Introduction to Vaccinations

by Tiffani Marie Beckman


Copyright May, 1998 - 2005

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate has certainly become the question in many pet owner circles. With so much information around regarding yearly boosters, it is hard to tell what is the best program for your particular animal and situation. No blanket statement can cover every pet or situation, but I would like to provide some questions to ask yourself and veterinarian in order to keep your pet the healthiest it can be. This applies to cats and dogs - I am not as familiar with vaccinating exotic species, like ferrets.

  1. Is your pet an "indoors-only" pet, such as an elderly dog or a cat?
  2. Is your pet perfectly healthy? I.e. no fleas, no yucky ears, no bouts of diarrhea and/or vomiting, no yucky teeth or breath, etc.
  3. What diseases are prevalent in your area? Lyme disease isn't everywhere in the U.S. yet.
  4. Does your animals come in contact with many different animals and places on a regular basis - like going to dog shows or parks?
  5. Do you board your animal in a kennel when leaving town?
  6. What vaccinations are required BY LAW in your town? Usually, it is rabies only.
  7. Does your vet carry killed or modified live vaccines?
  8. Does your vet carry or can he/she get intranasal vaccines? Rabies is the only vaccine that isn't available in intranasal form.
  9. Is your pet pregnant?
  10. When was the date of the last booster given?
  11. What sort of shot record does the breeder provide?
  12. If you can ask a homeopathic or holistic vet about annual vaccinations, please do. They might have a different plan for vaccinations than does an allopathic "regular" vet.
  13. Look into doing titres to check circulating antibodies against a disease. Dr. Susan Beal describes the pros and cons of checking titres. For an overview, please email me.
  14. Ask your vet about the incidence of vaccination site tumors - such as feline fibrosarcomas. The feline fibrosarcomas were most associated with feline leukemia and rabies vaccinations.

You can email me with your answers to the above questions for clarification if you would like. I can give you some ideas on what they mean.

Many state university teaching veterinary schools (Colorado State and Kansas State, for example) are recommending boosters be done every 3 years, rather than every year. This is recommended after boostering the puppies/kittens at one year. This is replacing the program that had vets boostering vaccinations every year. Certain vaccinations, notably Bordetella and Lyme, are to be boostered every year. Go to to see the Colorado's new protocol.

Now for the other side of the coin - do we have to vaccinate at all? There are many people (vets included) that feel like there are downsides that outweigh any good things about vaccinations, and therefore do not recommend any vaccinations, or no more vaccinations past the initial puppy or kitten series. And why vaccinate for diseases your animal may never contract? This is why it is important to check with the vets in your area to see what diseases are still prevalent. Coronavirus may be eradicated in one area, but rampant in another. Vaccinations have been shown to not only NOT give immunity to a disease, but to cause the disease itself. A vaccination can also mutate, and shed out of the animal in the live form. Vaccinations are nothing to take lightly. I will give some links on the internet as well as some books to read (easy reading books - not textbook-like dryness) if you are interested in learning more about to vaccinate or not. If you do intend on vaccinating, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Always use a killed vaccine. Distemper is the only vaccine not available in killed form, so it must be given modified-live.
  2. Always use SINGLE vaccines, rather than the 5-in-1 or the 7-in-1. Let your pet's immune system try to get over the assault of one disease before giving another.
  3. Always give intranasal vaccines - rabies (as mentioned above) is the only one not available in this form. The reason for this is that most diseases are contracted through the nose or mouth in a natural setting, not through the veins or under the skin. The exception to this is again rabies.
  4. Always wait AT LEAST 3 weeks between vaccinations before giving another. For example, give a single distemper vaccine, 3 weeks later a single parvo, 3 weeks later a rabies. Since vaccinations are good for at least 3 years, it is best to booster a new disease every year. Say in 1998 give single distemper, in 1999 give single parvo, in 2000 give rabies. That way your animals gets to be seen every year by the vet and it has even more time to try to get over the immunological assault of a vaccine.
  5. Never start out giving any puppy or kitten shot until AT LEAST 8-10 weeks. They should be nursing this long anyway, and the mother can give the little ones immunity through her milk.
  6. Never ever EVER vaccinate an animal that is not well. A vaccine is a substance that enters the body and tries to get the immune system to kick in and produce antibodies or immunoglobulins so the body will "remember" how to produce these antibodies if the disease is ever met again. An immune system that is depressed (like when you have a cold) or suppressed (in the case of immune-deficiency diseases like Feline AIDS or Lupus) will NOT be able to mount an attack against the vaccine and your animal could get very ill, even die.
  7. Seriously think about not vaccinating your animal if he or she has ever had a bad reaction to the vaccine. Animals can and have died from vaccines. The worst reactions will occur within 24-48 hours of giving the vaccine, but can occur for years afterwards. NEVER give an allergy shot (antihistamine shot) the same time as giving a vaccine, as the allergy shot causes the immune system to be depressed.
  8. Never let your vet vaccinate your pet in the neck area - insist on the leg. There has been quite a few cancers at the site of injection, and vets advise that the leg is easier to amputate ("curing" the cancer) than is the neck (impossible to amputate).
  9. Ask your homeopathic vet about remedies in case of vaccination reaction. Nosodes, the homeopathic equivalent of vaccinations, are much safer and work well. Ask your vet about using them instead of vaccinations. For further resources on vaccinations, try these:
  • "Who killed the Darling Buds of May" book by C. O'Driscoll
  • Any book by Pat McKay (
  • Any book/article by the vet George MacLeod, a homeopath
  • Any book/article by Christopher Day, homeopath
  • Any article from the AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Med Assoc.)
  • Any article from Dr. Susan Beal
  • Natural Pet magazine has many great articles - check it out
  • Read the article on vaccinations by Dr. Jonas Salk in DVM Magazine of 12/88. A must read for everyone with pets!
  • Any article from Dr. Mary Pough, famous for her Lyme research in dogs.
  • "A holistic guide for a healthy dog" by Volhard and Brown
  • Any book by Dr. Pitcairn 18.

Above all - ask questions!!!!! Don't assume that anyone knows your pet better than you do, and you want the best for it. Do a little reading and make up your own mind. Holistic vets do seem to have a much more laid-back approach to vaccinations, so checking with one might be a good way to go. A favorite question of mine to a veterinarian is "so do you vaccinate all your animals, against what and how often?" You might be surprised at the answer. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like some further resources. And if you know of more good resources, I would love to hear about them. Good luck!:)