Vaccinations: A Word of Caution for Our Animals - Part II
by Dr. Will Falconer
Part II Safety (Is It Free of Harm?)
Have you ever wondered why you get a reminder every year to revaccinate your pet when your physician never prompts you to do the same for your family or yourself? I'd like you to question the notion that we need this frequent vaccinating, and go a step further and listen to some evidence that this practice may actually be harmful to our four-footed friends.
If someone, even someone in a white coat, suggests that you take a drug or get injected with some substance, two logical questions ought to immediately arise in your mind:
1. Is this beneficial to me (or does this work as intended)?
If we ask these two questions about annual revaccination of animals, and we ask the right people, we'll get a negative answer to both. We've already covered the first question in Part I efficacy of annual revaccination is clearly lacking according to immunologists. A more important question is the safety issue, as a growing body of evidence mounts showing a correlation between vaccinations and chronic disease.
The chronic diseases have many names, including arthritis, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, repeated ear infections, skin disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer. What makes them nightmarish is that they linger, they are not easily cured, and they are slowly, progressively degenerative, meaning the patient declines in health over the time they are present. The best that conventional medicine can do with chronic disease is to control symptoms through suppressive therapies. This is fraught with problems, including side effects from the drugs, and apparently "new," more serious diseases arising from the continued course of suppression. So, our greatest goal as animal caretakers should be to prevent chronic disease in the first place.
The onset of chronic disease after vaccination is often delayed, coming about 1-2 months afterwards. This is not close enough for conventional medical minds to appreciate the correlation, but it's there nonetheless. The evidence of this comes from both anecdotal sources and research studies.
A British veterinarian has, for the last 10-12 years, asked those clients who present him with an itchy, allergic dog, "When did this itchiness begin?" The response is striking. Some 75% remember clearly: it began within 1-2 months of the "puppy shots." Anecdotal evidence in human medicine is pointing to a cause and effect relationship between childhood vaccines and autism. There has been a marked increase in incidence of this devastating disease that parallels the increased number of vaccinations now required of children. The interval between vaccination and disease? About one month.
In a research study published in 1996, the authors looked at a deadly canine disease of a confused immune system. Known as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), it means the dogs' immune systems attacked their own red blood cells as if they were foreign. Needless to say, this is life-challenging and the death rate is high, as one cannot live long without the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. In the study, 58 dogs with the illness, presenting at a veterinary teaching hospital over a two year period, were compared to a control group presenting for other problems over the same time. The question was asked, "Did anything precede the onset of IMHA?" Lo and behold, a highly statistically significant group of the sick dogs had been vaccinated with the usual yearly vaccines one month earlier. It was so significant that the authors entitled their paper, "Vaccine-Associated Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in the Dog." (Duval and Giger, J Vet Intern Med 1996;10:290-295)
In cats, researchers have known for the last ten years about the correlation between vaccines and a malignant tumor. This particular tumor arises where the vaccines are commonly given, in the area of loose skin at the back of the neck, or in the back of the hind leg. It appears to be uniformly fatal, even with extensive surgery. And it has been clearly associated with two particular vaccines, rabies and feline leukemia. Finally, in 2000, recognizing the clear cause and effect relationship between vaccination and this cancer, the disease was renamed by the research community. It is now officially called Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma.
In the early days of homeopathic veterinary practice, a number of us would see something we would later call the "vaccinosis phenomenon." It was instructive to us as to just how significant an impact vaccinations had had on our animal patients. We would be presented with a chronically ill animal, and after carefully choosing and giving the appropriate homeopathic remedy, we'd be met with disappointing results. A second or third prescription would be made with similar dismal responses from the patient. Finally, we'd go back to the owner and ask about vaccinations. Inevitably the patient was vaccinated. "Whenever we got the reminder postcard, we went in for the shots." Then we would reanalyze the case in light of this knowledge, and look at remedies that were particularly noted to have been applicable in illness that arose after vaccination. When we'd prescribe again with a "vaccinosis" remedy, the results were often startling. Not only would the disease symptoms lessen by 50% or more, but the patient would start acting more normally. The dog who was hyperactive would settle down and pay attention, the angry cat would become a lover again, or the animal terrified of visitors would come out and say hello. The owners were so impressed with the changes that they would often call before the next appointment to tell us how great things were going!
The inference we have made from this experience, repeated over and over in different parts of the country in different practitioners' hands, is simple: vaccinations are responsible for a significant portion of the illness we see in the patients with chronic disease.
The veterinary profession slowly continues to evaluate this practice of vaccinating annually. In 2000, the American Association of Feline Practitioners came out with an official statement against annual vaccination in the cat. They based this position on research from Cornell where kittens, vaccinated once, measured seven years later still showing evidence of immunity from those vaccines. Quite frankly though, I don¹t think we can afford to wait for the whole profession to catch up. Our animals are at risk to become chronically ill if we continue this baseless practice of annual revaccination. And, years from now when we look back incredulously at how such a practice was ever thought to be wise, wouldn't it be nice to be able to smile and pat your healthy twenty-something pet and say, "We knew. We stopped. That's why you're still here."
About the Author
He graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri in 1980 and has been in practice ever since. For the first seven years, he practiced very conventionally, using drugs and surgery to treat animals. Since then, he has gradually changed his practice style and philosophy to incorporate a more holistic approach to healthcare. He has taken certification training in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary homeopathy, and has received Certification as a Veterinary Homeopath from the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.