Is my pet being over-vaccinated?
Your pet is NOT being over-vaccinated; it is being protected from killer diseases like parvovirus, distemper and leptospirosis. Vaccination provides the single greatest contribution to the health of your pet and it is absolutely necessary if you do not want to run the risk of it succumbing to these killer diseases. There is no cure for these diseases and, if you do not vaccinate, your pet may not be protected.
Why isn't vaccine protection lifelong?
Contrary to the recent reports, vaccine protection is not lifelong. The frequency of booster vaccinations depends on the disease in question and on the vaccine being used by your pet. For example, the vaccines that Highcliff Veterinary practice uses can now provide three years protection against some diseases e.g. parvovirus, but for others, like leptospirosis, a yearly vaccination is still crucial. You need to bring your pet to the vets every year, not only to boost protection against diseases like leptospirosis, but also to carry out a general health check.
How do we compare to other countries like the States when it come to vaccination?
This country is, in fact, leading the way in vaccine development. There are now vaccines on the market which have proven extended duration of immunity - none of the vaccines in the States can make that claim. This means that our practice can protect your pet from distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus for three years. However, there are still some diseases where annual vaccination is still crucial.
What do you mean by "duration of immunity"?
This simply defines how long a period an animal is adequately protected following vaccination. It is extremely difficult to define a precise duration of immunity (DOI) overall since it will vary from animal to animal and also depend on the particular vaccine used and the level of disease challenge we are trying to protect against. What is commonly quoted as a substitute for the actual DOI is a manufacturer's booster interval which is strictly a reflection of the likely minimum DOI, or in other words "the longest period for which we can be reasonably certain that virtually all individuals will remain adequately protected".
How safe are vaccines?
Vaccines are very safe and provide huge health benefits, regardless of whether they provide immunity for one year or longer. A major UK study by an independent authority (the Animal Health Trust) has just been completed that shows the clearest evidence yet that routine vaccination of dogs in this country does NOT increase the frequency of illness - these results clearly demonstrate the absence of any association between routine vaccination and signs of ill health.
Why does my dog need a booster every year?
Immunity is not lifelong following vaccination and therefore booster vaccination will be required at intervals to ensure your pet remains fully protected.
For example: If you catch a cold, your immunity will vary enormously from another person, the same is true of your pet. We have to ensure that even a dog with the weakest immune response is protected. Let's use sunscreen as a quick analogy - you apply sunscreen to protect your child against sunburn the same way you would vaccinate an animal to protect it against disease. But how long that sunscreen protects for depends on things like the strength of the sun, time of day, skin type and what the child is doing. The cautious parent will reapply sunscreen more frequently as it is better to be safe then sorry. The same principle applies to vaccine immunity and your pet.
The recommended booster intervals are designed to ensure, as far as is practically possible, that all animals under field conditions (even the ones that do not respond as well to vaccination) maintain a level of protective immunity. Certain individuals may not require boosting as frequently, but there is no quick and easy way to tell the animal's state of immunity and the most cost-effective and beneficial way to minimise the risk of disease is by routine booster vaccination. For some diseases this booster needs to be annually.
Is this similar to the "MMR vaccine in children" issue?
They are only similar in that both issues are unfounded.
What is important to remember is that since the MMR issue has been raised in the public forum, parents have been opting not to get their children vaccinated. As a direct result, we have seen a marked increase in the number of reported cases of measles. As in the veterinary field, there is no conclusive evidence that giving different vaccine components separately is any safer or more effective than giving them together.
Whilst there are parallels between some of the MMR issues and some of the "anti-vaccine" issues we face in the dog vaccine world, they are definitely not the same!
Is my pet really at risk?
A pet will always be at risk of potential exposure to disease if it comes into contact with other animals or even just goes out and about. Not only is your pet at risk, but some of the diseases we protect against can affect humans as well, like leptospirosis - this also places you and your family at risk of disease.
Do vaccines affect different breeds in different ways?
There are no breed-specific contra-indications for any of the vaccines currently on the market. Despite this, some breeders occasionally suggest that one or other of the live vaccine components affects their particular breed. When such reports are investigated the information appears to be anecdotal and often incapable of substantiation.
What about homoeopathic vaccines?
The main concern most vets have about their use is that there is no proper evidence to show that they work in protecting dogs by preventing disease. Indeed, the few properly designed trials that have been carried out by using homoeopathic vaccines have shown no evidence of protection. Without evidence of effectiveness, homoeopathic products may pose a far greater risk to dogs by leaving them very susceptible to disease.