Are vaccines really the best way to keep your pet protected from disease? Rather than just relying on vaccines, it is important to look at what causes disease in the first place, and the natural healing response of the body.
A healthy immune system is key to optimal health. The majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, so keeping the gut lining healthy and maintaining a balanced microbiome is essential to preventing disease. Proper nutrition is the most important element here, so feeding fresh, whole food ingredients is a must. Additional support in the form of herbs and supplements may also provide value here, but this will vary from pet to pet.
Puppies and kittens get their initial disease protection from their mother’s milk in the form of antibodies she has generated. The standard of care in veterinary medicine has been to start vaccinating at 6-8 weeks of age to build longer-term 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, and often excessively, causing inflammatory disease such as itching and diarrhea. When given repeatedly, vaccines can lead to more serious autoimmune diseases, seizures and cancer. Over vaccinating at a young age can actually weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting disease in general. This is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
The best way to grow a strong immune system is through natural exposure to disease. Since we do not want our pets to get sick, what is the best alternative? Here is an outline of the protocol that I follow. Of course, there may be modifications based on individual circumstances:
- Determine your pet’s vaccination history
- Determine the current level of immunity by doing a titer test.
- Consider your pet’s risk of exposure to the diseases that vaccines potentially protect against.
- Evaluate the overall health of your pet. Only completely healthy pets should receive vaccinations. In Colorado, a Rabies exemption is an option for pets with any form of disease.
- Check for upcoming or past medical treatments or procedures. Pets should never receive vaccines within 14 days of any anesthetic procedure.
- We consider legal requirements from your county and state, plus requirements from facilities such as daycare, grooming, and boarding
Based on the above, we will determine if vaccines are indicated. If so, we implement the following safeguards:
- Only use single component (monovalent) vaccines
- Only give one vaccine at a time
- Do not vaccinate prior to 10 weeks of age
- Use titers to determine if your pet has responded to the vaccine and to monitor lasting immunity.
- Use Rabies exemptions for sick pets
- Understand the rules and regulations in your area regarding Rabies.
- Use supportive measures such as homeopathics to minimize vaccine side effects
- Assure that your pet is on an appropriate diet and life style to establish an appropriate immune response.
I have seen puppies, vaccinated at 10-12 weeks of age using this protocol, and followed with titer testing maintain a healthy immunity into their adult years. This is with only one set of vaccines. In my opinion, this is a HUGE advance in disease prevention – we are benefiting from the immunity provided by the vaccine without causing additional side effects.
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. Remember that a strong immune system will be able to fight disease on its own, without the help of vaccines.