Are booster vaccinations necessary for our pets? Ask your veterinarian about current protocols on yearly vaccinations? You’ll be glad you did.
While I was training a puppy in my local community park in Los Angeles, I saw a puppy that had been seen running and playing there, for about a week. She was super friendly but seemed to belong to no one. There was just no way that I could let her stay another night alone, so you guessed it… I took her home.
This happened in the late 80’s and colored my world in many different ways that I feel her story needs to be told. Four days after I found her, I brought her to my veterinarian to be vaccinated and 8 days later she became very ill. I mean almost dead; ill. She stopped eating, could barely walk, seemed to be in a comatose state, when I brought her to my vet, her temperature was 106. Turns out, ‘Punkin’ as her name came to be, had distemper and got it from the vaccine. The vet said that she will most likely die and if she did survive, she would have brain damage and may not be able to walk normally again. I was heartbroken. She had stolen my heart and I couldn’t bare losing her. I thanked my vet and brought her home.
I isolated her in one of the stalls in my barn, away from my dogs. I made fresh meat gruel for her, had to lift her head to eat and drink and slept with her in the barn on a cozy bed of straw. I dozed on and off all night and when the sun peeped through the cracks in the stall door, that morning, I was met with her sweet eyes staring at me and her warm breath on my face. She was still alive, YAY! Made more gruel for her which she lapped up, still unable to lift her head or walk, but had a spark in her eyes that seemed to say; “Stay with me, I’ll be ok;” which, of course, I did. Her fever broke that night, though still unable to move or lift her head by herself. Once the fever broke, I felt I could leave her for short periods of time to take care of me and mine.
This went on for two solid weeks. I would call her name, on my way to the barn, singing “I’m a comin, lil Punkin” all the way to her. On day 14, as I opened the barn door, there she was; standing, very wobbly, looking at me, with her little face peeking through the stall door. With tears in my eyes, running to her, I fell to my knees, opened the stall door as she slowly crawled to my lap. We rejoiced in giggles, tears and whining like I’ve never heard coming from a puppy before.
What I learned from Punkin is that against all medical odds, dogs may heal better when they are home with you and loved. When dogs are really sick and stay at the vet clinic, in a cold gray cage, with blaring lights and unfamiliar sounds and people, some can lose their will to live. This pup was close to death and leaving her alone in a cage felt so wrong to me. If she was slated to die, then she would die with me next to her, loved up, until the end. Punkin made a full and complete recovery, was full of piss and vinegar and got along with every living creature and was smart as a whip.
I also learned from this experience, that dogs who are stressed and or sick when they are vaccinated, can get the disease that the vaccination was intended to prevent. Studies have shown this to be true and my experience with this pup surely made me a believer.
Since my experience with Punkin, vaccine protocols were coming into question in the veterinary world and today, all 27 vet schools have changed their protocols. Many but not all have adapted the new guidelines for booster vaccination to every 3 years instead of every year. Still this 3 year booster program doesn’t hold water either. Think about it; we don’t get revaccinated every year or every 3 years; why would we do that to our pets? The American Veterinary Medical Association states this:
“The AVMA concluded there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year. Revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity doesn’t add measurably to their disease resistance, and unnecessary revaccination may increase the risk of adverse postvaccination events in some animals. While annual vaccinations have been highly successful in curbing disease, the one-year revaccination frequency recommendation found on many vaccine labels is based on historical precedent, not scientific data.”
This statement speaks to the efficacy of vaccinations lasting much longer than the labels state. Please reread the last sentence of this quote above. This is their way of saying there is no scientific data that booster vaccination is necessary at all. To this day, I don’t automatically give my animals booster vaccinations. I consider where I’m living, the risks involved and have an in depth conversation with my veterinarian to decide which, if any, booster vaccinations my animals will get.
If you are getting yearly vaccination reminder cards from your veterinarian, please do your research and speak to your vet about the benefits and risks of booster vaccinations. Your pet may not need them and could cause more harm than good. We are their advocate and if we don’t ask questions, we may not be doing what’s best for them. Becoming aware can give you more time with our beloved pets.
About the author: Jill Breitner is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert. She is a certified Fear Free Professional as well as Certified in Animal Behavior and Welfare. She is the author of the Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language. Join Jill on her Facebook page.