What is the best way to keep your new pet protected from disease?
The most important element is a healthy immune system. The majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, so a healthy gut is essential in preventing disease. Proper nutrition is the most important element here, see my post on reading pet food labels for more details on picking an appropriate diet. Other elements such as probiotics and other supplemental support may also be beneficial.
Puppies and kittens get their initial protection from their mother’s milk by benefiting from the antibodies she has generated. The standard of care from that point has been to start vaccinating to build protection against disease. The problem with vaccines, however, is that they are not given through a natural route of exposure. This causes the immune system to sometimes react inappropriately causing inflammatory disease such as itching and diarrhea. Furthermore, over vaccinating at a young age can actually weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting disease in general.
The best way to grow a strong immune system is through natural exposure to disease. Now I am not saying that you should let your pet just go out and get sick, but there are alternatives to traditional vaccines. One option is nosodes, find more details in this post . Nosodes essentially create a natural exposure without allowing your pet to get the disease we are trying to protect it from. Nosodes can also be given after exposure to disease to improve recovery and reduce symptoms.
Another consideration is what is your pet’s actual risk of exposure? House pets, for example, are not likely to be exposed to many diseases if their activities are limited to an area around the home.
If traditional vaccines are given, I recommend a reduced protocol starting at 8-10 weeks of age, and giving 1 booster 4 weeks later. I would then recommend titers at 1 year and every 3 years after to see if the antibodies remain. I also recommend only vaccinating for those disease that your pet is likely to be exposed to, such as parvo and distemper in puppies and distemper and the respiratory viruses in cats. Rabies is still required by law and can be given any time after 4 months of age. I recommend waiting until 6 months of age to vaccinate for Rabies if possible
Vaccines are not benign medicine, and over vaccinating can, indeed cause harm to your pet. Consider your pet’s risk and use only those vaccines that are indicated, or consider alternatives such as nosodes. Remember too that a pet with a strong immune system will be able to fight disease on its own, without the help of vaccines.