vaccines at least to 5 years. (Really, at least 7 years for most, but they are willing to stand behind the 5 year conclusion.) Looks like the studies ran out of funding ran out of funding at 7 years. A 5-year schedule was a little bit too big of a leap from an annual protocol, so the 3-year compromise was made. And thus was born the 3 year protocol. It's all a bit too arbitrary for my taste. And thus why I don't revaccinate.

I think I remember reading all of this on Dr. Dodds' website. Yes, I did because I just looked up again.

And for anyone who thinks that vaccines labeled for 3 years are any different from the ones labeled for annual vaccines, can I interest you in some swampland I own in Florida?


Ha, I know that the 3 year and annual are the same. But it sure makes some people happy that it's "official"!


#22, consider re-reading # 17 above. Do you really want to keep re-vaccinating your cats? :-)

Christie Keith

If the dog is immune, then he's immune. It doesn't matter how many times he's exposed to something, you can't make him MORE immune by giving him an unnecessary vaccination.

Vaccines aren't like gasoline being put into an empty gas tank. Vaccines stimulate an immune response, but if the animal is already immune, the immune system will inactivate the vaccinal virus and it will be, immunologically, as if you never gave the shot at all... but your pet will still get the RISK of the vaccine, with no benefit to outweigh it. There is no such thing as a "booster" for canine immunity to the common viruses for which we have vaccines. You cannot make an immune dog "more immune" to those viruses.

I wouldn't say your vet is "conservative." Giving a pet more of something than he needs is the opposite of conservative. A true conservative approach would be, "Here is proof you need this vaccine," not, "Prove to me you DON'T need it."


Comment #15 by Colorado Transplant - yes, I too have quit being a believer and have changed doctors, both animal and for myself more holistic and still question what they tell me. Not comfortable trusting much of anything these days although where my beloved pets are concerned, that's an entire area where I'm trying to be cautious yet provide the best possible care for them.

Gina Spadafori

Same clinic pushes vaccines beyond what I am comfortable with. Why do I keep going there? Because their staff is filled with skilled diagnosticians who have served us well when my dogs have real problems. And they let me be regarding my dogs’ vaccination status. :-)

Comment by Deanna — March 6, 2009 @ 8:36 am

I get the postcards, too. But of course my vet doesn't practice that way .... even if the practice does.

But isn't that a shame? What about the people who get the postcards, and then vax annually? We're back to knowing the secret handshake to get the right vet (or find a reputable breeder).

As Christie wrote previously, it shouldn't be this hard.


Lis, if any vet told me "flatly" anything, that is leaving no room to refuse or respectfully disagree, I would thank them for their time, settle my bill and either reschedule my appointment with someone else in the clinic or take my business elsewhere.

I feel pretty strongly about the vaccine issue and won't poke them unnecessarily. I mean, c'mon, 40+ years effectiveness in me, why not 7 - 15 years (or more) in a dog.

I've also been talked into treatments for my dogs that I now regret. I don't think I'll ever treat a cancer affected dog as aggressively as the canine oncologist wants to for example. (Treatment depends on the diagnosis and I now think my dog was mis-diagnosed by the specialty clinic.)


I totally agree, Gina. It shouldn't be this hard!

Ramen Connoisseur


I know a number of people who have allergic dogs and opt for titers instead of vaccines. A few of these dogs have dropped below the "probable immunity" range after 4-6 years.

Because I occasionally work with stray and feral cats, I prefer not to take the risk of assuming that the immunity my cats have conferred is lifelong when it may or may not be. The risk of infection may be minimal, but the risk of VAS is pretty minimal, too. I would probably feel differently if we didn't wind up providing temporary shelter for the occasional colony cat or kitten.. but I do worry about inadvertently bringing something inside.

As for rabies, our state requires that we vaccinate every two years. Rabies is an issue here, and my yard is crawling with a combination of high-risk wildlife (bats, skunks, raccoons) and the occasional unowned cat. I'm sure they don't *need* to be vaccinated every two years, but if somebody manages to sneak out and get himself into trouble, I don't want to get stuck dealing with months of quarantine or forced euthanasia (I believe they have the right if the cat is bit by an animal confirmed to be rabid and he's not up to date). They're indoor cats, but visitors aren't always as careful with the door as I am.. and sometimes mistakes just happen.

If the one vs. three year comment was directed at my question about Purevax, I'm aware that there's ultimately no difference between the two. ;) Problem is, around here, if it's only approved as a one year vaccine, the 'powers-that-be' consider it a one year vaccine.. meaning I would be forced to vaccinate more often in order to remain in compliance. :)

Christie Keith

I know a number of people who have allergic dogs and opt for titers instead of vaccines. A few of these dogs have dropped below the “probable immunity” range after 4-6 years.

This is a misunderstanding of what titers are and what they can tell you.

For the canine viruses for which we have vaccines, and not including rabies which is a different kind of vaccine and which is usually given on the basis of law, not science, once a dog has formed initial immunity, it doesn't matter what his subsequent titers are.

Titers don't directly measure immunity. A low titer doesn't mean immunity is low. Circulating antibody is not what makes a dog immune, but the cells that MAKE those antibodies, known as memory cells.

Once those memory cells have formed, they are permanent, and it doesn't matter what the titer is.

Immunity to those canine viruses doesn't "wear off" or go away, and you can't "boost" it with another vaccination.

This is not necessarily true of all viruses in all species, and it's not true for bacterial diseases, but it's true for the canine modified live virus vaccines for parvo, distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza.

Once you know your dog formed antibodies in response to vaccination, it doesn't matter what the titer says down the road. A titer test is not a gas guage, immunity is not a gas tank, and vaccines aren't a gas pump.

Christie Keith

LOL... it looks vaguely familiar.

Elizabeth Hart

Wow ! Thank you for an excellent article Christie, and with so many well-informed and interesting comments.

I wish I had known all this information six months ago. That's when my eight year old Maltese x Silky terrier, Sasha, had her last annual revaccination with core MLV vaccines. She became very ill eight days afterwards. Four days later she was dead.

I have been researching the topic of over-vaccination since her death and I am shocked by what I have discovered.

Here in Australia, in my personal experience, there are vets who are misleading people with dogs to have their pets over-vaccinated with the core MLV parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus vaccines every year.

A culture of unnecessary and possibly harmful over-vaccination with core MLV vaccines has become entrenched. There is much resistance to changing this unethical practice.

I now know there is no need for dogs that have already had the puppy series and 12 month booster to be revaccinated with these core MLV vaccines every year.

I was shocked when Sasha died, and bewildered how this could happen so suddenly. Undertaking research after Sasha's death, I found out about the controversy surrounding over-vaccination of dogs and cats. I had no idea of this before, I had simply trusted my veterinarian's advice. Now I know about the international WSAVA Dog and Cat Vaccination Guidelines Fact Sheets that state the duration of immunity for the core MLV vaccines for dogs is seven years or longer. But it's absolutely no thanks to the veterinarian I had trusted for the last seven years, and who I had, unknowingly, taken my dogs to for unnecessary revaccinations every year.

In his annual reminder letters, cutely personally addressed to my dogs he said "You may not be aware of it, but if you are going to stay healthy, you need this vaccination". That was a lie. My dogs did not need the revaccination, and far from keeping them healthy, it put them needlessly at risk of an adverse reaction. And now one of my dogs is dead.

I challenged the vet about his vaccination policy after Sasha's death, but he insisted he was still going to tell people to revaccinate annually.

There is no excuse for veterinarians to continue revaccinating adult dogs and cats annually with core MLV vaccines. They should be following the latest scientific advice, not the outdated recommendation on the vaccine label, which I understand has no scientific basis.

Unethical veterinarians are getting away with over-vaccination because they simply bury their mistakes, and pet owners are often none the wiser. If I hadn't decided to do some research after Sasha died, I wouldn't have found out about this. Sasha would have been just another unknown and uncared for statistic.

Who knows how many other people's pets have gotten sick or died a week, a month or even longer after a revaccination and they haven't made the connection that the revaccination could have been at fault? The veterinarians aren't likely to mention it are they? The WSAVA guidelines make the point that adverse events are grossly under-reported. So dogs and cats can end up with chronic illnesses, or even die, and the pet owners often never know that over-vaccination may have been the cause. It really is a rotten business.

It's time the veterinary "industry" was brought to account.

I am now campaigning with other concerned people in Australia to have this dreadful situation addressed. We are determined to do our best to make sure other people with pets are informed of the WSAVA guidelines and allowed to make their own informed decision about revaccinating their pets.

WSAVA Dog and Cat Vaccination Guidelines:

Erich Riesenberg

I am trying to find a reason to visit my vet. Is a heartworm test prior to starting seasonal dosage of Heartgard really a good idea? Would it be better to give Heartgard year round, even when it is below zero for months at a time?

Colorado Transplant

I am sorry I was not specific about the shot I was talking about. It was the rabies shot, but I probably know the answer--it is the same shot.

Christie Keith

Christie, without selling me any swamp land in Florida, can you tell me if a one-year shot is the same as a three year shot?



Erich, here are two good sources about Heartworm:

Both those sites reference this study:

Seasonal prevention is what's needed in most areas. Even in year-round affected areas where it's always 60F or higher, one pill every three months would cover a dog for the entire year. It was proven in 1988 (Atwell) that doses given as far as 4 months apart work the same as a monthly/daily dose (95% effective). I say that because in light of a DHHS warning to merial, monthly doses of Heartguard DO NOT give 100% protection, as they claim. DHHS told them to stop saying it does, and I'm assuming that the 5% 'miss rate' for the 4 month doses is actually the same ratio for monthly doses.

In other words, yes, most people are overdosing their dogs for a parasite that is either not that common in their region, or else they're overdosing for far more than is actually needed, period. If anything, yearly testing for HW gives peace of mind if you're worried about it.


Colorado Transplant: the manufacturer(s) of the rabies vaccine sell it BOTH labelled for one year and for 3 years. The contents are the same; the packaging is different. Your vet isn't quite lying, but he's being way disingenuous and (assuming the law where you live allows the 3 year vax), you should find a different one.

Anne T

Ramon, sounds like the title of a famous novel by Kurt Vonnegut! Your cats are possibly damned either way thanks to your states' archaic and stringent laws. The only thing a responsible owner can do is what you are doing....the best you can.

Anne T

I know this Christie, which is why I don't bother to titer my dogs. If they have gone thru Jean Dodd's recommended vaccine protocols for puppies, they are set for life. The immune response is not triggered until the actual offensive organism has entered the dog's blood stream. Over time, those specialized memory cells will not show up in a titer, but will spring into being If the dog has been infected.

Here's a quote from one of my favorite sites on the subject.

"A "titer" is a measurement of how much antibody to a certain virus (or other antigen) is circulating in the blood at that moment. Titers are usually expressed in a ratio, which is how many times they could dilute the blood before they couldn't find antibodies anymore. If the lab was able to dilute it two times, and then didn't find any more antibodies, that would be expressed as a titer of 1:2. If they could dilute it a thousand times before they couldn't find any antibodies, that would be a titer of 1:1000.

It would be wonderful to be able to say that once this ratio dips below a certain level, it’s time to give another vaccination to “boost” immunity. But that reflects an incorrect understanding of the immune response. Vaccines don’t inject immunity into a dog. Instead, they stimulate the immune system to form two kinds of cells, antibodies that fight the current infection, and memory cells that remain behind after the infection has been eradicated, to pump out more antibodies if the same virus is encountered in the future.

Memory cells persist for 20 years or more, and are not increased when the animal is re-vaccinated or re-exposed to the disease. The detection of antibodies in the bloodstream, which is what a titer test does, tells us that process took place and that memory cells are present, but the absence of antibodies does not mean there are no memory cells or that the dog is not immune. Veterinary immunologist Ian Tizard writes, "You can have a negative titer and if the pet is exposed, memory cells can respond within hours to regenerate enough antibodies for protective immunity."

Recognize it by any chance?

Colorado Transplant

Christie, without selling me any swamp land in Florida, can you tell me if a one-year shot is the same as a three year shot?

I really, really, want this information!

A vet said he only had one-year shots and might have been fabricating the truth.


Well, then here's a Tibetan Mastiff breeder who also read the paper and said the same thing:

I'm not citing HIM as an authority, he (and the Tibetan site) both link the seasonal maps and sum up the study that otherwise you have to pay 15$ to read.


And honestly, whether I think Terrierman is a jerk or not really has no bearing on what I can clearly read that science says, nor does him agreeing with a study instantly discredit it and the other papers that support it (like the Atwell-Boreman heartworm study from 1988). Just Google 'Atwell heartworm reachback'.

But for some people, no matter how many third-party scientific sources are referenced, the fact that ONE was a guy they hate makes them unwilling to even consider them. That's disappointingly petty.

Colorado Transplant

Thanks for the info, Emily.

This was a vet I used a long time ago in Massachusetts.

Out here in Colorado, in my county, only a three year shot is required. My present veterinarian is comfortable with that, thank goodness.

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