Vaccinations For Your Dog & Cat

By Jo Bighouse, Owner, Midas Touch Naturally Healthy Pets, LLC

The following are excerpts from the American Veterinary Medical Association web site (highlights are my own):

Vaccination is a potent medical procedure with both risks and benefits. While there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year, revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.”

“Adverse events may be associated with the antigen, adjuvant, carrier, preservative, or a combination thereof. Possible adverse events include, but are not necessarily limited to, failure to immunize, anaphylaxis, immuno-suppression, autoimmune disorders, transient infections, long-term infected carrier states, and local development of tumors. The role of genetic predisposition to adverse events needs further exploration and definition.”

Many of us have considered annual vaccination of our animals to be a harmless necessity.  And we have not questioned the practice of having our pets’ vaccines “updated” during a visit to the veterinary hospital for a medical procedure or during a time of illness.  But if you read the excerpts above you see that the AVMA acknowledges there are risks and potential adverse events associated with vaccinations.  Considering the AVMA statement, why would vaccines be given annually with no evidence they are medically necessary?   And why would an animal be vaccinated if they are already compromised by illness or the stress of a medical procedure?

The following are excerpts from the label of Pfizer Vanguard Plus Parvovirus Vaccine (highlighting is my own):

  1. General Directions:  Vaccination of healthy dogs is recommended.  Shake well.  Aseptically administer 1ml subcutaneously or intramuscularly.
  2. Primary vaccination: Healthy dogs 6 weeks of age or older should receive 3 doses, each administered 3 weeks apart.
  3. Revaccination:  Annual revaccination with a single dose is recommended, although, as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association and its Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, the attending veterinarian should determine the frequency of revaccination based on the animal’s lifestyle and risk of exposure.


8.    This product has been shown to be efficacious in healthy animalsA protective immune response may not be elicited if animals are incubating an infectious disease, are malnourished or parasitized, are stressed due to shipment or environmental conditions, are otherwise immunocompromised, or the vaccine is not administered in accordance with label directions.

So we see from the label on the vaccine itself that sick or stressed animals should not be vaccinated.  And, although Pfizer recommends annual revaccination, they acknowledge that the AVMA recommends that the veterinarian consider the animal’s risk of exposure before revaccination.  And yet many of our dogs and cats are receiving annual vaccines regardless of their lifestyle and they are receiving them when they are sick or stressed.

A few years ago when I took my new kitten to the veterinarian for his first vaccines, I was told the vaccines were no longer being administered in the shoulder area.  They were being given in the leg because of the possibility of vaccine associated feline sarcoma (VAFS) at the site of the injection.  In the event of this cancer occurring, the cat’s chance of survival was increased by leg amputation.  This cancer had become so common the injection site was changed to an area that could be cut off.

The following is another excerpt from the AVMA web site (highlighting is my own):

Recently, the profession has begun to question some previously held beliefs regarding vaccination practices and the DOI induced by vaccination. Studies22,23 of a single commercially available inactivated, adjuvanted, feline panleukopenia, herpesvirus, and calicivirus combination vaccine found evidence that vaccinated cats were completely protected from challenge exposure to virulent panleukopenia virus and partially protected from exposure to herpesvirus and calicivirus for substantially longer than 1 year. The authors concluded that DOI following administration of this product was in excess of 7 years and that persistence of antibody titers against all 3 viruses for more than 3 years supports recommendations that cats may be revaccinated against these viruses at 3-year intervals.

It is estimated that 22 million cats were vaccinated during 1991.5 However, because many cats received multiple vaccines, the number of vaccines administered to cats that year was much higher than 22 million. In addition, there has been a proliferation of new vaccines for cats in the marketplace since the late 1980s, including vaccines for FeLV, feline infectious peritonitis virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Giardia spp, and dermatophytes. The need to prevent infectious diseases should now be balanced against the risk of VAFS and other adverse advents. Vaccination should be viewed as a medical, rather than a routine, procedure. However, the profession lacks sufficient data to accurately assess the relative risk of administering a particular vaccine or antigen to an individual cat.

Incidence of VAFS—The true incidence of vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats is unknown. Sarcomas develop at vaccination sites at rates ranging from 1 case/10,000 cats to 10 cases/10,000 cats and develop primarily after administration of rabies virus and FeLV vaccines.3,4,16 These estimates are based on retrospective epidemiologic studies and surveys of biopsy specimens submitted to diagnostic laboratories and, in conjunction with current estimates of the US cat population and the number of annual visits to veterinarians, suggest that between 2,200 and 22,000 cats will develop vaccine-associated sarcomas each year.

In a retrospective study of 345 cats with vaccine-associated sarcomas, the risk that a cat would develop a sarcoma after administration of a single vaccine in the cervical-interscapular region (a site not recommended by the VAFSTF or AAFP guidelines) was 50% higher than the risk that a cat not receiving any vaccines at this site would. In the same study, the risk for a cat given 2 vaccines at the same site was approximately 127% higher, and the risk for a cat given 3 or 4 vaccines was 175% higher than the risk for a cat not receiving vaccines at that site. Time to tumor development in cats following vaccination was as short as 3 months and as long as 3 years or longer.”

Vaccines are not harmless and careful consideration should be given before choosing the vaccine protocol for your dog or cat.  I have chosen to follow the guidelines of renowned vaccination expert W. Jean Dodds, DVM.


  • 9-10 weeks:  Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
  • 14 weeks:  Same as above
  • 16-18 weeks:  Same as above (optional) – I opt out of this one
  • 20 weeks or older, if allowable by law:  Rabies
  • 1 year:  Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
  • 1 year:  Rabies, killed 3-year product (give 3-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster)

Perform vaccine antibody titers for distemper and parvovirus every three years thereafter, or more often if desired.  Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian.  In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request.  See


  • 8-9 weeks:  Panleukopenia, Calicivirus, Rhinopneumonitits Virus (FVRCP)
  • 12-13 weeks:  Same as above
  • 24 weeks or older, if required by law:  Rabies
  • 1 year:  FVRCP booster
  • 1 year:  Rabies, separated by 2-3 weeks from FVRCP

Perform vaccine antibody titers for panleukopenia virus every three years thereafter, or more often, if desired.  Vaccinate for rabies virus according to the law, except where circumstances indicate that a written waiver needs to be obtained from the primary care veterinarian.  In that case, a rabies antibody titer can also be performed to accompany the waiver request.  See

The vaccine antibody titer is a blood test that evaluates the level of protection against disease.  By using the titer information you can determine if re-vaccination is necessary.  Your veterinarian should be able to perform this test for you.  Titers on my own dogs have shown protection 5 years after the last vaccination.

I do not vaccinate for Lyme disease.  The vaccine has been linked to adverse effects that include crippling symptoms of Lyme disease.  I also do not vaccinate for Bordetella (kennel cough).  My dogs are in a “closed community” and are not boarded so their potential exposure is minimal.  Possible side effects of the Bordetella vaccine are vomiting, pale gums, increased heart rate, diarrhea and seizures.  After a visit to a veterinarian office one of my golden retrievers did contract kennel cough and passed it to the other three goldens.  I was able to effectively treat it with colloidal silver administered as both a nasal spray and internally.

The homeopathic remedy Thuja may help negate adverse reactions to vaccines.  I begin administering Thuja the day before vaccinations and continue through the day of the vaccine and one day after.