Dog Vaccinations: To Do Or Not To Do?

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / May 12, 2017

You’re a responsible pet parent…

Shots for Dogs

You adore your dog. That’s why you purchase quality pet food, make sure they get adequate exercise, and follow your vet’s vaccine recommendations to a T. You are a top notch pet parent and we commend you for that! But what if I told you that not only were you being taken advantage of, but one of these so-called “good practices” has already adversely affected your dog. Unpopular opinion alert: we’re talking about vaccinations.


Before you write us off as extremists who believe your dog is one vaccination away from puppy autism, take a second to hear us out. Advances in western medicine (vaccines included) are a very good thing. While western medicine allows us to live longer, healthier lives, it doesn’t mean these miracle drugs are without their faults.


At the end of the day, YOU are in charge of your pet’s health. You are the one who ultimately decides what to do. However, before you make that choice, there are a few things your vet probably hasn’t mentioned that you should know.



Back in the 1970s, vaccine labels included the statement “Annual Revaccination Recommended.” The only problem? This was a wild guess. This recommendation was given even though authorities on the subject didn’t actually know the true duration of immunity (DOI).


Around the same time, immunologist Dr. Ronald Schultz initiated research that would prove core vaccines had a minimum duration of immunity of at least seven years. Even with this information, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) updated their recommendation, stating “Revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.” Even after more data flowed in, proving Schultz’s hypothesis time and time again, the AAHA merely changed their recommendation to “every 3 years or more.”


You may be asking yourself: why is this important and what does it have to do with my dog? The answer: everything. Today, 60% of vets vaccinate pets more than the AAHA recommends, which as we know from Dr. Schultz’s study, is already too often.


Overvaccination is a serious issue. In fact, studies show that it can cause a slew of problems, including:

Common Reactions

  • Lethargy
  • Hair Loss
  • Change at Injection Site
  • Fever
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness
  • Refusal to Eat
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Sneezing
  • Oral Ulcers

Moderate Reactions

  • Immunosuppression
  • Behavioral Changes
  • Vitiligo
  • Weight Loss
  • Reduced Milk Production
  • Lameness
  • Abscesses
  • Hives
  • Facial Edema
  • Atopy
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Allergic Uveitis

Severe Reactions

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Arthritis
  • Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia
  • Cytopenia
  • Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn
  • Thyroiditis
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Whichever Disease The Vaccine Was Designed To Prevent
  • Myocarditis
  • PostVaccinal Encephalitis or Polyneuritis
  • Seizures
  • Abortion
  • Failure to Conceive


Another interesting fact worth noting is that autoimmune diseases have been on the rise since the advent of live virus vaccines. This is not surprising given the nature of autoimmune disease, which is any disease in which your immune system turns against itself and attacks your body. This includes: cancer, leukemia, thyroid disease, Grave’s disease, Addisons, Lupus, among others.


Core Vaccines vs. Non-Core Vaccines


As we’ve established, thoughtful vaccination is not an issue. In fact, they are an important part of illness prevention for your pup. However all vaccinations are not created equal. Some are vital and come highly recommended, while others end up doing more harm than good. How do we tell the difference? Luckily, the AAHA comes in handy for this.


In 2006, the AAHA assigned canine vaccines to two categories: core and non-core. When you first bring in your puppy, your vet will recommend the core vaccines. These vaccines are considered vital as they prevent your dog from contracting dangerous viral diseases. The following fall under the core vaccine category:

  • Rabies
  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus 


Unlike core vaccines, non-core vaccines should be given only if the dog has a high exposure risk. Additionally, the majority of non-core vaccines are bacterial which have lower rates of overall success with more adverse reactions. Non-core vaccines include:

  • Canine Influenza
  • Lyme Disease
  • Bordetella
  • Parainfluenza
  • Leptospirosis 4-way
  • Adenovirus Intranasal


Duration of Immunity and Other Stats

You’re no stranger to revaccination. In fact, your vet has probably followed the AAHA’s recommendation to revaccinate your pet every 3 years. However, despite this recommendation, the 40 year study carried out by Dr Ronald D Schultz confirms that once vaccinated, dogs and cats have lifelong immunity. According to this research, the minimum duration of immunity for canine vaccines are as follows:


Distemper- 7 years by challenge/15 years by serology

Parvovirus – 7 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology

Adenovirus – 7 years by challenge/ 9 years by serology

Canine rabies – 3 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology


Challenge: Immunity confirmed by exposing dog to disease

Serology: Immunity confirmed with high levels of antibodies


When it comes to vaccines, more is not better, it’s worse! In fact, regarding revaccination, Dr. Schultz states, “The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given. Few or no scientific studies have demonstrated a need for cats or dogs to be revaccinated…We have found that annual revaccination with the vaccines that provide long-term immunity provides no demonstrable benefit.”


Another important thing to note is the timing of the first vaccine. The first vaccination must not be administered too early. Young puppies are protected from disease as their mother’s first milk includes powerful antibodies. This passive immunity temporarily protects the pups while their own immune systems are forming. It’s highly recommended that puppies do not receive vaccinations until at least 16 weeks of age as they are less likely to have interfering levels of maternally derived antibodies at that point on.


Harmful Ingredients in Vaccines

All this talk of vaccines but do you actually know what is being injected into your pet? Unless you’re asking your vet for a complete breakdown of ingredients, chances are you do not. Unfortunately, many dangerous additives are used in the making of your standard vaccines. This can include:

Animal Protein

Vaccines always contain animal protein due to the fact that the micro-organisms of the disease are grown on animal tissue. When the vaccine is made, it is impossible to separate the micro-organisms from the tissue, so they both go into the vaccine. While this may not seem too dire given the amount of animal protein your pup probably ingests, animal protein can be quite harmful.


When your dog eats animal protein, it is digested into simpler amino acids before entering the bloodstream. This digestive process is essential as it prevents immune reactions. This digestive process, however, is skipped when the vaccine is injected straight into the blood stream.



Thimerosal is an unnecessary preservative that allows vaccine manufacturers to save money by packing vaccines in multi-dose vials. Unfortunately, thimerosal has some serious side effects. First of all, it’s mercury based which means it’s extremely toxic. In lab studies, it proved to be fatal to mice and even trace amounts were found to be toxic to tissue cells.


In 1977, ten newborns died after coming into contact with an antiseptic that contained thimerosal. Following this event, the FDA proposed a ban on over-the-counter products and while they considered banning the preservative from animal vaccines, it never happened.


Today, most canine vaccines still contain thimerosal. Even the “thimerosal-free vaccines” do because while it may not be added as an ingredient, the manufacturers may still use it in the processing of the vaccines.



Contaminants are poisonous substances that make the vaccine impure. While it’s impossible to remove all contaminants from vaccines, a great deal of them are behind the adverse effects your pet may experience following an injection.


In fact, canine vaccines aren’t the only vaccines affected. A new study reveals just how contaminated human vaccines are as well. “Researchers examining 44 samples of 30 different vaccines found dangerous contaminants, including red blood cells in one vaccine and metal toxicants in every single sample tested – except in one [feline] vaccine.” They concluded that the contamination can be blamed on polluted components and/or procedures of industrial processes such as filtration.



Have you ever heard someone tell you to avoid anti-perspirant with aluminum? They had the right idea. Aluminum is linked to the deterioration of the brain and nervous system. It has the ability to contribute to brain inflammation and can lead to severe conditions such as seizures, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. Unfortunately, aluminum is a very popular immunological agent used in canine vaccines.




Gentamicin is an antibiotic that stops the growth of bacteria. It can adversely affect the kidneys and cause nerve damage, resulting in hearing loss and balance problems. While this may seem like a benign risk, it is important for those who implement a holistic approach to be aware of the possible side effects.


Responsible Vet Practice or Greedy Financial Gain?

As we’ve established, there is ample evidence that immunity lasts a lifetime and that vaccines can have some serious long-term ramifications on your pup’s health. So at this point, you many be asking yourself, WHY ARE WE STILL DOING THIS? The answer, unfortunately, has little to do with your pet’s wellbeing and everything to do with money.


The markup on the rabies vaccine ranges from 2400% to 6200%. That is an extremely large chunk of income. In fact, it’s estimated that taking the rabies vaccine out of the picture would reduce a vet’s yearly income from $87,000 to a mere $25,000. According to the AAHA, vaccines make up 14% of the average vet’s income so it’s safe to say that if vaccines became less common, veterinarians would take a hard financial hit.


Titer Testing

You may have heard of titer testing, a blood test that measures the amount of antibodies your pet has produced in response to any one disease. While many consider it an affordable and accurate way to check for immunity, relying solely on titer tests can be dangerous for your pet, as a lack of antibodies does not mean your dog isn’t protected.


As stated before, “The evidence is strong that immunity persists for years or for life from vaccines given early in life, and the risk of chronic illness is significantly increased with vaccine repetition.” Therefore, if you receive your pup’s test results and the antibodies for a particular disease are low, the recommendation will, without a doubt, be to revaccinate. Most importantly, titer tests fail to measure a very important aspect of immunity.


Immunologists divide immunity into two elements called humoral immunity and cell mediated immunity. Humoral immunity is based on number of antibodies so this aspect of immunity is covered by titer testing. However, cell mediated immunity has nothing to do with antibodies and everything to do with a variety of other cells such as T-lymphocytes, macrophages, and NK cells, among others. These cells are responsible for not only killing the infected cells but communicating with the rest of the immune system.


The immune system relies on all of its components to fight disease. So while the presence of antibodies is a good indication that your pet is protected, a lack thereof does not mean your pet is in danger of contracting the disease. With this said, titer testing can be a useful method to verify whether or not your puppy’s vaccinations were effective in the first place. All you have to do is have your vet perform a titer test a few weeks following the initial vaccination. “If there’s any measurable titer to the disease in question, your goal has been reached.”


Post Vaccination Detox Methods

When vaccinating your pet, there are some things you can do to help flush out any and all toxins following the injection. Post vaccination detox is a wonderful way to ensure your pet’s immunity but also decrease their chances of a nasty side effect.


Vitamin C is a great way to detox your pet’s liver following a vaccination. Whole, plant-based foods such as camu camu and acerola berries are easy for your pet to absorb.


Like in humans, probiotics can restore the natural balance in a dog’s gut following a vaccination. While you’ll want to avoid dairy products such as yogurt, you can purchase pre-made blends or give your dog fermented food such as kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi.


Especially following a vaccination, your pet could benefit from some holistic care. Consulting with a homeopathic veterinarian is a wonderful way to get your pup’s health back on track.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in the detox process. Not only do they promote a healthy heart but they can assist with inflammation as well.

Garlic & Leafy Greens

Garlic contains sulphur which can help detox your dog’s liver from heavy metals. However, you’ll want to only give your dog a small amount as garlic can adversely affect your dog in large quantities.

Bottom Line

Vaccines are not the enemy. Without vaccines, millions of pets would be at risk of contracting fatal diseases. However, vaccination and especially revaccination are not without their downsides. While your vet will most likely push you to revaccinate every three years, it’s important to remember that you are the one in charge of your dog’s health and with the exception of the rabies vaccine, no vet has the authority to make you vaccinate your dog.

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About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for