Friday, June 14, 2013

Vaccinations: helping and hurting

Vaccinations can be a touchy subject, both in the human world and the dog one.

In general, I feel that they help more than they hurt. When they hurt, they hurt profoundly, as Roxanne who writes Champion of My Heart has found out when her dog, Lilly, had an extreme negative reaction to her routine rabies vaccination (500 days ago, as of June 4). Lilly has been in medical distress since then, has almost died, and has had one severe relapse. Roxanne writes that Lilly can never have another vaccine in her life.

(picture from Wikimedia commons. You'll see "why a tiger?" after the jump)

When people don't vaccinate, though, that's a problem too. Rabies vaccinations can sometimes be waived, if your state is one that allows titer testing in lieu of vaccinations. Titering confirms that sufficient active antibodies are active in your dog (or cat) to preclude the need for a vaccine booster. If your dog has neither an up to date rabies vaccine or a titer test, and bites somebody, you and your dog could be in big trouble.

Other than rabies, though, not vaccinating for canine distemper can cause unforeseen difficulties. Canine distemper is communicable to big cats, for example. The first tiger to have it was in 2003 in Russia, when a tiger "walked into town and sat down". She appeared healthy, but was profoundly brain damaged, and died in veterinary care six weeks later. It was previously discovered in a wildlife preserve in California in 1992, and before that in 1988 in Iowa. This latest round of tigers with distemper is in Sumatra, which thankfully is an isolated island population. There are few tigers in the wild, and fCanine distemper is also considered responsible for the deaths of 1/3 the lion population in a Serengeti preserve in 1994; it is believed the disease was communicated to the lions from the herding dogs kept by the Maasai there.

So, in Sumatra, Wildlife Vets International is starting a study both to monitor the diseases carried by tigers, and also start a vaccination campaign. Evidently, "In the research area, only 16% of dogs were vaccinated against the virus despite the ready availability of the vaccine. Of the non vaccinated dogs, 58% were shown to carry the virus." Hopefully, WVI will be able to influence people in Sumatra to vaccinate their dogs against canine distemper. Dogs can be non affected carriers (obviously), or they can contract the disease and die from it.

Interestingly, distemper is related to measles, which some humans have stopped vaccinating their children against for varying reasons. As a result, measles has been making a comeback, and much like distemper, measles can be deadly for a child; the CDC states that for every 1000 children who get measles, "1 or 2 will die".


  1. I didn't know wildlife was affected by canine distemper. We know there can be problems, but we have always vaccinated and all of our dogs have never had a problem with it.

  2. I don't vaccinate my dog anymore. We live in a country where rabies is not a problem, so that isn't required, unless we travel outside the country. I had a cat die after receiving her annual booster. Had I know, I wouldn't have bothered. I stopped vaccinating my dog after the age of three, and my remaining cat when he was eight. Now would only go through the first round of shots and possibly the following year.

  3. It's a touchy subject. On the whole I think single vaccines are okay, I don't care for the shots that include multiple protections as I work right next to a Dr.'s office and have been told of all the other ingredients that are in the vaccine. I do tend to think the vaccines last longer than we are told as well.

    I always consult my Vet and we have decided to vaccinate for Leptos and Rabies. My Vet feels that my dogs are okay with not having other vaccines. They are also never kenneled, don't go to do parks. Which is a consideration.

    I did not know that tigers could get canine distemper.

  4. I'm very thankful that my vet stays on top of the latest info and gives me good advice. She doesn't just do the same thing every time.

    People forget that it wasn't that long ago that puppies died from parvo and distemper all the time. Vaccinations are important. And it's good that people are taking them so seriously.

  5. It's a very touchy subject. Nola had all her puppy shots and 1 year booster, she got the 3 year rabies last year, and she was also vaccinated against Lyme and Lepto as a puppy. As of now, I'm unsure of what I'll revaccinate her for, besides rabies. I figure I'll do DPPH, but that's probably it.

    Interesting that big cats can get canine distemper.
    Nola's Mom

  6. I just made a blog post similar to this BOL! Great minds think alike!


  7. Great post! Ma has me gets the rabies and the DPPH, butts that's it.
    I thinks it's up to each person, and I try not to judge either way. Some dog breeds have more troubles with vaccinations than others, so I think it's up to the peeps to make that important decision. Always realizin' the pros and cons to their doggie, and others.

  8. I vaccinate for DPPH, Rabies, and Bordatella but that's it. Holly always feels a little ill after her boosters, Bri trundles along as usual. Great post!