A growing controversial issue for dog owners concerns vaccination. People are questioning the frequency of vaccination, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and even whether to vaccinate at all.
There should be absolutely no debate over the health benefits that million of dogs have derived from the widespread availably of vaccines. Vaccines have played a significant role in enabling animals to live longer, healthier lives. Do not forget the rampant parvovirus outbreaks of the early 1980s and before that distemper and hepatitis. Undeniably vaccines have made possible the control of these deadly infections.
Canine Distemper and Infectious Hepatitis are far less prevalent today because of vaccines. Together with Canine Parvovirus they are all highly contagious, virulent diseases. Distemper is incurable, with over 50% of dogs and 80% of infected puppies dying. Many survivors have permanent damage and suffer seizures or paralysis. Infectious Canine Hepatitis is also highly contagious and dogs of any age are susceptible. Mortality is around 10%. Canine Parvovirus caused a widespread epidemic in the 1980s that resulted in thousands of deaths.
But vaccination is not always benign. It s a potent medical procedure associated with both benefits and risks for the patient.
Allergic reactions caused by vaccines may be local reactions or a generalised hypersensitivity reaction. Common signs of local reactions are swelling and itching. Signs of a generalised reaction include restlessness, vomiting, diarrhoea, laboured breathing and collapse. Other effects may include pain, soreness, stiffness and lethargy. Seizures or changes in behaviour have been reported in a small percentage of dogs following vaccination. Most vaccine associated reactions are immune related.
Holistic practitioners believe that by injecting vaccines we are presenting foreign material in an unnatural manner. They believe vaccines result in autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are caused by abnormal immune system responses. An example is autoimmune haemolytic anemia where the body's own red blood cells are destroyed.
The body's exposure to vaccine differs from the usual exposure to disease.
Vaccines are given in combination; disease exposures do not commonly occur in multiples.
The American Veterinary Medical Association in September 2001 reported that the risks to animal health from non-vaccination are significant.
Vaccines are given several times over a short period of time; disease exposures are not usually so concentrated.
Vaccines are injected into the body, bypassing the body's natural defences; normally disease organisms must overcome these defences before they can cause disease.
Modified live virus vaccines can shed in the environment and mutate.
Vaccines are administered to puppies at an age when their immune systems are not fully developed.
A major concern is the level of immunity within a population. An important component of preventing high rates of disease is the building of sufficient immunity in a population. Once a certain proportion of a population is immune to a disease, the natural spread is interrupted and the disease declines.
(Continued on next page)