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A Hidden Vaccine Side Effect That Many Pet Owners (and Vets) Never Suspect

sick dog lying down

Any discussion of a diagnosed autoimmune disease in a pet should include information about vaccinations.

Recently I ran across a sad, maddening news article discussing an increase in autoimmune disorder diagnoses by veterinarians. According to the article:

Similar to humans, autoimmune disorders in dogs can happen suddenly. But what’s different is the condition is just recently being heavily researched in dogs because they’re dying from it.1

The article discusses a seven-year-old dog named Toby who stopped eating regularly, was losing weight and became lethargic to the point of immobility.

Toby’s veterinarian immediately suspected an autoimmune disorder—a disease in which the immune system, designed to protect the body, begins attacking it instead. I’m not sure why the dog’s vet suspected an autoimmune problem right off the bat, since Toby’s symptoms can have many different causes.

Had he recently vaccinated Toby? And how many vaccinations had the dog received in his seven years?

Toby’s health was quickly declining. His veterinarian did a complete blood workup and ultrasound to check for cancer, enlarged organs and other abnormalities. Autoimmune disorders are diagnoses of exclusion, meaning all other possible underlying causes are ruled out first.

And tragically, once the diagnosis is finally made, traditional veterinary medicine has little to offer because from their perspective, “there is no known cause.” Whereas holistic veterinarians have linked vaccines to autoimmune disorders for decades, the conventional veterinary community just can’t seem to get there.

As for poor Toby and other pets like him, according to veterinarian Scott Campbell, who was interviewed for the article:

You have about a seven out of 10 chance that your pet is going to get better, but the reality is that this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Sometimes multiple blood transfusions are needed, which can be costly.2

The article wraps up by stating that Toby is “pulling through,” though his treatment is far from over. His owner seems resigned to the fact she may never know what caused his illness.

And then there’s this. Veterinarians the news writer spoke with “said testing is getting better and said it’s a learning process where they get more information with every case.” Too bad the learning process apparently doesn’t involve erring on the side of caution and foregoing unnecessary vaccine boosters.

Pets With Autoimmune Disease Are Suspicious for Over-Vaccination

Since this was just a short online news article and video put together by a local television station, I really didn’t expect an in-depth analysis of the rise of autoimmune diseases in pets. However, a glaring omission in the coverage is any mention of Toby’s vaccine status.

Any discussion of a diagnosed autoimmune disease in a pet should include information about vaccinations. We need to know how often the dog has been vaccinated, for what and how recently he received a vaccine(s).

Toby’s owner seems unaware of the connection between vaccines and autoimmune diseases in pets, which suggests her veterinarian hasn’t raised the issue with her, which leads me to believe that if Toby survives, there’s a good chance he’ll be vaccinated again in the future.

That’s not good news for Toby or any animal dealing with an autoimmune disorder.

Researchers Have Long Suspected a Link Between Vaccinations and Autoimmune Disease

Back in 1999, a team of researchers in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Purdue University conducted a series of experimental studies to determine if vaccination of dogs affects the function of their immune system and results in autoimmune disease. In the study introduction, the authors wrote:

There has been a growing concern among dog owners and veterinarians that the high frequency with which dogs are being vaccinated may lead to autoimmune and other immune-mediated disorders (Dodds, 1988; Smith, 1995).
The evidence for this is largely anecdotal and based on case reports. A recent study observed a statistically significant temporal relationship between vaccination and subsequent development of immuno-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) in dogs (Doval and Ciger, 1996).
Although this does not necessarily indicate a causal relationship, it is the strongest evidence to date for vaccine-induced autoimmune disease in the dog.3

The Purdue researchers set out to evaluate whether vaccination at a young age causes alterations in the immune system of dogs, including the production of autoantibodies that could lead to autoimmune disease.

Whereas antibodies are produced by the immune system to defend the body by attacking invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, autoantibodies are produced by a confused immune system and attack the body itself.

Study Revealed Significant Immune System Abnormalities in Vaccinated Dogs

The study followed a group of vaccinated and a group of unvaccinated dogs for 14 weeks after the first vaccination.

The researchers discovered that the group of vaccinated dogs (but not the unvaccinated group) developed autoantibodies to several crucial, naturally-occurring biochemicals in their own bodies, including albumin, cardiolipin, collagen, cytochrome C, DNA, fibronectin and laminin.

None of the vaccinated dogs developed an autoimmune disease during the 14 weeks of experimental studies; however, they were still under 6 months of age when the study concluded. This is long before autoimmune diseases develop clinical symptoms.

The researchers concluded, “It is likely that genetic and environmental factors will trigger the onset of clinical autoimmune disease in a small percentage of the animals that develop autoantibodies.”4 You can read the full study here.

Fact: Too Many Dogs Are Receiving Too Many Vaccinations

A revved-up (overly-stimulated) immune system, which is both the goal and result of vaccines, can set the stage for disorders in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own organs for foreign invaders, and attacks them. Autoimmune diseases can affect a wide variety of tissues in the body, including blood, joints and muscles, nervous system, thyroid, adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, bowel, reproductive organs, eyes, skin and mucous membranes.

While a safe, individualized vaccination program is important for every pet, research shows that dogs and cats absolutely do not require annual re-vaccinations to keep them protected from disease.

However, even though feline and canine vaccination guidelines have been modified in recent years, too many veterinarians still recommend annual (or even more frequent) re-vaccinations, and too many pet parents comply. According to Dr. Jean Dodds, world-renowned pet healthcare and vaccine expert:

 … [T]he truth is that once your dog has completed his puppy series (or kitten series for cats) for the core vaccines, there is a good chance his body will maintain immunity to these diseases for life.

Yet, many well-intentioned people continue to follow the advice of some veterinarians and give their adult dogs and cats annual (or even semi-annual) vaccine boosters. This can result in over-vaccination and a variety of potentially damaging—and in some cases, even life-threatening—adverse reactions (referred to as ‘vaccinosis’).5

Dodds covers the two most common types of vaccines, modified live-virus (MLV) vaccines and killed vaccines, here, where she also lists the dog breeds at highest risk for vaccine-related diseases.

The Canine Vaccination Protocol I Recommend

Veterinary vaccine expert Dr. Ronald Schultz suggests the ideal scenario is to titer pregnant females to determine the exact time maternal antibody levels will fall in their pups and vaccines will be effective to immunize the litter.

This is optimal, because we can completely avoid giving ineffective vaccines, which occurs when puppies still have high levels of maternal antibodies that prevent vaccines from stimulating antibody production. This is a common issue when puppies are vaccinated between five and eight weeks of age.

In many cases, one well-timed vaccine can stimulate adequate protection, but knowing when to give the inoculation is critical. However, for many people who rescue puppies this won’t be possible, so we must guess when maternal antibodies are gone and give two or three inoculations to stimulate antibody production. During this “window of opportunity” for infectious diseases, the puppy’s immune system is vulnerable.

I recommend giving one parvo and distemper vaccine between nine and 12 weeks of age and a second parvo and distemper four weeks later when the puppy is between 13 and 16 weeks old. There are some breeds (e.g., Rottweilers and pit bulls) that may benefit from an additional parvo booster at 18 weeks of age, a recommendation Dodds suggests.

Alternatively, some holistic veterinarians like me are pushing the second booster back to 16 to 18 weeks of age instead of giving a third parvo vaccine. Any physical changes that occur after any vaccine should be immediately addressed. I use homeopathy to counteract any potential vaccine reactions, but there are other methods of detoxification that other practitioners use.

Schultz suggests titering for parvo and distemper from two to four weeks after the last puppy shot to assure the immune system responded adequately. Most holistic vets (including me) prefer to wait and give a rabies vaccine at six months of age.

If the puppy wasn’t titered two to four weeks after her last puppy shot, then titering at one year is advisable, and every three years thereafter. Dodds suggests boosting certain breeds again at 1 year of age, but I would only advise this if a dog’s titer at one year is negligible.

As for the non-core vaccines, for example, canine flu vaccines, bordetella, Lyme and leptospirosis, I don’t recommend any of them. Several non-core vaccines are only available in combination with other vaccines, some of which are core. I recommend you check with your veterinarian to insure no non-core vaccines are being piggy-backed on the core vaccines your dog receives.

Most traditional veterinarians don’t carry single vaccines (just parvo) or even minimally coupled vaccines (distemper and parvo together), so ask to see the vaccine vial before assuming your pet is only receiving one or two agents at a time. Under no circumstances should a dog with an existing disease or illness, especially an autoimmune disorder, be vaccinated for anything.


Note: This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published at www.mercola.com.

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8 Responses to A Hidden Vaccine Side Effect That Many Pet Owners (and Vets) Never Suspect

  1. S. D. Granger Reply

    May 25, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Check out http://www.protectthepets.com. It’s a movement to change rabies laws to 1) dose according to weight, and 2) accept titers for immunity. We cannot let the pharmas and vets to harm and kill out furbabies to fill their coffers. Stand up to them and just say no.

  2. Laurie Cleveland Reply

    May 6, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Hi! I have a black GSD. I took her to a vet in Belfast, ME when I was living up there to get a heartworm test and rabies vax. Against my wishes, they gave her a booster on every damned thing with the result that she literally lost half of her coat! Since then, she reacts to quite a few things, especially when she comes into heat. I would love to breed her, but this has me flumoxed. Any advice would be appreciated.

  3. me Reply

    April 24, 2017 at 11:10 am

    My dog also came down with auto immune hemolytic anemia. I have no idea if it was from her shots or flea and tic meds we put on her back or her food. She wouldn’t hold down her food, vomit became yellow, She became lethargic wouldn’t eat. We took her to the vet who gave the diagnosis through blood work. Our options were blood transfusion an hour away at a vet hospital with a 50% chance if success for $5,000 or our vet would hold her over night and give her an IV for fluid and prednisone. We opted for the overnight at the vet. When I picked her up she was miserable, and sick. We brought her home, kept her on the prednisone, gave her water through a needless syringe and just waited for her to change for the worse or get better. It took about 4 days for her to start to come back from her illness. She almost died! It has been a couple of years now and she is better than before the incident. She no longer takes the prednisone even though the doctor said she would take it for life. She eats grain free foods and is healthy! No more vaccines or flea and tick meds even if that wasn’t the cause.

  4. Sandy Reply

    April 24, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Freda…what is the natural heartworm and flea protection that you use ?
    I would love to know…
    Also people… Talk to your vet discuss your concerns and refuse to get so many vaccines…I talked to my vet, he said that although they recommend it every year that they were effective for at least three… And we all know why their recommended every year cause it’s more money… Which is really what the medical industry is all about and I know because I work in it… It’s sad that it’s come to that but hey it’s just a business like everything else unfortunately.

  5. Achsel Reply

    April 24, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Yet we continue this unjustifiable schedule for pets and our children too!

  6. Freda Reply

    April 23, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    I had a Rottweiler that was perfectly healthy, and at 9 yrs of age suddenly came down with Hemolytic Anemia. He got annual vaccines (and a month earlier had his shots), flea topicals, and heartworm prevention. It came from out of the blue. He died 4 days after the diagnosis. I am an ICU RN and researched this. I read about over vaccination, flea topical, and heartworm prevention–all bad for the immune system. I read about Jean Dodd and her recommendations. I read holistic vet recommendations. I give the puppy vaccines that are recommended, and only get the rabies (required by law) every 3 yrs. I use a natural type of heartworm prevention. For fleas, they never get them. If they did lavendar oil or gardenia oil in water is recommended before going outside (prevents fleas and mosquitos!). My 2 Rotties are both 9 and very healthy (thank God).

    • George Reply

      April 24, 2017 at 7:14 am

      Freda find out if your state will allow a rabies titer in lieu of the shot. Get a titer instead and save your dog from horrific autoimmune disease and possible death. Your dog is immune for at least 7 years after his last shot. A titer above .5 is sufficient to be considered immune to the virus. You may need a note from your vet saying the dog is immune compromised and should not get the vaccine as well. Good luck.

  7. George Reply

    April 23, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    My 9 year old male Bichon Frise developed AIHA (hemolytic anemia) shortly after a rabies booster shot at 9 years of age. This is the most horrific autoimmune disease and requires blood transfusions and hospitalizations. Even then you’re lucky if your pet survives. It cost me over $12,000 in vet bills over a 5 year period. He was placed on cortisone but that stopped working so we went to Atopica (cyclosporine) which did control the disorder. He eventually died from congestive heart failure at age 16 so I was lucky but bottom line stay away from rabies vaccines and get a titer instead. Chances are your pet is immune if they’ve had even one rabies shot in their life. Vaccines contain adjuvents that overstimulate the immune system and cause it to attack itself.

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