Canine Inoculations - Necessary Or Not?

A responsible dog owner will automatically take their new puppy to the Vet for a check up and inoculations at around eight weeks old. It is at this time that a typical combination vaccine of parvovirus and leptospirosis is given, followed by a second jab, a few weeks later, which also prevents distemper and hepatitis. Parvovirus is a nasty disease that attacks the immune system causing vomiting and diarrhoea. Distemper, also known as hardpad, affects the gut, lungs and nervous system and is usually fatal. Hepatitis attacks the liver, lungs, eyes and kidneys and is often fatal although there is a chance of recovery. Leptospirosis, also known as Weil's Syndrome, can cause jaundice, a raised temperature, great thirst, pain and diarrhoea with death often occurring within hours. As we would not like to see our pet dog suffer from any of these dreadful illnesses we automatically have them immunised but is it really necessary? Initially your puppy will have protection against disease from its mother's milk but as the weeks pass this natural immunity will fade and that is the time when your pet is most vulnerable. Personally I have always had my dogs inoculated when they were puppies but after that I have not kept up with the booster jabs. My reasoning for this is threefold: I have a personal fear of inoculations following an adverse reaction to a jab when I was a child; secondly, I am quite confident that the places where I walk my dogs consist, in general, of responsible dog owners whose dogs will also have had their puppy jabs at the very least; lastly I do not put my dogs in kennels - ever - although there are now a growing number of establishments that operate under more customer friendly rules, giving a choice of conventional, scientific inoculation, homeopathic nosodes or Titre test as their admittance conditions. A titre test checks the levels of your dog's immunity thus providing evidence of the necessity, or not, of a further booster jabs enabling less frequent or sometimes total absence of more jabs. Homeopathic nosodes are remedies made from infected material from an already poorly animal and whilst this is the same basis that a vaccine is designed from, the homeopathic remedy uses such a diluted amount of the chosen substance that it is barely traceable. The theory is that 'like fights like' and again, similarly to a conventional, scientific vaccine it is believed that by introducing a miniscule amount of a disease into a patient the body will respond and become immune to whatever the infection is. The big difference between homeopathy and scientific medicine is that immunity will be achieved without having to deliver a heavy dose of vaccine which can cause side effects or worse. Vaccinations work by stimulating the immune system in the same way as the homeopathic nosodes but, as previously stated, a much larger amount of infected material is used and this can cause side effects and symptoms ranging from soreness at the site of the jab to serious allergic reactions. Following inoculation you should be on the look out for fever, sluggishness, loss of appetite, swelling, vomiting, diarrhoea, collapse, difficulty breathing, or even seizures. Obviously side effects are rare and the majority of dogs will suffer no ill effects from inoculation whilst it is also true that immunisation has already saved the lives of thousands. However, as with any medical procedure, there are risks which have to be weighed against the benefits. Homeopathic remedies carry no risk at all and many different remedies are available together with an increasing number of practising vets. Each dog is holistically assessed and the substance to be used is tailored to each individual dog. So, with many homeopathic alternatives available why do we continue with conventional immunisation? Many people believe that it is thanks to vaccinations that most of the serious canine diseases are no longer prevalent in this country and that there would be a resurgence of disease if inoculations were ceased, but for some of us there is still a little niggling doubt which persists despite what the scientists tell us. Alternative remedies can be viewed as 'quackery' but these remedies cannot harm anyone so if it works why not use it? Animals are unaware of the background to any treatment they are given so unlike a human being they cannot be accused of the placebo effect and there are many success stories regarding homeopathy and animal welfare. One animal charity has spoken out on behalf of homeopathy and stated that vaccines can actually make dogs ill. They blame drug companies, and sometimes the veterinarian, for putting profit before health by promoting drugs and encouraging pet owners to have their pet immunised more often than necessary. The charity also states that they are not against vaccination per se, but think that pets are receiving too many with adverse effects to their health. In fact they argue that scientific tests have proved that puppies are often immune to disease for at least seven years following their initial inoculations making a mockery of the annual booster requirement. However other dog welfare charities state that inoculations are vital and whilst it is not a legal obligation to have your dog vaccinated you would be irresponsible not to. It really is a personal choice whether you carry on with yearly boosters or not. However it pays to make an informed choice so you should always speak to your vet and perhaps carry out some research yourself before making a decision. The website 'Canine Health Concern' has a lot of information about alternative vaccines and the case against scientific inoculations whilst many animal charities and your vet will speak out in support of conventional medicine. So, before committing your pet, arm yourself with all the information and should you choose conventional immunisation make sure your pet is 100% fit and healthy and that your vet is fully aware of your dog's medical history before going ahead.


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