Dog Vaccinations Mindlessly Defended

ABC's 20/20 Needs a Vision Check Up

Have you seen ABC’s 20/20 piece recently on veterinarians, entitled Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You? (it's free by clicking that title, and worth a look).

The veterinary profession was called out by one of our own on its practices of recommending unnecessary services that add to the bottom line. Most noted were a couple I’ve been concerned with and have written about for years, dental cleanings and excessive, repeated vaccinations.

The ABC crew brought ostensibly healthy dogs in to several vets to see what they’d be told was “needed” for the dog’s health. As expected, unnecessary procedures were recommended by some, like a full dental cleaning under anesthesia for a bit of tartar on a tooth.

More egregious and far more dangerous was the recommendation for more dog vaccinations in an adult dog vaccinated two years prior. Without even asking the client, one vet was readying the vaccine syringes until called out by the guardian. “Well, distemper is typically an annual vaccine,” was his lame reply, though he did stand down.

You Know More Than 20/20

The 20/20 producers had less information than most of you, dear readers. They were buying the AVMA’s recommendation of vaccinating every three years vs. the common, costly and baseless practice of annual revaccination, called out over twenty years ago by veterinary immunologists.

Sure, every three years is less risky than annual revaccination, but that’s not good enough. You know, by following along on this blog, that “once and done” is the rule for vaccinations, if your animal is vaccinated over four months of age.

The AVMA recommendation is pure waffling for the benefit of Dr. WhiteCoat’s bottom line. Their logic likely goes like this:

If they have to give up the income normally coming from annual vaccinations, they can at least make something by vaccinating every three years.

How much immunology stands behind this policy?

Absolutely none.

Immunologists have known for well over 20 years that viral vaccines confer a very long duration of immunity (DOI), likely lifelong in most animals.

So, dig a little deeper, 20/20. You’re not doing animal guardians any favors by regurgitating the AVMA guidelines of triennial vaccination “requirements.” We’re calling you out on that one.

We know better.

My Pants Were Not Down! Close That Curtain!

More amusing is the response of Dr. WhiteCoat to the show. He was seriously miffed that anyone would call him dishonest or accuse him of putting profit ahead of animal health!

Here’s some classic responses, gleaned from an industry online magazine, DVM. The article seeks to arm Dr. WhiteCoat with answers to the presumably unhappy questions that will be coming in his practice doors about repeated dog vaccinations and more.

On the question of animals being unnecessarily vaccinated, three “experts” in conventional veterinary practice gave the following response that was offered as a stock reply to any clients confronting their vets over 20/20's recent allegations:

What to say to clients
> “In deciding on a personalized vaccination protocol for your pet, we consider your pet’s unique lifestyle risks as well as local law, manufacturers’ directions and established guidelines from organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners.”

“Personalized vaccination protocols?” Who are you kidding?? Do you really think an educated consumer of veterinary medicine is going to believe you’re customizing vaccination recommendations when you vaccinated yearly for so many years?

"Local laws?" There’s only a law for one vaccine, fellas, and most states now say rabies every three years. Where does that leave you with all those distemper combo wombo shots you’ve been giving annually? There are not now and have never been laws about other vaccinations, yet you’ve given the others repeatedly to countless animals for at least the last 25 years.

“Manufacturers’ recommendations?” That’s the lamest excuse of all! The manufacturers labeled their vaccines for annual repetition based solely on profit potential. Did you ever ask the reps selling you the vaccines to see the data that would indicate immunity falls off on day 364 and needs “boosting” on day 365?

Of course you didn’t. You merely used their profit hungry labels to justify your repetition that repeatedly weakened animals’ health but added to your bottom line.

Vaccinations and Longer Life Spans?

More, from the same article: “Vaccines are crucial. Vaccines explain why we now have cats and dogs who live into their late teens or even 20s. I’ve seen the life expectancy of the average Labrador retriever go from 9 to 15 or 16 years of age in my career.” (Dr. Downing)

This is an old saw, often trotted out in human vaccine debates as well. It turns out, if you look at human statistics, that all the bad diseases of the old days were well in decline before the vaccines ever hit the population. Why? The biggest reason was separating sewage from drinking water. Underpants even played a role.

I suspect we are not seeing anything approaching 15-16 years of age as an “average” in Labs today. I’m sure not seeing it. In 33 years of practice, I’ve seen quite the opposite, in fact.

Most often, I’m seeing animals becoming chronically ill earlier in life than they ever used to become. Arthritis and hypothyroidism in dogs under 4-5 years of age? Animals plagued with horrible allergies that, on testing, show almost nothing they are not allergic to? Dogs tearing holes in their coats and eating their toes? When they start this at age three, what kind of life do they have to look forward to, let alone the life of their caregivers?

The Buck Stops Here (at the tip of the needle)

The blame for this is to be laid squarely at the feet of the vaccinators who had you believing for years that you were a good pet owner if you came in for the recommended shots every time you got a postcard saying “due.” Allergies to fleas and foods and plants is nothing but a confused immune system attacking the body it's housed in, and nothing confuses an immaculately designed immune system like the injection of viruses, bypassing all the defenses that took millions of years to be built.

No, we’re not buying it, Dr. WhiteCoat. 20/20 may not have had the whole story, but they got a lot of it right. We can only hope there’ll be some humbling that comes from this expose, and the self examination that allows thoughtful people to change their ignorant ways.

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  1. Nancy on December 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Good Morning Dr. Falconer,
    I was writing in reference to your article on “RoadKill” I live in the midwest and raw feed my two pups. I am fortunate to have a husband who loves to hunt and most often and we are able to bag a doe for the pups freezer as well as ours. I have fed just about every organ I can manage to get my husband to bring home after field dressing. My theory is the same as yours, better to feed wild than something fattened in a feed lot. My concern lately, is that here in the midwest we have recently been warned about disease in deer such as Chronic Waste Disease as well as Leptospirosis (I think that’s what my vet called it), blue tongue, etc. He tells me I should avoid feedine venison raw for this reason. My pups love to chew almost any bone from the deer, including the back bone, etc. As an avid hunter, my husband feels he is quite capable of chosing a healthy deer to harvest as keep in mind we are eating the meat as well. We also take precaution to wear rubber gloves while handling the processing. Just wondering what your thoughts are on these diseases affecting dogs who consume the raw meat or the organs as you suggested.

  2. Karen on December 2, 2013 at 9:02 am

    We had a little Border Terrier who was vaccinated annually (until we knew better) for the first 2 years of his life. After that, he received no vaccines, was treated with homeopathics and/or herbs when needed and fed a raw diet. At the age of 13, he suddenly became very ill and after 3 days & nights of horrible suffering, being kept at a vet emerg. clinic and being subjected to test after test, we finally had to make the heartbreaking decision to let him go and end his suffering. The diagnosis we received just prior to making this decision? He was suffering from Immune-Mediated Meningitis. As we had 2 other dogs at home we asked where our little Mickey would have contracted this disease. The only response we got was that the vet didn’t know but could definitively state (somehow!) that he had been exposed to it when he was younger and had been able to fight it off but this time he couldn’t. This was nonsensical to us and we have always wondered and suspected that it was all caused by damage done by the vaccines he did receive.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      How very peculiar, Karen. I, too, wonder about vaccine related disease that he was able to hold at bay until he aged, as vaccines certainly cause nervous system illness regularly. I see it from ADD to aggression to epilepsy.
      I’m sorry for your loss and glad you shared your story with us.

  3. Connie on December 2, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I’ve seen first hand the damage vaccinations do. I have a senior, adopted Min Pin, who was dropped off for his 6 month physical and given the DAPP shot without my knowledge or consent. I was fuming when we picked him up because of this and also because he had been on antibiotics for a bone infection only 4 months before, and he has a heart murmur. It was in their records, and she never should have given any vaccinations to this little guy. By doing so, she nearly killed him. From April 12, 2013, it took a good SIX MONTHS to get this lil guy mostly straightened out. Starting with lethargy, and advancing to edema, lack of appetite, sneezing, yellow mucous, coughing, and blood leaking from his penis, the vet then wanted to give him Vetmedin because he has a heart murmur. They also ran tests and were talking about liver/kidney issues, but he was raw fed, and I’ve read that results will be different on a raw fed animal. Well, I just felt in my bones that he was not in CHF and refused Vetmedin. Took him to a homeopathic vet who began the process of detoxing him as much as possible. Today he eats well again, he lost the 2 lbs of water weight he gained, no more blood from his penis. He is active and runs and plays, with no coughing. And oh yeah, he became nasty throughout this time period – it was intermittent, but it was there. He also gets supplements now such as Standard Process Canine Cardiac Support, Co-Q-10, Spectrin and Regenex, Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Oil, and I cleared up pustules he was getting with the use of ACV, Coconut Oil and Colloidal Silver, instead of the antibiotics the vet wanted to put him on.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Connie,
      Quite an ordeal for one little syringe full of purported immune boosters, eh?
      Glad he’s mostly back. I’d be concerned that he got better physically while getting nasty mentally. That’s called suppression, and yes, homeopathy can suppress if one isn’t careful in prescribing.

  4. Maria on December 2, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I have to report that unfortunately 20/20 is not the only show to do this. Last month in Canada an episode from Marketplace titled “barking mad” aired. They had Dr. Jean Dodds as a special guest. Even though the show talked about unnecessary vet bills, they too, failed to talk about the importance of AVMA’s vaccination protocol and/or the benefits of “real food” feeding as well as many other safe natural alternatives. Here is the link to the episode, let me know what you guys think.

  5. Kerstan A. on December 1, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    It’s nice to finally see some sort of thoughtful attempt to educate and ‘awaken’ the ignorant masses that blindly follow and believe everything they’re taught about conventional veterinarian practices, but to forego telling the ENTIRE truth to the unaware isn’t exactly going to steer people in the right direction.
    That being said, I’m very grateful that informative websites [ such as this one ] exist, providing excellent resources and truly accruate information that will equip us with the knowledge to not only better our pets lives, but ours as well.
    Thank you for all that you do Dr. Falconer.
    It’s people like you that truly inspire, motivate, and change not only lives, but ultimately the world, for the greater good.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 2, 2013 at 6:03 am

      Thanks, Kerstan. Glad you’re on the path with us.
      And yes, each shiny example of health we have in the world can literally change the world, IMHO.

  6. Cindy on December 1, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I wonder how much of a role more thoughtful breeding might play in increasing longevity? I find too many breeders do not breed for health and longevity at all, but for performance or other characteristics. We all try to find ways to compensate, diet changes, supplements, etc. Maybe they should start awarding ribbons for longest, healthiest, lived dogs.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 2, 2013 at 6:01 am

      Definitely a factor. Appearance is all that’s selected for quite often, to the detriment of function. Look at the Bassett Hound for a prime example, or any brachycephalic (shmushed in face) breed in dogs or cats.

  7. MsMoneypenny on December 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I’ll bet none of those 20/20 vets would advocate the BARF diet or at least raw meaty bones. Because then they’d REALLY lose profit.

  8. Cindy on December 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Our childhood dog, a Beagle mix, lived to be 17. She did get rabies and distemper every year, back in the 50’s and 60’s. She ate canned food and table scraps. Like all the neighborhood dogs, she ran loose, getting good exercise and lots of interesting things to explore. She got tick dips whenever she got ticks. When I try to figure out how she lived so long when now my better cared for dogs don’t, I think maybe running loose and doing her own thing helped. Of course you can’t do that now.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 2, 2013 at 5:52 am

      She was an exceptionally healthy dog, sounds like. One thing I’d posit is that, living back then, animals were fairly “new” to this onslaught of vaccines and poisons, and they still had resilience to their effects.
      As we’ve gone through the past 50 years (roughly 100 generations in dogs), we’ve seen inherited chronic disease become the norm. The damage done to the ancestors carries forward. That’s how I can see exactly what sorts of health challenges I’ve gotten from each of my parents, and why a human homeopath is so interested in your ancestor’s illnesses and cause of death.
      I suspect very few could live to 17 today with annual vaccinations, canned food and tick pesticides. And yes, full throttle exercise in her territory helped.