I was aghast. A dozen years into veterinary practice, I’d just learned that an everyday, common veterinary procedure that I’d been told in vet school was benign, was not only not benign, it was causing illness in the name of preventing it!
Shortly thereafter, I also learned that the common way of using this procedure was useless: it did no good for the animals who received it.
Now my head was really reeling. I was doing this procedure somewhat regularly. In my conventional practice days, I did it a lot.
This eye opening, world shaking, revelatory information was coming not only to me, but to any of my veterinary colleagues who chose to read about it. In my case, it came in the context of rebooting my holistic vet career during my studies of veterinary homeopathy.
What I was hearing were two remarkable truths that had been entirely absent in my veterinary education to date:
I was taking the very first Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy in 1992-93 in Eugene, Oregon when this really sunk in. Here I was, surrounded by other holistic veterinarians, some at it much longer than I, and our instructor, Dr. Richard Pitcairn, was showing us case after case illustrating the harm that was coming from vaccination. More significantly, he was also showing us that sick animals usually didn’t get better without, at some point in their treatment, receiving a vaccinosis remedy.
Vaccinosis, it turns out, is a term coined by the brilliant British homeopath, J. Compton Burnett, M.D. When?
You can still enjoy his original treatise on the subject, called “Vaccinosis and its Cure by Thuja.” In it, Burnett takes you through his human cases of horrible suffering that simply would not yield to the treatments of his day, even those homeopathic treatments that seemed certain to work.
These folks didn’t get well until he considered vaccines in his patient’s history, and treated specifically to undo the illness that had begun from that procedure.
Seeking a term to apply to this wide group of illnesses that had begun after vaccination, he dubbed it vaccinosis.
First, Do No Harm!
Many of my holistic veterinarian colleagues who were on the same training had seen vaccine illness as well. Dr. Pitcairn’s examples just made it abundantly clear that vaccination was anything but a harmless procedure.
I vowed to stop at that point, and to only do infrequent rabies vaccines.
How could I knowingly make animals sick? Hadn’t I taken an oath to make them well?
Second, Do Nothing Useless!
As our groundbreaking veterinary homeopathy course was drawing to a close, a seminal chapter on vaccinations appeared in Current Veterinary Therapy, one of the most respected books in veterinary medicine. A copy of it was brought in by a colleague and we all read it and discussed it over meals together.
The authors were Dr. Ronald Schultz (University of Wisconsin), and Dr. Tom Phillips (Scrips Research Institute). They are veterinary immunologists. These words stood out from their chapter, and were shared with our clients whenever and where ever we got the chance:
“A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccination. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal…… Furthermore, revaccination with most viral vaccines fails to stimulate an anamnestic (secondary) response…. The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered of questionable efficacy…”
Now, my mind was firmly made up: I was not going to give my patients something that was neither good for them nor helpful to them! Damn!
Change? Not on My Watch!
Shortly after we graduated from what many of us felt was training that bested any we got in vet school, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association meeting was held in Minneapolis. Many of us attended, and the topic of greatest interest to us was vaccine illness, aka vaccinosis. We heard from Dr. Jean Dodds1 and Dr. Pitcairn about hypothyroidism and other chronic disease that was showing an onset after vaccination.
At these meetings, informal conversations are often as valuable as the lectures themselves, as we cross pollinate ideas with one another.
One comment really left me stunned.
It was on this great new information that we’d been doing harm for years and certainly not helping animals by annually vaccinating them.
One “holistic” veterinarian from Ohio, several years my senior, flat out stated,
Well, I’m not going to stop vaccinating!”
I didn’t hear any logic to that decision, just a strongly stated declaration! From a purportedly holistic vet. Who later went on to become the president of the AHVMA!
My friends and I were agog and our eyes opened to a deeper reality: there are financial reasons behind continuing to vaccinate annually! Stopping would mean losing one’s bread and butter.
While we were already committed to practicing as holistically as possible, many of our brethren were not. “Holistic vet” was a convenient term that likely drew in more clients, while it was sufficiently vague that it didn’t constrain what happened inside the practice.
I’ll Do Whatever I Damn Well Please!
It should come as no great surprise then that the average, non-holistic vet is not embracing these new understandings about vaccinations even now, some twenty years hence. My colleague here in Texas, Dr. Bob Rogers, informally polled over 400 vets at national meetings, and got the following response in all but one:
I don’t care what the data says, I am not changing.”
This same colleague, in visiting the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medicine, beseeching them to take up the charge for change, was told by a board member that he,
…could vaccinate a client’s pet every week for twenty two years and nobody could tell him not to.”
Attitudes That Damage Your Animal: Beware
As you set about navigating what seem like perfectly clear waters on your way to a vital animal, keep your eyes open for these dangerous attitude reefs. My profession is bemoaning the fact that veterinary visits are falling, yet refusing to step up to a responsible position on a damaging, useless procedure: repeating vaccinations throughout your animal’s life.
While there’s good value in a regular vet exam, if it comes with the burden of vaccinations, you’ll do well to either get your needs clearly emblazoned on Spot’s chart [No Further Vaccinations!] or find another vet who’s willing to work with you while respecting your choice to opt out of this procedure. And yes, I’m talking about rabies, too.
Unfortunately, the burden is on you to carry this torch. Don’t expect Dr. WhiteCoat to lead the charge.
Tell us in the comments how you interact with veterinary care in a safe way.
1Dodds WJ. More bumps on the vaccine road. Adv Vet Med 1999; 41: 715-732