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