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  • Writer's pictureKnollwood Hospital for Pets

Alternatives to yearly vaccines

A memo from Doctor Mitchell, to you…

Safe and effective alternatives to yearly vaccines exist, and you need to know about them. Over the past decade, more and more veterinarians and veterinary organizations have become concerned about over-vaccination in our pets. While there is no question that vaccinations have saved many lives, there is also no ignoring the growing numbers of pets that have experienced severe reactions.

I’m not speaking of the minor and temporary “flu” symptoms and fever that often follow a vaccination. I’m talking about tumor formation, seizures, thyroid and kidney disease, immune system dysfunction or failure - even death. All of these serious problems have been documented in the veterinary medical literature, and the incidences is growing. Respected veterinary groups* are now recommending that we carefully evaluate the need for yearly vaccines in adult pets.

Based on the alarming incidence of severe vaccination-related problems in pets, we recommend that you seriously think about making the following changes in your pet’s vaccination schedule - these recommendations have been made at our hospital since 1993:

  • Ask about a three year vaccine instead of a 1 year vaccine. This is available for cat and dog rabies vaccine as well as cat and dog “booster” vaccines.

  • Alternatively, ask for a titer test instead of a cat or dog “booster” vaccine.

  • Use only core vaccines, unless your pet falls into a “special situations” group in which a non-core vaccine is necessary. (More about core/non-core vaccines next posting!)

  • Stagger vaccines by at least 4 weeks, whenever possible.

  • ALWAYS give informed consent before authorizing any vaccine.

  • NEVER vaccinate right before boarding a pet.

  • NEVER vaccinate a sick pet. Even an ear infection means your pet may not respond effectively to vaccination.

  • NEVER give multiple vaccines to a senior pet.

So what is a titer? The titer is a simple blood test that can help avoid the harmful effects of over-vaccinating by letting us know if the last vaccine is still working. Some dogs and cats can maintain a positive titer for 5, 10, even more years! We recommend a titer in lieu of a booster vaccine for any pet.

Why not a titer for rabies? It IS available, but is not accepted as proof of adequate vaccination in our state. Despite the fact that a titer provides specific evidence that your pet is protected, and my signature on a piece of paper only confirms that I gave a rabies vaccine, this is what our legislators have decided. (Interestingly, many veterinarians, myself included, get a rabies shot - because we are at much more risk of getting rabies from a patient than are you. But we only get the vaccine when our titer indicates that we are losing our protective immunity).

* American Animal Hospital Association, Association of Feline Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Assoc.; data published in each group’s professional journals as well as in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

  1. Not all vaccines are necessary for all pets each year. They can and should be staggered.

  2. A titer can tell us if the vaccine is necessary, and helps avoid harmful vaccine reactions.

  3. If your pet has any health problems, you need to be especially careful about vaccinating properly.


More about core and non-core vaccines, and specifics of what we recommend for puppies, kittens, adult cats and dogs, and senior cats and dogs. You’ll be surprised by some of what we recommend!

Wishing and working towards a healthier pet for you - for life.

Dr. Mitchell

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