The Dangers of Vaccination

The purpose of vaccination is to protect your pet from potentially fatal infections by pathogenic (disease-causing) viruses such as distemper, rabies, and others. The way this is done is to inject either a killed virus or a 'modified' (non-pathogenic) live virus, which sensitizes the immune system to that particular virus. Thereafter, if your dog is exposed to, let's say, parvovirus, s/he will be able to respond quickly and vigorously, producing antibodies to overcome the infection.

     This sounds like a pretty good plan, on the surface. However, as with any medical procedure, we must ask the simple and direct questions, Is it safe? Is it effective? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?


The Problems with Vaccination

'Routine' vaccination, as it is practiced today, is not always effective (especially in the case of the feline leukemia vaccine), and frequently has adverse side effects, either short term or long term. With the use of multivalent (combination: 3-in-1, 6-in-1, etc.) vaccines that are repeated year after year, the frequency and severity of these side effects in our pets has increased dramatically.

     Not surprisingly, most of the problems involve the immune system. After all, the immune system is what vaccines are designed to stimulate. But they do so in a very unnatural way that can overwhelm and confuse the immune system. The body may overreact to normally harmless substances (allergies, especially flea allergies and other skin problems), or even produce antibodies to itself (auto-immune diseases).

     At the same time, the body may be sluggish in responding to those things that it should reject, such as common viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. This can result in increased susceptibility to acute infections (such as parvovirus), chronic or recurring infections (such as ear infections in dogs, bladder infections or feline leukemia in cats), or other chronic problems such as arthritis, kidney disease, or even cancer.

     In summary, there is a great deal of evidence implicating vaccination as the cause of many serious chronic health problems. For this reason, I do not recommend vaccination for dogs or cats.

     In particular, I strongly recommend against vaccination for Feline Leukemia in cats, because (a) it is not very effective, and (b) I have found that vaccinated cats that subsequently contract the virus are much more likely to die from it. I also recommend against vaccination for Lyme disease and kennel cough in dogs, again due to lack of effectiveness, and the fact that these conditions are generally not very serious. As such, the potential harm of the vaccine is not justified.

     In all fairness, the choice to forgo vaccination for your pets does carry some risk. Your puppy could contract parvovirus, for instance, which that particular vaccine is effective in preventing. Fortunately, parvo is generally quite easy to treat homeopathically. Distemper and infectious hepatitis are rarely seen anymore.

     Unfortunately, the law now requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. This is for reasons of potential human exposure, not for the health of your pet.

     You should know, however, that all vaccines, including rabies, are medically approved for use in healthy animals only. This is explicitly stated in the package insert for every vaccine. So if your dog or cat is showing any signs of acute or chronic disease, the manufacturers do not recommend administration of the vaccine.

     Finally, for some good news, rabies titers are being increasingly used to demonstrate effective immunity and avoid unnecessary revaccination.

     Rabies vaccination should be followed immediately by a single dose of the Lyssin 30C, which is the rabies nosode. This should help to minimize the harmful effects of the vaccine. However, if you see any symptoms or reaction to the rabies vaccination, you should consult a veterinary homeopath for treatment instructions.


Homeopathic Nosodes

As an alternative to vaccination, I sometimes recommend the use of homeopathic nosodes. A nosode is simply a homeopathic remedy that is made from a disease product. Nosodes are not in any way infectious, and can be used to prevent viral infection. Under most circumstances, there is no need for nosodes in adult animals, so their use is generally limited to puppies and kittens. There is, however, a nosode for heartworms, which could be used in adult dogs on an ongoing basis. I will discuss this further in the section on heartworms.


Limitations of Nosodes

There are some limitations to the use of nosodes. The law requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. The rabies nosode, Lyssin, will not satisfy that requirement.

     Many veterinary offices and kennels insist on current vaccinations, and will not accept nosodes as an alternative. I suggest that you find a local veterinarian that is more open-minded on the topic.

     Most important, though, is that although nosodes are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination, their use does not improve your pet's health. They merely cover up a possible susceptibility to a particular pathogen. Constitutional homeopathic treatment is far preferable, when possible, in that it will reduce those susceptibilities at the source by improving the overall health and immune function of your pet. As such, constitutional treatment generally supersedes the administration of nosodes.


If You Choose to Vaccinate...

As I have said, being a veterinary homeopath, I do not recommend routine vaccination for dogs or cats, except for rabies where required by law. If, for whatever reason, you decide that you must vaccinate your pet, I would make the following recommendations to minimize the damage to your pet's health:

  1. Do not vaccinate an animal with symptoms of acute or chronic health problems, or at the time of surgery or other physical or emotional stress.

  2. As much as possible, vaccinate for one disease at a time, and avoid multivalent (combination) vaccines. For cats, vaccinate for feline panleukopenia alone. The vaccines for the two upper respiratory viruses, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis, can be given together. I strongly recommend against vaccination for feline leukemia virus. For dogs, give parvo separately from distemper and hepatitis. Do not vaccinate for leptospirosis or parainfluenza. Never give the rabies vaccine at the same time as any other vaccine.

  3. For adult dogs and cats, vaccinate every 2-3 years, instead of yearly. Better yet, just vaccinate puppies and kittens, and don't vaccinate adults at all (except for rabies, since that is required by law).

  4. After vaccination, give a single dose of the appropriate nosode in the 30C potency.

Acute Homeopathic Treatment

     Viral diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis, canine distemper and canine parvovirus are usually not responsive to conventional medical treatment such as antibiotics and steroids. (Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, can be critically important.) Fortunately, they usually respond very quickly and favorably to homeopathic treatment, so the risk of not vaccinating is greatly lessened.

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