It’s that time of year again when you either, catch sight of your pooch’s vaccination record, or more likely, you get a phone call or text message from your vet to say that it’s time for ‘Archie’s’ annual re-vaccination and boosting.
How many of us then just toddle along with our beloved pet and without further thought, allow the vet to stick a needle with an infectious liquid into our furry friend?
Do we actually stop to think, “Is this annual re-vaccination and boosting really necessary?”.
Now, like vaccinations for us ‘hoomans’, this is a bit of a contentious issue as to whether these are always needed, or not.
We have found that some Vets, think that, “Yes, it is absolutely necessary that we re-vaccinate or boost annually regardless”.
Others have a bit of a different take on things and will not automatically partake in annual re-vaccination and boosting.
Instead they may opt for what is called a ‘Titre’ Test.
It's All In The 'Titre'
From our experience, it seems that a number of vets are now falling between two different stances on this topic:
1. To either annual re-vaccinate and boost regardless, or,
2. When the pet owner requests it, to ‘Titre’ Test first.
What the ‘titre’ test does, is to establish whether your dog, cat, pony, alpaca, goldfish (well, maybe not goldfish!), has sufficient antibodies still present from previous vaccinations.
If this is the case, and sufficient antibodies are still present, then there is no requirement to annually re-vaccinate and boost.
Potentially, if you don’t have this done and you just plump for the annual re-vaccination and boosting, you could be introducing what is in effect poison into your dog’s system unnecessarily.
This in itself may cause serious health issues in the short and long-term for your dog.
Now, again in our experience, you may have to ask for this Titre Test, rather than being offered it.
Some Vets prefer to just automatically vaccinate, even though this test is available.
Many Vets can do the Titre Test ‘in-house’, whilst others have to send the blood sample taken to an external lab.
The cost of Titre Testing seems to be on par in the main with the annual re-vaccination and boosting cost.
Now personally, we always go the Titre Testing route first, and so far so good.
For the past 2 years Ash hasn’t required further re-vaccinations at all.
It is our understanding that Titre Testing is only done for the ‘Core’ Vaccines.
If you do wish for the Titre Test to be done, check whether all 3 Core Vaccines will be Titre Tested.
I say this because, on one occasion, we were told that only 2 of the Core Vaccines would be tested by this particular Vet.
Categories Of Vaccines
To make things even more complicated, in Australia, vaccines are designated into 2 categories, ‘Core’ and ‘Non Core’.
Core vaccines for include:
- canine distemper virus,
- canine adenovirus,
- canine parvovirus.
These vaccines are commonly grouped together in one injection called a ‘C3’ vaccine.
Non-core vaccines include:
- parainfluenza virus,
- bordetella bronchiseptica,
- leptospira interrogans.
What These Diseases Mean:
The 'Core' Diseases
This fatal disease attacks a dog’s nervous system and can lead to severe damage, including paralysis.
Puppies and young dogs are more susceptible to this virus. Due to increased vaccination, the disease is not as common as it once was.
However, outbreaks can still occur in areas where vaccination rates are low.
Canine Adenovirus (Hepatitis)
This disease affects the liver, and subsequently the eyes and kidneys. It cannot be transmitted to humans, but is a very serious illness for dogs.
This deadly virus is one of the most common viruses in the world, and is extremely hard to eradicate given that each species has a different version of it.
Because maternal antibodies can interfere with the vaccine, it is important for your Vet to determine an appropriate age at which your dog should receive the vaccines.
The Non-Core' Diseases
This mild respiratory infection is usually transmitted by nasal secretion and is highly contagious.
It is not fatal, but being vaccinated against this disease can help prevent your dog from getting other related infections.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica (kennel or canine cough)
This virus causes a harsh cough and is highly contagious.
If your dog is in contact with other dogs, is very young or very old, it will be more at risk of infection.
It is usually recommend that the vaccine for kennel cough is given annually.
Canine Leptospirosis –
This bacterium interferes with proper organ function and can be transmitted to humans.
The vaccine is usually given when your dog is young, lives in a relevant geographic area and has a higher chance of infection.
This dangerous virus is very hard to eradicate and its symptoms are similar to those of the flu.
Stand Alone Disease
This dangerous and very contagious disease can be fatal to both dogs and humans.
It has no known cure and infected animals act as carriers.
Although Australia is considered to be rabies-free, it still affects many countries in the world where the vaccine is considered ‘core’, like in the United States.
Luckily, this is not the case in Australia, so the vaccine is not necessary unless your dog is planning a trip overseas.
When we first got our adorable 8 week old Labrador puppy ‘Squeaks’, later to be re-named ‘Ash’ (yes, she was initially very noisy!).
She had already been vaccinated and we proceeded with the other puppy vaccinations.
Prior to leaving the UK to emigrate to Australia, we made the decision that Ash was coming with us.
Little did we realise what we were about to put our furry daughter through!!
The Chemical Path
The process for Ash’s relocation from the UK to Australia began at least 10 months prior to our departure.
This involved vaccinating and testing for Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Canine Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Bordetella Bronchiseptica.
What Tarryn and I didn’t initially realise, was that Ash was going to have to be vaccinated against Rabies also.
Then Titre tested a month later to ensure she had sufficient Rabies neutralising antibodies.
After the Rabies vaccination, we noted that Ash’s demeanour changed.
Not dramatically so, but enough that we noticed she became a bit more ‘stressy’ and anxious.
Plus, she now suffers from ‘hot head’.
Having spoken to a number of Vets from both the conventional and holistic sides of the fence, we have been told that some dogs given the Rabies vaccine can experience this change in their nature or demeanour.
Would We Put Ash Through It All Again?
All that poking and prodding, needles and more needles.
We’re not so sure now.
Plus, having arrived in Australia, Ash was subject to 30 days quarantine.
Which is now reduced to 10 days, if you come from the UK.
Telling you about Ash’s journey to Australia is to illustrate, that with a bit more knowledge and understanding about vaccinations and the potential fallout, how decision making can possibly change.
Our present train of thought with regard to Ash and vaccines, is that we will continue with the Titre Testing as and when required for the core vaccines.
However, for the non-core vaccines we will not actively pursue annual re-vaccination and boosting unless we feel it is necessary.
We have taken this decision on a purely personal point of view with regard to our individual circumstances and Veterinary advice.
A Vets Opinion
There is an interesting article by a registered Vet called Dr Edward Bassingthwaite.
He is also an Holistic Vet and gives a balanced view on this topic, which you can read here.
You can also read our Blog ‘Our Dogs Health and Wellbeing’ if you would like to read more about other challenges we have faced ensuring Ash remains healthy when travelling Australia.