For many pet owners, annual pet vaccinations are just part of owning a pet. It’s what we do. We get our pets vaccinated every year for the big pet illnesses that could make our pets sick -rabies, distemper, parvo, lymes, etc.
But in vet and animal health circles, there has been an ongoing debate about whether we really need to have these vaccinations on an annual basis. In fact, many have argued that we may even be over-vaccinating our pets.
Now, it appears that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) may agree. Their Vaccination Guidelines, issued in 2011, indicate that some vaccinations, while necessary, may be able to be re-upped every three years versus every year.
Under the AAHA Guidelines, revaccination (or vaccine boosters for distemper, parvo and adeno) is suggested no more frequently than every three years. (May 2, 2012, Chicago Tribune, Steve Dale)
Before you go out and speak with your vet, please note that the AAHA also says:
These Guidelines and recommendations should not be construed as dictating an exclusive protocol , course of treatment, or procedure. Variations in practice may be warranted based on the needs of the individual patient, resources, and limitations unique to each individual practice setting. The Guidelines are not intended to be an AAHA standard of care.
I encourage you to read more about the vaccine recommendations in Steve Dale’s report and in the Guidelines I have linked above.
A little late-night note: I want to make clear that this rant has very little to do with most honest and caring veterinarians, nor does it have anything to do with my own veterinarian, whom I adore. This is regarding one particular veterinarian clinic in Minnesota that sponsored a vaccination clinic and misrepresented the Rabies vaccine dosage both on their forms and in their reminder notice (see below). I apologize to any veterinarians this offended, but I would hope that you would recognize someone who is at the very least confusing people, and at the most, deceiving them.
You might think that a reminder notice would be a pretty innocuous thing to be mad about. But, it’s not the reminder notice itself that pisses me off. It’s the fact that it contains an outright lie that it is designed to misinform pet owners and will lead to many dogs to be over-vaccinated for no good reason (unless money is at play here?). Do you see the lie yet? I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the orange print. Not yet?
It’s the “2 Year Adult Rabies” description. It doesn’t exist. There is no 2 Year Rabies vaccine. It only comes in 1 Year and 3 Year doses (and most vets have gone to administering the 3 Year vaccine). This is why I am so mad. It’s a deception that most dog owners don’t even know about.
I wrote about this issue last year after viewing a local television news station’s investigation of veterinarians telling people to re-vaccinate their pets sooner than they needed to and for lying to pet owners about the 2 Year Rabies vaccine. I was so surprised to discover that the vet clinic that had held the vaccination clinic I attended had done the very same thing. Their form doesn’t list a 1 Year or 3 Year vaccination. They only mention options of 1 Year or 2 Year vaccinations, even though the 2 Year doesn’t exist. You can read my post in this and view the news report here.
Daisy and Jasper were vaccinated last year with a 3 Year Rabies vaccination, and yet, 1 year later the vet clinic wants to re-vaccinate my dogs – 2 years earlier than necessary! Of all the vaccines dogs get the Rabies vaccine is the one that is the hardest on dogs, but here is a vet clinic encouraging unsuspecting dog owners to re-up their vaccination 2 years early. Do you see anything wrong with that? I do.
More and more vets are learning that we are over-vaccinating our pets and that we may actually be causing more medical issues for them rather than less. Links are being made between the Rabies vaccine and canine auto-immune disorders and canine cancer (I included much of this information in my post from July). So there is reason for pet owners to be cautious (and for me to be mad when a vet clinic knowingly deceives the public).
I’ll be writing that vet clinic today to share my concerns with them, but I suspect they will not change their approach. So I warn all you dog owners out there to be informed. Because in the end, it’s your pet’s life that is at stake.
Recently, I watched a Fox 9 News investigation into how some veterinarians are telling people they need to get their pet re-vaccinated for rabies every two years. This might not sound strange until you realize that there are only two vaccinations available to vets – a one-year and a three-year. There is no two-year vaccine. So why the confusion? Why would vets recommend that people get their dogs vaccinated every two years instead of every three?
You can see the full report here: http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=10588
I know many veterinarians and have found all of them to be amazing people. They dedicate their lives to loving and caring for our pets. They are there with us in our last moments with our beloved pets. They feel our pain when it’s time to say goodbye, but they experience it on a daily basis. Dr Shawn Finch, DVM, is a great example of an amazing vet. She wrote about the tough part of being a vet over at Life With Dogs. Dr. Lorie Huston is another amazing vet. She spends her time educating folks on a whole variety of pet health issues on a daily basis at her blog The Pet Health Care Gazette. I would gladly lump my vet into the same category as these two amazing women. So, I don’t believe that vets are inherently trying to deceive us.That’s why I am so confused. Why would some vets choose to over-vaccinate a pet? Is it a drug company recommendation? Or, is it something else?
I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill, so I went searching for more information on the rabies vaccine. This interview conducted by Dr. Karen Becker with Dr. Ronald Schultz, Professor and Chair, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, is quite interesting. Dr. Schultz explains that there is a lot of confusion about how long the rabies vaccination lasts because no one has ever really done a study to find out how it lasts. Why? Because a study like that is expensive and takes a lot of time. But I also wanted to know what is the difference between the one-year and three-year vaccine? Here is Dr. Schultz’s response.
Well, most of them are the same. They’re the same product, it’s just that when the studies are done, they did a one-year study, and when the product worked, they had a one-year license. They had a group of dogs that they waited two more years for the three years to come up and that same product became a three-year product. Except there may be some that are a
bit different — some actually may have more adjuvant in them if they are a three-year product. There are some differences.
He also said:
Every one of the major veterinary manufacturers of vaccines has done a three-year minimum duration of immunity study with their core vaccines, and they have all demonstrated their products provide a minimum of three-year duration of immunity. That should say something to every veterinarian that’s out there. That’s wondering “Can I really go three years?” for every dog owner that’s out there. The answer is yes.
Here is the full interview:
So if the vaccine really is good for three years, is it just a lack of knowledge about the latest research? Is it a matter of being over-cautious?
Last year, I had Daisy and Jasper vaccinated at a vaccination clinic held at a local rescue organizations’ headquarters. I never bothered to look at the official paperwork until now. Guess what? The paperwork doesn’t even mention a three-year vaccine. It only has spots for a one-year and two-year vaccination. So what gives? What is this all about? Can anyone tell me why some vets are telling people to vaccinate their pets every two years when it’s not needed?
Update: Many thanks to Dr. Lorie Huston for taking on this topic in her blog post, How Often Does Your Pet Need to Vaccinated for Rabies? It answers a lot of my questions and maybe yours as well.