Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Magazine Daytona | Volusia | Flagler

An Argument for Vaccinating Intelligently

Jul 01, 2020 05:06PM ● By Erin Holder
The veterinary vaccination schedule was born long ago with little scientific backing. While some vaccines were brilliantly engineered, the vaccine schedule was assigned annually with almost no research behind it. The antiquated thought of vaccinating beloved pets yearly was born out of fear. Rabies could be transmitted to humans and distemper and parvovirus were killing litters across America. Dogs that lived in the backyard were more apt to come in yearly for immunization against rabies rather than a physical examination by the vet. But times have changed and the evolution of pets sleeping in the backyard to under the covers in bed has forced doctors to rethink their care. Why should each pet be treated as a member of the same herd? The dramatic rise in chronic diseases, including cancer in companion animals, has brought vaccinations under fire and caused scientists to retrospectively evaluate the vaccine schedule.  

As the world watches the most frightening pandemic of a lifetime unfold and scientists are working overtime to find a vaccine that could save lives, it is impossible to deny the importance of vaccinations. Polio and rinderpest have been eradicated in the U.S. and many other diseases are scarcely remembered. Parvovirus and distemper cases are dramatically down. For those veterinarians that remember entire litters being wiped out, vaccinations remain a subject to cling to. But perhaps there is too much of a good thing. Are we vaccinating intelligently or out of fear? 

The technology of vaccines has developed through time, becoming easier to create them and combine them. Now when a new pup comes in for a parvovirus vaccine, the vaccine contains material to stimulate immunity to parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and parainfluenza. In addition, rabies, Bordetella, leptospirosis, leukemia, FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), Lyme and influenza are other vaccines given to developing furry babies—each vaccine carrying its own list of side effects, potentially life threatening, with varying degrees of efficacy. So when does the risk outweigh the benefit?  

Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system, a magnificent orchestra of precisely timed events, to create antibodies to the antigen (disease) and memory B-cells to reactivate as soon as it comes in contact with the disease again. The antibodies bind to the antigen making it impossible for the antigen to infect the body. The memory B-cells lie in the shadows waiting for any signs of the antigen to reappear and stimulate antibody production. Why then does it make sense to vaccinate yearly? The memory B-cells don’t forget. Antibody responses don’t fade away in 12 months.  

Continuing to stimulate the immune system over and over again with absurd annual vaccinations will lead to an orchestra in chaos. Now simple blooms outside become an antigen and the body wages an unnecessary war—allergies. Or the body fails to recognize and delete dangerous cells—cancer. Both of which are on the rise in pets in America.  

So what is the answer? How do we protect our pets without harming them? We should vaccinate intelligently. Pet parents should work with their veterinarian to determine which diseases their pets are susceptible to depending on lifestyle and eliminate unnecessary vaccines; also they should complete the vaccine schedule when they are kittens or puppies and then check titers. Titers are simple blood tests checking antibody levels in pets: essentially providing a check of disease immunity. With elevated antibody levels, the risk of a pet becoming ill with the disease is extremely low. Once it is known that the pet is protected, titer levels should be monitored every three years. When vaccinations are administered, not more than one injection should be given per visit, minimizing possible reactions. Pet parents should consider waiting an additional few months before vaccinating smaller breeds for rabies; also they should decline vaccinations when pets are sick, battling chronic disease or are elderly and opt for titers.  

As pet parents demand better care and the companion animal industry continues to be a multi-billion dollar business, research has redirected to determining the longevity of vaccines in the body, the effects of chemicals and pesticides in the foods and determining nutritional deficiencies. Assaulting the body with annual vaccinations and feeding foods laced with chemicals are some of the reasons the immune system fails and chronic disease ensues. Those that are ready to make a difference in their pets’ health should consider feeding chemical-free foods and vaccinating intelligently.  


Dr. Erin Holder is owner of FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital, located at 115 E. Euclid Ave., in DeLand. She is a member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in the Zoo and Wildlife Department. FloridaWild offers an integrative approach to veterinary medicine, combining both Eastern and Western Medicine. For more information, call 386-734-9899 or visit 

Upcoming Events Near You
Read our Sept 2020 Edition Online!
Global Brief
Health Brief