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What’s in the “shots?”

In this episode:

Special tribute to Layne
Pet joke of the week: Blame it on the dog
Personal comment: What’s in the “shots?”

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The WebDVM:

Onto my personal comment tonight, I am sure many of you watching take your pets regularly to the vet for “shots,” only, aside from rabies, many pet owners do not really take the time or even seem to care to ask what shots are being given to their pets, and why. This was always curious to me, since, as a pet owner, and now as a father, I want to know exactly what my children, human or furry are getting injected into their bodies. I am here to tell you tonight that you SHOULD care about what is being injected into your pets since, while vaccines are an invaluable infectious disease prevention tool, they are not to be used lightly, as the mechanism by which they impart protection places stress on the body.

With this in mind, the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, the governing body of United States licensed veterinarians, early in my career set forth vaccine reforms whereby research into the duration of protective vaccine titers, and the prevalence of disease based on geography and lifestyle, was used to determine a minimally necessary vaccine protocol for each individual patient based on overall risk. The result is an approach to vaccines where we give the minimum number of vaccines necessary to keep patients safe, without overdoing them.

Since we only have limited time here on YouTube, I will focus on dog this week, and discuss feline vaccines next week. We already mentioned rabies, which is considered a core vaccine, or, a vaccine that is common to all dogs, as rabies is present everywhere. Rabies is both safe and effective to be administered as a 3 year vaccine, and is state law in all states that I am aware of given its risk to humans.

The DHPP is a 4 in one vaccine, which protects for distemper virus, viral hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvo. This is also a core vaccine, which is also effective given once every 3 years as per AVMA recommendations. Some vets give this vaccine as a 5 in one DHPPC, which also adds immunization for cornavirus. But I am not a proponent of this, since coronavirus is not a serious disease, causing only mild to moderate diarrhea, which usually does not even require veterinary care. Others give this as a 6 in one DHLPPC, also adding immunization for leptospirosis. I vehemently oppose the use of this vaccine opting against coronavirus for reasons I just noted, but also for the inclusion of leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a very serious and deadly disease, but overall risk is very specific to lifestyle first of all, and secondly, even if a dog is deemed to be a leptospirosis risk, it is a yearly vaccine and should not be given as a 3 year vaccine along with the core DHPP.

Regarding leptospirosis, this is a bacterial disease that tends to persist in standing fresh water environments, such as marshes, lakes, ponds, and large puddles. Therefore, only dogs who live in close proximity to fresh standing water, frequent ponds and lakes, are used for hunting, or spend the majority of their time outside, are candidates for this vaccine, making leptospirosis not one of the core canine vaccines. If candidates, dogs should receive a leptospirosis vaccine once yearly. Vaccines against bacterial diseases generally have significantly less duration of activity than viral ones.

Bordatella is disease that causes bacterial upper respiratory infection that leads to a hallmark hacking, gagging type of cough. The human bordatella variant is responsible for whooping cough in people, however, cross species infection is highly unlikely. Risk of disease is also lifestyle dependent, making this vaccine also not a core canine vaccine. Dogs that are at risk for this disease are ones frequently in contact with numerous other dogs, such as boarding kennels, dog shows, bark parks, and groomers. For occasional exposure to other dogs, the vaccine is recommended yearly, but in patients where there is frequent exposure, the vaccine is recommended once every 6 months. The most effective form of the vaccine is the intranasal version, administered up the nose much like a nasal spray.

Lyme Disease is not a core vaccine, but is a serious disease for which dogs are at risk in climates and wildlife that support proliferation of the tick called Ixodes Scapularis, commonly known as the hard deer tick. For example, in Long Island, NY, where I practiced early in my career, the risk of disease was very high due to high persistence of the infective ticks. Diagnosing at least 5 new infections per month, I recommended Lyme vaccine. Here on the Florida Spacecoast, however, the specific types of ticks that transmit Lyme are rare, making disease rare to non-existent, owing to my recommendation against vaccination.

Giardia vaccine I must tell you is a complete farce. Giardia is a protozoal parasite that infects the gut, the consequences of which typically cause nothing more than diarrhea, which easily and effectively resolves with appropriate treatment. The vaccine has never been proven to actually prevent giardia, but those who are proponents of the vaccine, claim that it decreases the impact of the disease if the patient gets infected with the parasite, a ridiculous reason to give the vaccine even if that were true, since disease is typically mild, and resolves quickly with treatment.

So that is canine vaccines in a nut shell. Now next time your take your dog to the vet for “shots,” you are now armed with the information you need to know if what is begin given is something that really NEEDS to be given. If in doubt, ask questions, we are there to serve you and your pets, and you should be fully informed about what it is we give your pets and why. If you want to have this information on you as a reference the next time you go to the vet, as always, a transcript of this personal comment will be posted at my blog at, which you may feel free to print a copy of.

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