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The following was written in reply to a plea for information and advice from someone whose pug puppy had developed symptoms of possible vaccinosis.

Regarding the puppy who has developed a lack of coordination, please discuss the possibility of vaccinosis with your veterinarian. If he dismisses the idea and continues to want to give your pup the full vaccination schedule, seek a second opinion.

It's possible that one of the vaccines caused temporary or permanent neurological damage. If this is the case, you don't want to exacerbate the situation. I'm not saying don't vaccinate, but discuss your concerns fully with your vet and the both of you should decide which vaccine might have been the culprit and eliminate it, at least for now. You can also alter the schedule of the others a little. Do what is within the comfort level of you and your veterinarian.

Vaccines are not supposed to be given to a sick animal, but many times they are anyway and in that case there can be dire consequences. It is said that in some animals it has caused a predisposition to seizures, a lack of neurological coordination, general histimine attacks which can quickly close the airway and cause death in brachycephalic breeds, (eventually) cancer at the vaccination site, etc.

But, what can you do? You have to vaccinate your pet, right? You have to protect them. And let me preface this by saying that I DO vaccinate my dogs. I modified the schedule for my particular dogs taking into consideration what is and is not a problem in my particular region of the country, and with my vet decided which ones should be eliminated or postponed.

On the Internet you literally have the world at your fingertips. Look up the vaccines one by one, try vaccinosis -- see what you find. There is also a Wellpet list and website and an altvetmed list to answer some of your concerns. It doesn't hurt to go into the appointment with some educated questions.

Good luck in your search and I hope that in time your pup will overcome the lack of coordination. Also, this is just one possible cause and your veterinarian will probably want to run some additional tests or refer you to a specialist in order to rule out other causes.

Pug Hugs,

Catherine Donnelly
Founder, Pug Rescue of NW Arkansas


There is increasing evidence that repeated vaccinations may contribute to immune suppression, manifesting in both chronic and episodic disorders such as arthritis, various skin diseases, diabetes, epileptic seizures, loss of motor control, cancer, and can even result in death. Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XI, states that annual revaccination of dogs and cats "lacks scientific validity and verification." Also, "Almost without exception, there is no immunological requirement for revaccination."

As you become more aware of this problem in your research of this subject as a concerned pet owner, you can shift your approach from automatic yearly revaccination to a physical examination accompanied by bloodwork, or titer testing (a tool to help assess the status of the immune system, and actually quantify its state of immunity in the blood, or the serum antibody level).

While titering has been around for many years and is routinely used in research, these tests are just beginning to be offered to the general pet owning public through veterinarians. Some of the panels available include distemper and parvovirus for dogs, and herpesvirus, rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia (feline parvo), leukemia and calicivirus for cats.

The next time you get one of those reminder post cards from your veterinarian, you can schedule an appointment for an physical exam and titer. If your veterinarian has been keeping up-to-date with the vaccination related literature and new protocols, he or she should agree to draw blood for a titer test. If your veterinarian is reluctant to do so and you are convinced that revaccination can compromise your pet's health, then calmly state your case (bring your research with you). If you still get resistance, it might be wise to look for another veterinarian who is more in line with your thinking.

Your veterinarian should know of a lab that will run the testing because they send in labwork all the time for other things. The titer is usually more expensive than the vaccine ($40 - $80) and the vet might try to convince you to go with the "cheaper alternative," but mounting evidence suggests that over the long run it is probably neither economically nor medically sound advice to automatically and blindly revaccinate your pet.

The use of titer tests is even more important if your pet is geriatric, immune-compromised, or has a chronic degenerative disease, since these animals are most at risk for problems stemming from vaccinations. It states right on the vaccine vial that they are only to be administered to healthy animals. Many times this warning label is completely ignored.

If your pet has ever suffered from vaccinosis after getting a shot, which can include: low- grade fever; weakness; loss of appetite; itchy skin; rashes; seizures; loss of consciousness; loss of motor control; or swelling (anaphylaxis may compromise breathing to the point of death), the effects may be resolved by giving a homeopathic remedy such as Thuja. More importantly, however, these pets should be particularly strong candidates for the titer testing instead of further vaccinations which may result in more severe reactions with each additional booster.

Discuss your pet's reaction with your vet because sometimes it might be related to a particular component of the vaccine given, or the brand or type (live virus or dead) and you will know to use a different vaccine or eliminate a suspect vaccine the next time a "booster" is needed. One anecdotal example is the trouble that many toy breeds and terriers have with the leptospirosis vaccines and that when that component is left out no immediately apparent problems result.

People who do not practice homeopathy may chose to stay at the doctor's office for a while after vaccinations are given to make sure there isn't a reaction, or may routinely use an antihistimine to counter some of these effects. At this point some pet owners wonder if the vaccine is worse of a risk than the disease it is supposed to prevent. Homeopathic literature further suggests that when homeopathic remedies have controlled a disease, the symptoms immediately return after a vaccine is given as the vaccination seems to counteract the positive effect of the homeopathic treatment.

When following the latest vaccination protocol or one agreed upon by you and your veterinarian, it is advised that you should request killed or inactivated type vaccines whenever possible. It is also unwise to vaccinate at the same time as any surgical or medical procedure that requires anesthesia, or during any period of stress for your pet.

Another part of the immunity story is cellular memory which is described as a healthy body's inherent ability to fight disease when challenged. One of the studies by Dr. Halliwell and Associates suggests that animals can be protected by cellular memory even when levels of serum antibodies are below acceptable levels or are seemingly inadequate in number to fight off the disease. This explains why animals who have never had a certain vaccination can fight off a disease without succumbing to it.

Since the only way to test for cellular memory is to challenge the animal's immune system with the disease in question, we are left with only two mainstream options: to vaccinate, or to test for levels of serum antibodies. Since revaccinating is being questioned, then the more acceptable alternative is to test titers at least every three years in a young, healthy animal, and then vaccinate only as necessary to maintain titers at the acceptable protective levels. Older or less healthy animals may be checked yearly.

A less mainstream approach is the use of nosodes. Nosodes are homeopathic remedies that are made from a diseased material--such as tuberculosis, measles, parvovirus, etc. Followers of homeopathic and holistic medicine report that these remedies are effective in protecting the host from the disease even if given immediately after exposure.

It has to be mentioned that the ultimate immune-system booster is maintaining optimum health with good nutrition. There are several excellent books available on canine nutrition at just about any book store. A good basic natural canine diet and possibly supplementation may be in order depending on the animal's individual needs. Learn how to read the label on your bag or can of pet food. You might be surprised to learn what is really in it. Refer to this website for a source of healthy pet food: FLINT RIVER RANCH PET FOODS

To further complicate matters regarding immunity, there is always the subject of 'passive immunity' which is what the mother cat or dog passes onto the puppies or kittens in their milk. The reason why puppy and kitten series vaccinations are given multiple times is not because 'more is better,' but because it varies from pet to pet when the passive immunity from the mother is shed from the pet's body. At 16 weeks most all puppies and cats have shed their passive immunity and thus vaccinations should "work" at that point in time which is why it is the age of the last shot in the puppy/kitten series.

Variables regarding passive immunity include how soon the puppy or kitten was weaned, and how strong the mother's immune system was in the first place. The passive immunity attacks disease in the puppy or kittens body and renders it harmless, and then it is shed from the body leaving neither permenent harm nor long term immunity for the animal. This is why it is common that the first shot or even the first two shots are somewhat or completely ineffective.

Colorado State University has a web site source for their article on the revised vaccine protocol of January 1988: Excerpts are below.

"We are making this change after years of concern about the lack of scientific evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and the increasing documentation that overvaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects....which are often fatal."

Based on the concern that "annual vaccination of small probably no longer scientifically justified, and [the] desire to avoid vaccine- associated adverse events," CSU recommended a new immunization protocol for small animal clients called "Program 1701". This program recommends the standard three shot series for puppies (parvovirus, adenovirus 2, parainfluenza, distemper) and kittens (panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus). It includes rabies after 12 weeks of age for cats and 16 weeks of age for dogs. Following the initial puppy and kitten immunization series, cats and dogs are boostered one year later, and then every three years thereafter for all the above diseases." Additional vaccines may be recommended regionally on an 'as needed' basis by local veterinarians or other universities.

Recommended reading on this subject should include Who Killed the Darling Buds of May? by Catherine O'Driscoll. A strong note that this article is in no way recommending the abandonment of giving dogs and cats vaccinations, but rather to make more informed decisions about the health of your pet. The author is a pet owner and is not qualified to dispense medical advice, and this research should not be contrued as such. It is up to the individual pet owner to do or verify the research on their own, and to consult their veterinarian.

Catherine Donnelly
Founder, Pug Rescue of NW Arkansas


Dodds WJ, Vaccine associated disease in young Weimaraners, Proceedings Of The
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association,

Dodds, WJ, "Vaccine-related issues," Complementary and Alternative Veterinary
Medicine, Principles and Practice
, by Allen Schoen, DVM, and Susan G. Wynn, DVM, Mosby, St. Louis, 1998, p. 701

Olson P et al, "Serum antibody response to canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus-1 and canine distemper in dogs with known states of immunization: study of dogs in Sweden, American Journal of Veterinary Research, pp 1460-66, 1988, and 11:148, 1997

Wynn SG, Dodds WJ, Vaccine associated disease in a family of young Akitas, Proceedings of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 1995

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Dr. Bob & Susan Goldstein's Love of Animals, Natural Care and Healing For Your Dogs & Cats, July 1998 Vol. 1, No. 1,

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