medicine versus mom

Does My Dog Really Need Vaccines

Photo courtesy Dr. Laurie Coger.

My dog had a side effect to routine vaccinations. That side effect was cancer.

When a tiny raised lump appeared on my Cocker Spaniel’s right shoulder blade about two weeks after getting her yearly vaccine, it turned out to be cancer.

We over vaccinate our dogs (and cats) in this country. Plain and simple: Overvaccination and the horrible side effects of this practice has become an epidemic of alarming proportions.  We think we are doing right by our dogs by giving them vaccines and keeping diseases from affecting them.  This is not always the case. I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti over vaccinating.

Brandy’s Story

My dog’s cancer was removed via laser surgery. After numerous visits to Cornell Small Animal Hospital, several abdominal ultrasounds to screen for metastases, and years of diligent screening, it is believed my dog’s mast cell tumor was a vaccination reaction. I cringe every single type I type that and this happened in the 1990’s. Even worse, our dog’s vet at the time said it was a pimple and tried to pop it. Again, I cringe.

An oncologist at Cornell gave me a rudimentary diagram of a dog and told me to chart Brandy’s lumps. I took photos of them, bought a pair of calipers to precisely measure any new lumps or bumps, and who I was and who I became as a pet parent changed in that cancer diagnosis—the cancer diagnosis because of a vaccine.

cute cocker
Forever missed, Brandy Noel.

Should You Vaccinate?

I am not a veterinarian; I am a diligent dog mom and a skilled journalist. I do my research and I ask the questions dog parents have; in this case: Should I vaccinate my dog.

I follow the vaccine protocol of Dr. Jean Dodds. Dr. Dodds is the founder of HEMOPET, the non-profit animal blood bank, and a friend to animal lovers the world over.  Dr. Dodds is a veterinarian of over 50 years. Considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, Dr. Dodds focuses on vaccination protocols, thyroid issues and nutrition.

jean dodds

Pros of Vaccines

Vaccines are not evil. According to research Dr. Dodds shared, thanks to vaccinations, historically more lives have been saved and more animals have been safeguarded than any other medical advances.

Canine vaccinations have significantly reduced endemics of canine distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus but NOT in wildlife reservoirs.

Here’s the catch: Vaccine companies make excellent products, but they aren’t one-size-fits-all for every dog.

What Vaccines Should Your Dog Have?

A goal needs to be for pet parents to work with their vets to understand informed consent is essential. Pet parents should talk to your dog’s vet about potential adverse reactions. You absolutely do NOT  need to re-vaccinate (give “boosters”) automatically.  All that might be needed is a titer. The bottom line is that Dr. Dodds recommends more titers for distemper and parvo for adult dogs.

What is a Titer?

Titer testing measures the exposure to the agent in the dog’s body. So basically, if your dog tests positive on a titer for parvovirus, you don’t need to vaccinate with a booster. If the titer comes back 1:8 or 1:64, it doesn’t matter. As Dr. Dodds says, “you can’t be a little pregnant!” Similarly, immunity is immunity, no matter what the ratio shows. Any ratio that shows immunity means the animal is protected.

Titers are not as expensive as one would think, and there is now even an in-office titer test your vet can do for your dog. The titers you need only test for are distemper and parvovirus, even though others are available. Discuss the information with your vet but make sure you don’t feel pressured to do what the vet says must be. Dialogue should be open. We do titers on our dog. I will never over vaccinate again.


Is There a Recommended Vaccine Protocol?

“I developed a unique , patented vet diagnostic tests to help pet guardian and dog/cat/horse breeders.  I started vaccine titer testing in the late 1990s in lieu of automatic annual booster vaccinations,” Dr. Dodds told me in an interview.

Dr. Dodds’ canine vaccine protocol can be found on her website, and hers is the one I follow for my own dog. Again, each dog is different. Dogs with immunocomprised systems or prior reactions to vaccines, those in heat or about to be, and those who are pregnant, amongst other categories, should not be vaccinated. This is why vets need to discusses changes of vaccinations and the need for a “vaccine checkup” and not a “mandatory vaccine appointment.” Still see your dog’s vet regularly – I do at least 2 visits a year with Dexter for wellness checks. Preventive medicine is key for dogs.

This does not apply to the rabies vaccine, and that is a whole other topic to be explored in another post. There are many dogs suffering the side effects to rabies vaccines. Thanks to Jean Dodds and her rabies challenge, hopefully things will change with time to benefit our dogs.

But My Vet Says My Dog Must Have Shots

Not so. Get a second opinion and even a third. Any veterinarian that will not discuss the pros and cons of vaccines and allow you the option of titers is not a vet I would visit. You are your dog’s advocate and ally: The best one he has.

What Does an Experienced Vet Tech Think?

Twice a month, Rachel Shepherd of My Kid Has Paws is taking the side of “Medicine” to our “Mom” and giving you her perspective on the same issue. Please check out the vet tech side of things on vaccinations and head over to My Kid Has Paws for more information on this topic.

medicine versus mom

Question: Do you follow a vaccine protocol for your dog? Are you getting yearly shots? Titers? 

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  1. This is such an important subject to me. Our beagle has had multiple vaccine reactions, though so far nothing life threatening, thank goodness. Since she had multiple vaccines at one time it’s been difficult pinning down the culprit for sure. I think she reacts to something possibly included in all vaccines. My fear is that the next reaction WILL be life threatening. We have gone to three year vaccines only for all of the dogs wherever we can now, and only those that we feel are necessary. My plan is for Cricket to have no more vaccines at all (she’s 10 now)….but there is one problem…our state requires 3 years rabies. She will be due for that this coming year and I am very worried about what we will be able to do about that. So far our vet has been open to my concerns about the vaccines, so I am hoping he will work with us on this to come to a solution.

    1. Absolutely insist on the titers. I will mention that a blogging colleague, Roxanne Hawn, had a dog who had a serious adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine. She documented it on her blog, Champion of My Heart. Her dog eventually passed from the complications. In some cases, a medical waiver can be obtained for dogs who cannot receive a rabies vaccine due to medical issues.

  2. I have a 2.5 pound 10 years little Chihuahua and her brother which is about 7 pounds. I’ve had them from the time they were 6 months old. At first I was always taking them to the vet for their yearly shots. And when they were 4 years old my 7 pound (Kelly) Chihuahua did good but my little 2.5 pound (Chica) did not. she got so sick and a few days after her shots I called the vet and they told me to wait for another week to see if she gets any better. I replied “she may not live for another week” After they had said “ok then maybe we can see her in three days”., I fired them and got myself another vet. Best thing I have ever done. She was very sick and they took very good care of her. We do not do all the shots. I trust my vet and I can tell she (Chica) like him too. Next visit I will ask him about this “Titers”.

  3. I am not a fan of vaccines after my dog had a serious adverse reaction to his shots at 1 year old. He has not been vaccinated since. He is now going to be 13, and he gets titers done annually. As of his last testing this year, he still has immunity to rabies, parvo and distemper. My thoughts are that vaccines should be administered according to dog breed and weight, and titers should be mandatory, so that no dog is over vaccinated. It is wonderful that protocols are changing to reflect longer times between re- vaccination. Thank you Dr. Dodds for your pioneering work and thank you Carol for this very important information. Woof!

  4. My beloved cocker, Olivia, died in October, 2014, after suddenly becoming acutely ill. The days before she got sick, she was fine. I had no idea that she was going to die on that awful October morning, after being in the Emergency Vet hospital and suffering for over 24 hours. She had a condition called Thrombocytopenia. Her bone marrow was not producing enough platelets, clotting blood cells. Olivia bled to death and did it in a lot of pain. The ER veterinarian told me this happens to dogs and cats as an autoimmune process. They don’t know why it happens. My regular vet told me that she must have been exposed to rat poison. But that just wasn’t the case. Later on, Terry from Tired Dog, enlightened me that this condition, Thrombocytopenia, can occur from over-vaccinating. Thank you, Terry, for educating me. With my dog now, I will be asking for titers. He’s 11 yr. old.

    1. I am so sorry to read this. There are way too many dogs dying and having adverse side effects. Titers are the way to go, case by case, injection by injection.

  5. Two weeks ago i brought my pug puppy loki in for the humane society’s anual package deal. He was neutered and given his shots and although he was expectedly tender and sluggish he seemed to recover fine… but just at the end of the 2nd week i noticed the area behind his shoulder that had seemed hard after his shot now had formed into a half dollar size protruding lump. (Like if you cut a golf ball in half)
    I panicked but was told it was probably just a normal reaction to the shots or a fatty tumor and that i shouldnt worry. I checked the site and there was no sign of redness, marks or abrasions, or discomfort when touched.
    I kept an eye on it and agreed to wait since I’d paid $115 for his opperation, $130 for a vet visit 2-3 weeks prior, and later on in the day had to spend $145 on a vet appt for my other pug to establish what id have to pay to take care of a cracked tooth which will cost me ANOTHER $465. (Im the sole provider after a BAD relationship so these expenses have maxed my accounts)
    For 2 days there were no real changes, but last night as i was brushing him before bed the comb caught the lump (not hard or forcefully) and i quickly tried to comfort him like the overprotective mom i am. I touched it and gently rubbed it when i felt it … “squish?” Or move significantly under the skin (which prior to this had been a pretty firm bubble).
    I wasn’t sure if I’d really just felt that so i felt it again and it now feels like a hard marble has taken up residence where the golf ball sized lump used to live.
    That’s when I started searching the internet and found this article.
    Its late so he is sleeping but he didn’t show any signs of pain prior to bed time and it hasn’t diminished in size or changed in texture but the area does feel warm to the touch.

    Was this anything like what your dogs lump started as?
    I know i have to take him into the vet but the difference between an emergency visit and a scheduled one (which averages a 2 week wait) is an additional $200 emergency vet fee.

    Any advice would be apprrciated, (sorry for the rediculously long comment)


    1. My dog developed a mast cell tumor at the site of injection back in the 90s. It looked like a pimple. If the dog is in pain, has any other symptoms, or that has not gone down by now, I would take him to see the vet. It will give you peace of mind but if it is anything, you can get a jump start on it. Keep us posted. Tummy rubs to you and your pup.

  6. Thank you for writing this post, Carol. I am sending it on to one of my readers that has concerns about vaccinations. She feels that after a distemper shot, her dog became paralyzed in his hindquarters and is wondering if this is really necessary. The good news is that her dog eventually came around. Peace

  7. I took my 8 year old schnauzer for her vaccines and the next morning she was paralyzed from the hips down.. After many dollars later and a week at a Vet school of medicine she did recover. Praise God!
    They diagnosed her with Mystenia Graves in plain terms means they have no idea what caused it. Well I believe I know what caused it and it comes down to the almighty dollar for the vet and pharmaceutical companies. She will never get any vaccinations and we will do tigers.
    Thank you for this article and information.

  8. My German shepherd had his 3rd puppy booster 2 +/2 weeks ago. He has palm size big lump on his right shoulder I felt it it is not really hard but not really soft either. He doesn’t seem to have any pain. But I’m not going to press on it hard. Any thoughts?

  9. My tiny 2lb Yorkie (Frassy) has been fighting Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis (GME) for over 3.5 years now. It’s a miracle she is still alive given the poor prognosis she was given.. I’ve administered Chemo daily for 3 years now among many other meds she takes daily. It’s been heartbreaking as we are always worried. She was over vaccinated. She fell ill just about 10 days after her shots. I’m so thankful to WSU vet hospital for getting us this far….. Our sweet spunky Tiny fighter continues her battle!!

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