I regard vaccines as an important clinical tool that can have both beneficial and detrimental effects.
In general, I only recommend vaccinating against serious, potentially life-threatening viral diseases such as distemper, parvo, and rabies. With the exception of rabies these tend to be pediatric diseases.
I do not recommend lepto, lymes, corona, giardia, feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis vaccines. Whenever possible I use vaccines with the fewest combinations of viral components. Sick animals should not be vaccinated. Vaccines should not be administered when other procedures such as surgery will stress the immune system. Pregnant and lactating animals should not be vaccinated. If older animals should be vaccinated their immune system function should be optimized.
With regard to puppies and kittens, there are three approaches that various authorities recommend.
- The most common is a series of three vaccinations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age.
- Secondly, some holistic veterinarians recommend giving only one vaccination at 16 weeks of age.
- Lastly, some recommend against any vaccinations at all.
There are risks and benefits with every one of these recommendations. A recent study by veterinarians at Purdue University demonstrated that puppies do, in fact, produce auto-antibodies when vaccinated. Conversely, not vaccinating may leave a puppy vulnerable to life-threatening infection. As a pet guardian, one must assess one’s own situation- weighing risk versus benefit- and decide upon what appears to be the proper course of action, realizing that we cannot know with 100 % certainity what is best.
If one chooses not to vaccinate or to wait until 16 weeks, I recommend strictly isolating puppies and kittens until at least four months of age. At 4 months the immune system has matured. At this point, you are trusting the innate ability of the immune system to protect your dog or cat.
From a functional point of view, it is possible to maximize the efficiency of the immune system with nutritional supplements. Vitamins A, C, D, and E are important along with zinc and selenium. Vitamin D appears to be particularly important in providing protection against viruses. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that adequate levels of vitamin D protect against influenza.
It appears that the majority of the human population does not have adequate serum Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be measured by blood test and appears to be of value in pets. It is of special importance if one chooses not to vaccinate or measure vaccine titers.
With all the controversy surrounding vaccines, it should be kept in mind that the purpose of vaccination is to produce immunity against infectious agents. There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that vaccines are not the only means of ensuring immunity. The immune system can be optimized using nutritional supplements. If the decision is made not to vaccinate, you have to make sure your pets are getting the right nutrition and supplements for their continuing good health.