The Vaccination Debate

Whether or not to vaccinate dogs and cats with standard vaccine has recently become a matter of debate among animal health care practitioners. Researchers and veterinarians are discovering short-term and long-term problems in animals injected with commonly used vaccines.When a live vaccine is injected into an animal or human, the organism grows in the tissues and produces a sort of mini-disease that stimulates the immune response. An antigen forms to protect the body against the real disease. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to be fully active.Vaccines, however, are far from 100 percent effective. Many vaccines used simultaneously can tie up the immune system. Other areas of the body can also react to the vaccines, resulting in side effects. Some of these side effects are immediately evident; others can take months or years to manifest.To maximize your pet's response to the vaccines, be sure the animal is old enough; that it is healthy, strong and well-fed; and that you're following the proper schedule of administration.Side effects can still occur in an animal whose immune system has been depressed because of previous disease, bad inheritance or drug therapy. On rare occasions the disease has still occurred even after a good vaccine response.It is Dr. Richard Pitcairn's opinion, in Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, that most animal skin allergies and similar skin diseases are the result of repeated annual vaccinations. He and other veterinarians suspect the widespread increase in diseases caused by immune system disorders is a result of increased use of vaccinations, especially of combination formulas. Recent research shows that one in every 500 injections results in malignant tumors.An alternative to live vaccines is the use of nosodes, homeopathic remedies which are made from natural disease products. Distemperinum, for example, is made from the secretions of a dog ill from canine distemper. It is sterilized, diluted and prepared in accredited pharmacies. Properly used, it can protect a dog from distemper as well as vaccine can. Nosodes are also available for kennel cough, parvovirus, feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis and other common pet diseases.To vaccinate or not? And, if so, for which diseases? Look at the unique circumstances of your pet. The risk of death and disease from not vaccinating outdoor cats, for example, can be much higher than the risk posed by vaccinations. Ask your vet about side effects, the prevalence of the disease in your area and the length of protection. Discuss your animal's lifestyle, such as whether it's ever in group situations such as kennels.Here's how to minimize the chance of vaccine problems:* Avoid unnecessary vaccines. Vaccinate only against the most devastating diseases such as distemper and parvovirus. For mild diseases, it may be preferable to allow the animal to experience the natural infection and produce stronger immunity. An example is bordatella (kennel cough) since most kennel cough in dogs is due to viruses.* Vaccinate for one disease at a time. Holistic veterinarian Dr. Kim Henneman recommends one distemper and one parvovirus shot for puppies given separately at eight to 10 weeks of age, with boosters in four to six weeks.* Don't vaccinate an animal too early. The earlier your animals begin vaccinations, the more harm may be done to the immune system. Also, the more vaccines received, the greater the chance for vaccine-induced illness. The last vaccination should be final at six to eight months.* Healthy puppies and kittens only should be vaccinated and there should be no outside exposure to other animals during that time. Resolve any health problems before vaccinating.* Vaccine labels clearly state they should be given only to healthy animals. However, definitions of " healthy" differ. In holistic medicine, healthy animals should be able to deal with anything in the environment without becoming ill.

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