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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/23/2004 :  6:24:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Okay, time to take off the gloves. I have this fantasy I'll have the time to chip away at all the vaccination questions and comments regarding some of the new theories on vaccination.

My goal is to write a little bit every day or so, so as not to overwhelm people with lots of confusing things, which vaccination theory contains.

I'll begin by dispelling some commonly held mis-conceptions, then go on to basic immunology theory, vaccinology, then an evaluation of each vaccine, followed by an evaluation of the various race rules around the country.

In September, at the ISDVMA meeting in Anchorage, I invited Dr. Dennis Macy up from Colorado State University and charged him with the outline I listed above. He graciously conformed to it and enlightened us all with his profound expertise.

A good deal of what I have to say is based on his comments, but not all. I have stacks of references from other researchers, as well as my own deeply-held rabid prejudices based on 16 years of mistakes as a veterinary epidemiologist and herd-health and infectious disease kind of guy. My opinions, therefore, are an amalgam of the great thoughts of others crammed into my tiny little brain and scrambled into words I could understand.

So, my comments will be mine and you can blame me for being stupid.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/23/2004 :  6:40:58 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
First, dispelling the myths. Myth #1 - "veterinarians require sled dogs to be vaccinated before racing so that the veterinarians can make oodles of money."

Facts: The Iditarod is run in Alaska. The chief veterinarian for the race since 1996 lives in Idaho. His veterinary team comes from around the world, literally. The Yukon Quest runs between Alaska and the Yukon. Yet, the chief veterinarian lives in Ohio. The one previous was from Wisconsin. Before that, Alberta. Before that, the head vet split time between northern Canada and Africa. The CanAm Crown is run in northern Maine. The head veterinarian is from Connecticut. Before her, the head veterinarian came from the race venue, but before him the chief was from Wisconsin. The John Beargrase runs back and forth from Duluth, Minnesota. The last and current head veterinarians live in Minneapolis. Furthermore, the trail veterinarians for all of these races, like the Iditarod, come from all over Hell's Half Acre. Very few of them have mushers entered in these races as regular clients and those that do have thousands of regular pet clients who adhere to the same vaccination protocols.

Furthermore, the better quality races require that the dogs be vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the start of the race (some others do not, but I will be taking them to task eventually). Yet the trail veterinarians and most chief veterinarians don't arrive at the race site until a day or two before the start, long after the dogs have been vaccinated back home.

Thus, none of the race veterinarians make a dime from vaccating dogs at the race site!

The myth of making money vaccinating dogs at the race site is just plain silly. And, when I hear it or read it I can only pity the poor ignoramous who thinks that way.

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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/23/2004 :  8:12:48 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Dispelling another myth. Myth #2 - veterinarians make their money vaccinating pets, which is why they want to vaccinate every year.

There is no question that a few such practitioners exist. But, they are a receding minority. In my readings of veterinary economics, researchers from the business world have determined that a well-run veterinary practice will gross between 4% and 9% of its revenues from vaccinations. That's less than one dollar in ten. The big ticket items are surguries, on-going chronic disease treatments (like diabetes and cushing's disease and atopy, or skin alergies), wellness exams, and disease testing. Often, the big ticket costs are a direct result of owner neglect and/or stupidity, like hit by car, overweight, lousy breeding, poisoning, procrastinating over the chronic infection that happened "only last night, honest," etc. Veterinarians don't need to vaccinate to make money as long as there are pet owners doing stupid things.

Furthermore, many veterinarians in the minority who do believe vaccinations are a real money maker have not done the necessary financial consulting to learn otherwise. They only think that's where the money is because they haven't looked further. Luckily they are a waning breed.

However, and here is where things get complicated, while routine vaccinations are not, or should not be, a major means of income for a veterinary clinic, they most certainly drive veterinary visits, and that is very important for the welfare of the animal and the clinic.

The reality is, and studies have shown, that if it weren't for licensing laws forcing people to get their pets vaccinated for rabies most animals would never see a doctor in their lives, or until they absolutely had to for some catastrophic injury or disease, usually preventable.

And that is the problem. And that is why veterinarians and vaccinations get the bad rap. While people may talk endlessly about animal welfare and while animal rights industry propagandists will yammer about how much they care for animals, if it weren't for veterinarians and legal officials forcing animal "lovers" to have their pets examined yearly along with their vaccinations, the pets never would be. They wait until the animal is "circling the drain" and then complain about the costs of heroic medicine (or pay the twenty bucks to put it to sleep instead).

I have my teeth cleaned twice a year. I'd do it more often except for my insurance limits. My mother is blind from glaucoma and you can bet your sweet bippy I have my eyes examined every year. I've had my perfunctory old geezer's colonoscopy -- oh yum! And I have a thorough physical examination every year, pee in the cup, give blood, fast all night before, turn my head and cough, gag on the stick. All of it. And so should every dog. Vaccinations or not.

With the movement away from annual multiple vaccinations in the near future, what pet owners are going to see will be an interdigitation of vaccines on a rotating cycle -- rabies in year one, distemper in year two, parvo in year three, back to rabies in year four, etc.

Veterinarias will still be able to see the pets every year for an annual exam, to catch any brewing problems before they escalate. Which is the whole purpose. Then vaccinations will be left to serve their real purpose - preventing infectious disease rather than coercing routine wellness and preventive care.

Until that major paradigm change occurs, it is unfortunate that vaccinations have to force animal "lovers" to take their pets in for prophylactic examinations, a reassurance of good health, and a pat on the head, and possibly a timely early intervention into a brewing problem. Still, veterinarians get the criticism for being greedy.

Believe me, there isn't a veterinarian on Earth who wouldn't rather express a normal anal gland then suture up a blown one, or palpate a normal dog from head to toe than bandage up a "road pizza," regardless of the extra money. We're in this business because we love healthy animals, not broken pieces and parts.

So the next time you're standing at the finish line holding your trophy and telling the news media and the animal rights industry propagandists that sled dogs get better medical care than human olympic athletes, will you really mean what you say? Will you really put your money where your mouth is?

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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/24/2004 :  12:51:16 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Dispelling another myth - #3. There is a new, modern vaccination protocol requiring vaccinations every three years and all the veterinary schools have changed to it and greedy veterinarians are behind the times.

In fact, the 27 veterinary schools in North America are in various stages of examining current popular vaccination protocols and weighing them against accepted immunological theory, the diverse (and competing) vaccine manufacturers' recommendations, the recommendations of research experts, the legal and liability ramifications, public acceptance, and government regulations at local, state/provincial, national, and international levels.

Each of these veterinary institutions will be making their own decisions for their own teaching hospitals independantly because of a number of reasons, such as their local and state/provincial laws, liabilities which will vary, and the scientific as well as political perspectives of their resident faculty experts in immunology and disease prevention - sadly, some researchers in the field are mortal enemies (this is, after all, the real world we're living in.)

Over time, most practitioners will adopt either their alma mater's protocols, or those of the state/province in which they practice, or that of the practitioner(s) for whom they work, or what they individually believe to be the best direction.

This leads us to the other half of the myth: That there is one NEW protocol. False. What organizations like the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Feline Practitioners' Association have RECOMMENDED is a TWO-FOLD change in vaccination strategies. (Sadly, breeders and mushers have only heard the first-fold part of the recommendation.)

In a nutshell, the TWO-FOLD recommendation is that 1) Core vaccines (such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus) should be given on a three-year cycle while non-core vaccines (such as bordatella, lyme, leptospirosis, etc.) could be given more often, as needed, or not at all; and that 2) the actual vaccination protocol should be left up to the individual veterinary practitioner in consultation with the pet owner, taking into account the specific pet, its environment and husbandry, and risk of infection, played out against the practitioner's understanding of the disease, the vaccine, the local community, and the practitioner's years of experience and education.

This latter part of the AAHA recommendation is the part that is getting little, to no, attention and has been conveniently overlooked by the pet-owning public.

Sort of like telling a teenager, "You can go out to the party as soon as your homework is done." But, the teen (I fathered two) conveniently only hears the first part and heads out the door with the book bag unopened!! "You said I could go to the party! I distinctly heard you!" Selective hearing.

Yes, the weight of veterinary opinion is now leaning toward reducing the frequency of certain vaccines - for poodles in Manhattan highrises who never see another dog and for solitary house cats who never get outside -- in other words, for the vast majority of pets living in modern, urban, temperate North American yuppie-dom.

But, a kennel of 300 huskies eating road kill and then running a thousand miles in blizzards through isolated villages alongside dogs from other kennels from around the world didn't figure into the American Associaton of Feline Practitioner's paradigm as they sought to reduce the number of vaccine-associated skin sarcomas seen in cats -- which is what started the whole discussion in the first place!

You are going to see a slow metamorphosis of vaccine rules and regulations at the various sled dog races over the next few years. BUT, it will not happen because we all think it would be a cool idea. It will happen when those of us who are government-licensed to do so truly believe the health and welfare of the working sled dog -- easily the most phenomenal animal on Earth -- will be properly protected.

In short, what the recommendations are telling us is that every veterinary college and every veterinary private practitioner and every sled dog race rules committee should carefully weigh the evidence and make a rational decision based on that evidence for the specific animal and environment.

This won't (and damned-well had better not) happen this week or next.

While changes are certainly afoot, they should evolve along a justifiable medical science timetable, and not a consumer-driven one.

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hnewman

USA
546 Posts

Posted - 10/24/2004 :  3:54:59 PM  Show Profile  Visit hnewman's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Dr.Vanek
So how does one decide on vaccinations for a dog that has an autoimmune disease? Do you just stop vaccines totally and pray, do titers and if a vaccine is needed again you pray and how do you deal with rabies vaccination which is required and where I live rabies is prevalent in our skunk population. We had three dealins with rabid skunks this summer and we know they were rabid because we killed them and sent the heads to be tested.

Your thoughts for a sled dog that does have an autoimmune disease concerning vaccinations but even the stress of working in harness.

thanks

Helen

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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2004 :  09:54:07 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Helen,

You're jumping way ahead. I haven't even finished dispelling the myths, yet! Don't you just hate overachievers?

I'll only partially put you off. First, what do you mean by "autoimmune disease?" Rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune neuropathy or encephalitis, thyroiditis or nephritis, pemphigus, systemic lupus erythematosis, thrombocytopenia, myasthenia gravis, hemolytic anemia, what? There are lots. Even Type I diabetes is now thought to be a type of autoimmune disease. What did your veterinarian diagnose exactly?

Second, to what extent did your veterinarian link the disease to a particular vaccination?

Third, what level of steroid therapy is your dog on?

Fourth, (remember the last myth discussion) what was your diagnosing veterinarian's suggested vaccination protocol for your geographic area?

Unfortunately, laws regarding rabies vaccinations don't make exceptions for dogs with immune system diseases. By law, you probably have to vaccinate your dog for rabies.

Fortunately, rabies vaccines are killed vaccines in North America and they are not as likely to promote an autoimmune response as a modified live vaccine might. Of course, protection from the rabies vaccine will be affected by the steroid levels your dog may be on.

Fortunaely for me, autoimmune diseases are not my area of expertise, so I get to refer you on to someone who wears thicker glasses and charges more money.

No doubt, Dr. Lee, who participates on SDC, may have more experience here from her residency days. She is certainly deeper in debt. Or, one of her drinking buddies at the university may be a famous auto-immunologistocrat. Otherwise, virtually every one of the 27 North American veterinary colleges has someone on staff who could consult with you and your local veterinarian once they know the unique specifics of your case.

Here's where the internet can work for you. Good luck in your search and don't forget to report back and educate all of us.

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Koosa

USA
108 Posts

Posted - 10/26/2004 :  11:58:27 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Dr. Vanek,

Thank you for your incredible contribution! I remember in a different section of this forum you made a comment regarding the potential for adverse reaction to the medium used to carry the vaccine. (Probably not your exact language, but something to that effect.) My veterinarian is fine with me giving my own vaccinations (all except rabies - he sees the dogs for rabies, heartworm, and other stuff), so that is what I do. I have had two instances (different dogs) of reaction to vaccinations (different vaccine) over the years - both the swollen head thing that went down after a day or so. When I switched to another brand, I did not get the reaction. Is the medium suspect? My own veterinarian's comment was along the lines of "we see that sometimes". Your thoughts?

Mike S.

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hnewman

USA
546 Posts

Posted - 10/27/2004 :  9:06:51 PM  Show Profile  Visit hnewman's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Dr. Vanek
It is sebaceous adenitis and was diagnosed by punch skin biopsies.
the dog is not on any steriods at all for the condition and cyclosporine sometimes helps if in the early stages of the disease but there are risks with cyclo use for the rest of the dog's life.
The vaccinations did NOT cause the problem the dog has, it was passed on to this dog via sire and dam.
since the dog was recently diagnosed no discussion has transpired concerning future vaccinations for the dog--he is current on everything even his rabies. But it is highly recommend by Dr. Hargis and others that study SA not to vaccinate dogs with it or do anything to compromise their immune system than needed.
so I was just curious about someone that deals with sled dogs (and this dog is a sled dog--3 years young), and is a vet. your opinion.

The internet is nice but not all you find is true and one must be able to sort through all the stuff out there. And I have been sorting through info.

Helen

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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 10/28/2004 :  2:51:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Greetings Helen,

Just when I thought it was safe to set aside time to write, my schedule goes back down the toilet. But, I'll get back on track soon.

Meanwhile, what I meant about using the internet was for looking up veterinary colleges and getting the addresses of faculty with expertise in autoimmuine diseases. You can usually trust a phone number. However, I agree with you that the internet is not necessarily the best place for good medical information, unless you absolutly trust the source. I have no idea why you trust me.

Anyway, if you've already been advised not to vaccinate for the health of the dog by an expert in the autoimmune disease field, then I will humbly defer.

However, as a race official, I will say this: There are two main concerns with unvaccinated dogs at races -- what they get and what they give.

If you can't vaccinate your autoimmune dog based on doctors orders, then you have to address both the getting and the giving.

Serology is one option, but I'll write later that there are many pitfals with testing titres (unless you're the manufacturer of the tests!) Still, they're better than nothing. So, if you are comfortable that your dog is not susceptible to the major communicable diseases potentially available at a race site because of your dog's vaccination history prior to the autoimmune diagnosis and perhaps due to strong serological evidence of high titres against the disease, AND you are confident that your competitors have honestly vaccinated enough of their critters to achieve the critical mass necessary for minimun exposure risk, then your main concern is convincing the race officials that you are comfortable having your dog at the race.

If you brought documentation to me from your veterinarian stating why your dog can't be vaccinated and that in their opinion the dog is not at exceptional risk of contracting something because of their vaccination history, husbandry, and titres, etc., I would have no problem waiving the vaccination regulations (for everything except rabies).

That leaves the giving part. Your competitors will want to be assured that, as we can't ever guarantee 100% protection in all animals all the time (a later letter), your unvaccinated dog isn't bringing something into the race arena and putting other animals at risk.

Here again, a statement from your veterinarian attesting that your dog has not been exposed to other infectious diseases, in conjunction with the pre-race physical examination, would suffice with me.

Rabies is a different story for legal reasons, in addition to which it is a completely fatal disease of humans. However, as I mentioned before, killed vaccines are not as likely to aggrevate an autoimmune disease as a modified live, and rabies in North America is a killed vaccine. You should continue to vaccinate every three years for rabies. We still have to put human life first.

Mike, besides the cell cultures in which the vaccines are grown which can cause reactions, there is the issue of adjuvants causing reactions, too. Adjuvants are used in killed vaccines. Either way, each company manufactures their products with their own cell lines. Thus, it's not so much that one company is "bad" as that one type of manufacturing process may be "bad" for your dog or bloodline. If one restaurant uses peanuts in their gravy and the other one doesn't and you're allergic to peanuts, it doesn't mean that the one restaurant is evil and should be banned. It just means you have to change restaurants. (Which is good because I practically live on peanut butter!)

The newer, recombinant vaccines will be a better alternative. They apparently don't have as much risk as either the live cell cultures nor the adjuvenated killed. However, "less" does not equal "none." In addition, these newer recombinant vaccines are not common, yet, and therefore more expensive, and certainly not available for all types of disease organims. That will come with time.

I'm getting ahead of myself again, because the questions are jumping ahead. Oh well. Hope that helps.

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Ladysibes

Canada
468 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2004 :  08:41:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you Dr Vanek for all your very valuable input...

I just want to ask a quick question - I am actually currently searching for a vet that is willing to work out a deal with us - a working kennel of 65 sibes.. so I have sent out letters outlining who we are, our care routines and asking for suggestions and quotes for pricing on a group basis, for shots and a few spay/neuters. Of the 20 vets contacted (they are as far as 4 hours drive from us) I have had two vets ask me why I even want rabies boosters done - in their words - .."if they have had one or two boosters in their lives then they are good for life" and two others ask me why I feel the need to do Rabies shots at all..
So color me slightly confused.... I have all my older guys on the three year booster and the entire kennel - as luck will have it is due this year for shots. I have been doing my regular shots on a three year booster program as well... far fewer health issues that way - at least for us...
we have not run races since 1999 but did a lot of movie work - where they all had to be immunized because we were all over the place. Since then we haev been doing tours and we are limited in our exposure to othe animals or uncontrolled exposure to wildlife. This year we will be returning to the local racing circuit..and I just want to be sure ..
thanks



Laurie Niedermayer
Nakitsilik Outdoors Adventures &
Nakitsilik Siberians, reg'd www.nakitsilik.com
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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2004 :  1:19:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I apologize for not keeping up my pace. But, the house is almost built!

This answer ties in to my response to the vaccination reaction for rabies question, as well.

However, I will never get done with this series of articles if you keep interrupting! :) So, some of this you'll hear again. And again.

First, any veterinarian who claims that a dog NEVER needs a rabies vaccination at all is an IDIOT and a quack and I'll tell the bozo straight to his face. You need to report these quacks to both your state board of animal health and your state board of human health ASAP. Their licenses ought to be jerked and their veterinary oaths ripped from their exam room walls. And you can tell them I said so.

The data are so overwhelming and so conclusive demonstrating what pet vaccinations have done to dramatically decrease both human and animal rabies cases over the last half century that we should not even be having this discussion.

It is rapidly fatal in humans. There is no cure. If God gives you a choice between rabies and AIDS, take AIDS, every time.

In addition to the obvious immorality of their advice, there is also the potential illegality of their remarks. Regardless of what any veterinarian thinks personally, the pet owner has the ultimate responsibility to determine what regulations he or she lives under. If the legal beagles in your country/state/province/county/bourough/city/town require vaccinations every three years or every three hours, then you've got to obey.

In addition, if the movie producer, sled dog race administration/ country/state/province/county/burough/city/town to which you are headed has requirements more stringent than yours, you alone are responsible to find out ahead of the time what you're getting yourself into. The responsibility is yours alone, regardless of what your veterinarian thinks. (Yes, you and your veterinarian can decide together what interval protocol you want for Lyme or Distemper or Parvo, but NOT for rabies!!)

If the law says "up to date" then your veterinarian's certificate rules the day. But, if the law states "two years," then two years it is.

Now, "re-vaccination" or boostering is a slightly different story. A killed first vaccination (after the puppy vaccination, which, because of maternal antibody interference, can't be counted), in other words the first booster, will give approximately 86% of vaccinated dogs protection for at least three years. A second booster will protect approximately 95% of a population of immunized dogs.

In addition, that second booster, and possibly the first, will give most of the dogs immunity for life.

However, that has not been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. The government only requires challenge studies out to three years in laboratory settings. Not longer. However, a smattering of other studies suggest that rabies immunity will be much longer, possibly for life.

Of course, what is life? The average Great Dane and Golden is dead by 8. But, there are sled dogs running until 12 or 13. I WON a 7-dog sprint race with a 12-year-old. Many mushers reading this can top that, for sure. And don't forget Nugget, etc....

So, some of your veterinarians are correct in saying that your dogs don't need boosters every three years forever. Probably only two boosters after the initial puppy shot. HOWEVER, you need to go back to my second point about the laws where you live and where you race. Lawyers aren't biologists.

If you don't vaccinate but a couple of times you can feel reasonably protected from infection, but your animal control officer may have a different point of view and the Chief of Police to back him up.

It's your responsibility to find out where you stand. Then tell your veterinarian, "This is what I need."

WARNING. Don't be surprised if your city or county clerk or government hotline operator greets you with a blank stare - you could be the first person to ask since your law was written back in 1947!

When I authored the model rabies ordinance for the State of Minnesota back in 1994 it was in response to my learning that the city of Bloomington (55,000 people) required every dog to be vaccinated for rabies every two years with a modified live vaccine. (The MLV product went out of manufacture in 1989 and the last was off the shelves by 1992 -- in other words, every single dog in the third largest city in Minnesota was illegally vaccinated! Sometimes justice truly is blind.)

As far as your giving rides and tours, go ahead and tell your liability insurance company that you're letting powerful lawyers' little children play with your marginally-vaccinated wolf-dogs in the wilderness, but don't mention my name!!

One of the reasons the killed rabies vaccines seem to work so well is the heavy antigen load coupled with the significant adjuvant load. I address this in my answer to the rabies reaction question in the other part of this forum.

Good luck in your hunt for the right vitnery.



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Rob_Valli

USA
538 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2004 :  08:54:19 AM  Show Profile  Visit Rob_Valli's Homepage  Reply with Quote
can you over-vaccinate? Besides wasting money, can it hurt the dog? Some races, like that one in Russia, required vaccinations before running.... it seems like some race or another wants vaccines anywhere from within 30 days to 1 yr, end of story, or you cant travel/race. What happens if every dog get rabies/5ways every year?

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Jen

USA
319 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2004 :  10:17:31 AM  Show Profile  Visit Jen's Homepage  Reply with Quote
For those with dogs whose vets think they shouldn't be vaccinated due to health issues, check with your local gov't. Some places will accept a note from your vet saying the dog shouldn't be vaccinated as it may aggravate the dog's condition. I got one of these for my male. I don't race but we do weight pull and vaccinations are required as directed by our veterinarian. He has an undiagnosed possibly neurological condition on top of secondary hypothyroidism. Our problems started after the last rabies vaccine--may be cooincidence, it probably was just the straw that broke the camel's back, but worth keeping in mind for our vet. The vet doesn't feel that weight pulling is going to aggravate whatever condition he may have as the symptoms only occur in the off-season when at rest at home.

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Opossum

210 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2004 :  3:19:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
can you over-vaccinate?

Sure you can, and this question opens a can of worms. Holistic veterinarians have insisted for years that over-vaccination can cause chronic disease.
I will let the expert elaborate, if he will.

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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 11/15/2004 :  4:03:32 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Vaccinations Myth #4 – “Vaccinations used to be ‘good’ for one year. Now they’re ‘good’ for three years.”

False. With the exception of rabies (more later) we don’t know for sure how long vaccinations are “good for.” These durations were basically picked out of a hat.

By law, a vaccine gets approved for one year if it provides a certain percentage of protection (such as 87%) when the vaccinated animals are challenged with the disease two weeks after their final shots (two weeks being about the time of peak antibody response and why the top sled dog races require at least a two-week interval between the vaccination and race start – vaccinating the day before the race is stupid). In other words, one year is the "default" setting.

If a company wants to put a longer duration on the label (such as three years) they have to challenge the vaccinates after three years and demonstrate high levels of protection.

It is very expensive to keep laboratory dogs alive and confined and disease-free for three or more years in numbers large enough to provide good statistical power. Furthermore, as most vaccine companies, some veterinarians, and a few owners prefer that vaccines be given every year, it did not appear cost-effective.

There’s another reason, logical and not cynical. As late as the 1970s, I remember one study citing that half of all dogs in America never saw their first birthday (run away, poisoned, shot, hit-by-car, shelter euthanasia, etc.). Therefore, what was the point of developing a long-duration vaccine for dead dogs?

Now, however, on the heels of a small percentage of cats developing skin cancer from shots and some dogs showing immune system abnormalities, the tide is changing. Dogs live longer, now, due to changes in owner attitudes, leash laws, better nutrition, peer pressure, etc., AND vaccinations!! In addition, the marketing focus is changing in the veterinary profession following on the heels of dentists who evolved from filling cavities and pulling rotting teeth to “preventive prophylaxis” and cleanings and check-ups.

Today we are becoming more willing to pay not to get a disease than we are willing to pay to get rid of it. That is a welcome paradigm shift. And pet medicine is following human medicine.

So, as some researchers started to look at longevity of immunity in dogs and cats they found that most healthy dogs are immune longer than one year for some of the major diseases, like parvovirus and distemper.

Unfortunately, every dog is an individual and there is no set biological duration for any vaccination. We know that one year is often too brief and that some durations may be life-long. However, five years is probably still longer than the average dog’s life span (I’m not talking about prized lead dogs here, just average pets -- ask your local shelter.) So for mostly political reasons three years was settled upon. It’s a nice, friendly number. But, there is nothing scientific about it. We could have picked 4 years, 12 days, and 27 seconds. Or maybe 26,298 hours. Or....

Here, I must digress. When it comes to time, we know that the Earth revolves around the sun quite regularly, with a slight wobble. We also know that the Earth rotates on its axis 365.25 times for every revolution around the sun. We know that the moon cycles once about every 29 times that the Earth rotates, and we know that the tilt of the Earth on its axis affects the amount of sun hitting the Earth’s surface depending on where the Earth is in its solar revolution in a regular fashion.

Other than that, we make up everything. There is nothing hard and fast about when January first is located relative to anything. There is no physical reason for 12 months or 7 days or 52 weeks. There are actually 13 “moonths.” Dividing them into quarters is arbitrary. Dividing a “moonth’s” four quarters into four sets of 7 days is just as arbitrary. Naming those seven days after the seven heavenly bodies the ancients could see without a telescope, like Sun day and Moon day and Saturn day or changing the Roman gods’ names to Norse names like Mercury (Mercredi in French) to Woden’s day and Venus (Vendredi in French) to Frig’s day was just as arbitrary. In addition, when the Sumerians decided that a circle should have 360 degrees, each made up of 60 minutes and 60 seconds because they had settled upon a sexigesimal system based on the number 60, which lead to 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 24 hours in an Earth day, they did so basically because they felt like it. Sixty can be divided by many other numbers, so it was special to them, as was the number 12.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that today’s lawyers and politicians, descendants of western civilizations, also would pick times and numbers out of a hat. Why is a car limited in its speed to 75 miles per hour in Minnesota and 65 MPH in Iowa when, at the border crossing, it is completely impossible to tell which state one is in? What laws of physics change when one crosses an imaginary line in a wheat field? And why is a person legally intoxicated at one percentage of ethanol in one state but at a different percentage in a bordering state? How is the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme and its effects altered by passing from one political district into another?

Why is it illegal to own more than two dogs in one city? Or three? Or five in another? What different laws of nature and nature’s God are we obeying?

Short of anarchy, we must have social laws to guide our interactions and interdependence in order to secure our mutual welfare. But, make no mistake. Most numbers used by lawyers and politicians are made up out of convenience. Nice, round numbers. Small numbers, that they can handle.

Social laws are not based on scientific data. They are based on only those scientific data convenient to support the popular thesis. “Statistics never lie, but liars use statistics.”

Vaccination intervals are no exception. For a society to function with all of its members cooperating at least somewhat for the individual’s and group’s benefit, we need numbers upon which to hang our hats. Nice, round, simple numbers. And woe to thee that transgresses. Even by an hour – even though the duration of an hour is arbitrary.

One thing is for sure: No virus particle is lying around watching for the first full moon after the autumnal equinox and then saying, “Okay, I quit, time’s up.” My t-lymphocytes do not have a contractual agreement with my worker’s imm-union to battle disease exactly three years to the day and then strike!

The great trick for any sane scientist is to live in both worlds simultaneously. To think in French and English, metric and British units, scientific reality and political fiat, at the same time. And then to try to explain the nuances and exceptions to a befuddled public.

Why must you vaccinate your dog every (fill in the blank)? Because we say so, that’s why.


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Dr. Jerry Vanek

149 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2004 :  6:23:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I apologize, but I'm going to break my own rule about jumping ahead. Then again, maybe it will work well to plant some seeds of intrigue. (I will summarize the preceeding myths tomorrow and then start on the history of vaccinations.)

Meanwhile, if you don't already know, there is a distemper outbreak ocurring in Chicago and the outlying areas. What is interesting is that distemper, while still seen now and then, has been kept under control due to vaccinations (albeit too many, perhaps). But, the plot is thickening. A number of the infected dogs had a history of being vaccinated!!

Distemper is a moribillivirus similar to human measles, rinderpest in African livestock, and the marine distempers suffered by dolphins, seals, and other mammals. In the wilds of North America, distemper is maintained in wild mammal reservoirs, primarily raccoons.

Like all viruses, distemper can mutate strains. Therefore, is the distemper outbreak due to a new mutation from raccoon to vaccinated dog? Or, are the vaccines not as protective as we think or for as long as we think?

Just when we thought it was safe to cut back on our vaccinations, those pesky viruses pull a fast one. The outbreak is new over this past fall and the medical jury is still out. Stay tuned. By the time I get around to discussing distemper vaccinations I may be saying something entirely different from what I would have written a few weeks ago.

Microorganisms don't read text books. And to a man of science, loving an ordered universe, that really sucks.

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