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Are You Over-Vaccinating Your Golden Retriever?*

Are You Over-Vaccinating Your Golden Retriever?*

Health-Care for Golden Retrievers   /   Sep 3rd, 2018   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-
Annual trips to your veterinarian for a health checkup of your Golden Retriever usually include a 5-way, 7-way, or 9-way vaccination booster. It's like a cocktail of modified live viruses that your veterinarian gives your Golden every year. But a good question to ask is, “How long does a vaccination protect your Golden once it is given?” Only one year? Three years? Longer? Let's examine this a little further.

But beforehand, we should give this disclosure: Please don't take everything we say as the gospel truth. Keep in mind that we are not veterinarians, or medical professionals, nor do we have any specialized training to qualify us as professionals in the fields of veterinary care or pharmaceutical research. We are professional breeders of the very amazing Golden Retriever. We genuinely love this breed. We thoroughly research our information combined with many years of experience and try to provide the best of what we have learned to both our customers and those who also love the Golden Retriever breed. We've done our own research and have formed our own opinions; we encourage you to do the same.

Canine vaccinations can sometimes be a bit of a touchy subject when you are speaking of the pharmaceutical industry, veterinary industry, travel industry, and the day care, day spa, and kenneling industries. The reasons for being a touchy subject are due to outdated information and misinformation used by the vaccine manufactures. There have been no motives to correct this because it has kept revenues from the frequent sales of canine vaccines relatively high. For the pharmaceutical industry, its revenue income has overshadowed considerations for your dog's health and best interest. For the veterinary industry, revenue income has also influenced them to maintain the status quo on annual vaccinations, but also a general fear of lawsuits by the public since veterinarians are told by told by the vaccine manufacturers to administer vaccines annually to as many pets as possible in order to ensure optimal immunity for the future. But for the travel and daily caretaker industries, it has been more of a protective concern stemming from the fear of spreading diseases among pets and potentially suffering lawsuits by the patrons of their businesses. But again, the outdated information and misinformation promulgated by the vaccine manufactures have caused that unrealistically fearful attitude. So, manufacturers have created a marketable niche, whereas the veterinary, travel, and caretaker industries are under the guidance of the manufacturers, giving them the impression that they are protecting the interests of the public. I have tried to paint that picture as kindly as I can without watering it down so much that the reader gets confused. But the key point is that our beloved Golden Retrievers have become the objects of revenue generating business practices, which may not have the best interest of our dog’s health in mind.

Now if everyone began to accept the fact that these cocktail vaccines for canines were only needed every six to eight years instead of annually, it would really put a damper on some of the revenues generated by the pharmaceutical and veterinary industries (which is why there has been no rush to correct the outdated information and misinformation). It is also understandable that the travel and caretaking industries would need reassurance from the vaccine manufacturers that an adequate level of protection against the spread of disease would be maintained if the vaccination protocols were changed. So at this point you might be getting an idea of the control involved here by the vaccine manufacturers. In recent years however, a number of respected and well regarded veterinary research organizations have reconsidered the need for annual vaccinations based on the findings of the research:  The effects of the initial vaccinations and boosters during a dog’s first year of life remain effective for much longer periods of time than what the manufacturers have indicated by their recommended vaccination protocols.

In recent years, vaccine manufacturers have been under pressure to show scientific data that truly demonstrates the need for annual vaccinations for dogs. The pressure has been coming from holistic veterinary practitioners and veterinary schools of education, many of whom believe that repeated vaccinations diminish the animal's immune resources and can actually create disorders. Disorders such as degenerative joint diseases and lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system begins attacking its own body tissues such as the skin, joints and internal organs.

So, is there any safe way to tell if my Golden Retriever can be vaccinated less frequently? Yes indeed. There are tests which measure the immunity levels in your dog’s system that were developed by the initial vaccines given to the puppy during its first year. It’s called “titer testing” (pronounced, “TIGHTER”). But before I go into that, let me first explain some of the vaccines that are commonly given to dogs:

The Core Vaccines[1]:
  1. Distemper (CDV) – According to the recommended vaccination protocols of the American Animal Hospital Association[1] (AAHA), a series of three vaccinations should be given between the ages of 6 weeks and 16 weeks, spaced two to four weeks apart. Revaccination should be given every three years thereafter unless a “titer test” reveals that the dog still possesses protective antibody levels three years after the last vaccination.
  2. Parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) – same as above.
  3. Adenovirus type 2 (CAV) – same as above.
  4. Parainfluenza (CPiV) – same as above.
  5. Rabies vaccine – the regulations for rabies vaccinations are controlled by state authorities, some require the initial immunization at 12 weeks of age, some at 16 weeks of age, and some as late as 6 months of age[2].  Most states require a vaccination booster one year after the first and then revaccination every three years, but some states require revaccination more frequently.

The Non-Core Vaccines[1]:
  1. Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) – this vaccine and all the vaccines in the non-core group should only be administered to dogs whose geographical location, local environment, or lifestyle place them at risk of contracting this specific infection. This would include regular visits to doggy parks, day care facilities, and other places where your dog comes into frequent contact with other dogs. Consideration should also be given to whether or not the infection has been active in your geographic area.
  2. Borrelia burgdorferi (lyme disease) – same as above.
  3. Leptospirosis – same as above.
  4. Influenza Virus H3N8 – same as above.
  5. Influenza Virus H3N2 – same as above.

Non-Recommended Vaccines[1]:
  1. Coronavirus (CCV)
  2. Giardia

Titer Testing for the Presence of Protective Antibodies:

Titer testing is recommended when your Golden reaches three to three and a half years of age (and has presumably had all its puppy vaccinations and boosters during its first year). There are two forms of this type of test which measure the protective antibodies within your dog. The first type of titer test is determined from a blood sample taken by your veterinarian, and then sent off to a laboratory for analysis.  This may take up to a week to get the results back, but they can test the immunity levels of all the core vaccines. However, distemper and parvo are usually the only ones recommended. The cost is usually around $100 to $200 and includes, the veterinary office visit, the lab analysis and interpretation of the results.

The second type of titer testing can be done entirely in a veterinary clinic and the results take only about 20-30 minutes. The cost of these tests are usually between $50 and $100 including the veterinary office visit. Currently, there are two of these clinical tests available through your veterinarian: TiterCHEK which test immunity levels for parvo and distemper, and VacciCheck which test immunity levels for parvo, distemper, and adenovirus.

So what do you do with the titer test results? Well, if the results come back positive for protective levels of antibodies, then you don’t need to revaccinate your Golden for three years. If you titer test again in three years and the results are still positive, you don’t need to retest or revaccinate your Golden again for the rest of its life, according to experts in the field3.

Keep in mind that rabies vaccinations are state regulated which still have to be followed regardless of the titer test results. Many titer tests performed on dogs have shown that the rabies vaccine is effective for around six years or longer, but even so almost all states require rabies vaccinations every one to three years, but this could change as research findings make their way into our governments. So at this time in our opinion, rabies titer testing is not beneficial.  By the way, here is just a little side note: When your Vet informs you that your dog is due for a rabies vaccination, they may ask you, “Do you want the one-year or the three-year vaccination?” If you ask them to show you the difference between the vaccine vials that they use for the one year and three year vaccines, they may or may not because there is no difference; it is the same vaccine! But the charge for the three-year vaccination is usually higher. They might add that the little tag they give you for your dog’s collar will have a three-year expiration date instead of one year, but what is the price difference between the one-year and three-year tags? We can’t help but chuckle about this, but we have no desire to disparage any veterinarian.

The most important thing to remember about titer testing is that it doesn’t have to be done annually. If after three years from the previous vaccination, your dog tests positive for protective levels of antibodies, then you don’t need to titer test again or revaccinate for three to eight more years. In fact, one of the most renowned pet vaccination experts in the country[3]
, believes that once a test yields strong titers, you need not test or re-vaccinate ever again because the dog has developed sterilizing immunity and “memory cells” that will produce antibodies when needed. That same expert also states that if a dog who tests positive for protective antibodies were revaccinated, it would not respond with a significant increase in antibodies, but may in fact develop a hypersensitivity to the vaccines which can cause complications. That is precisely why over vaccination can be a problem in our beloved Goldens.

Let us make one final point here. If titer testing reveals that you don’t need to vaccinate your Golden annually, does that mean you don’t need to take him/her to the vet for annual checkups and teeth cleanings? No. Annual checkups and teeth cleanings are in the best interest of your beloved Golden and that is what this article is about. We hope the article has been helpful to our readers in providing current information on the subject of vaccinating your Golden Retriever. And as always, we thank you for considering Emery-n-Denise’s Golden Puppies.

We are exclusively a Golden Retriever Breeder of AKC pure bred Golden Retrievers and we have Golden Retriever Puppies For Sale in Arizona and Colorado.

* Photo credit by Champion Vets Paisley.org.uk
[1] AAHA – American Animal Hospital Association, 2017 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines.
[2] If your state allows it (i.e. Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Wisconsin), some veterinarians who are proactively against the over-vaccination of dogs, recommend the initial rabies vaccination be given when the puppy is 5 months old in order to prevent potential complications.
[3] Dr. Ronald Schultz, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
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