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Information on vaccination for pets and horses.

Equine Influenza Vaccines

"vaccines could be administered more strategically and should contain currently circulating strains of virus. None of the vaccines on sale in the UK contain the most recently recommended strains", she said, "and only one vaccine in the US does." Dr Janet Daly, Virologist at University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, Nov 2013

See full article here

Regarding Puppy Vaccination and subsequent adult dog vaccination here is the latest findings published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. On the basis of this no dog should need vaccinating more frequently than 3-yearly, although you may need to get annual titre tests done in order for your vet to sign your vaccination certificate to confirm your dog has immune cover. You will need this in order to allow your dog to stay in Boarding Kennels and it may be a part of your Pet Insurance requirement although there is clearly no scientific basis to insist on these, other than to ensure your dog has been vet-checked.


Vaccines are less tested than other medications because the concept of vaccination is accepted and thought to be safe.

Thimerosal adjuvant dangers to human astrocyte mitochondria. If it can adversely affect these cells in the human brain why can it not similarly affect our animals especially as this is the most commonly used adjuvant, frequently used on an annual basis?

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Nosodes Work

In Cuba, homeopathic nosodes against Weil's Disease in people proved more successful than vaccination. There is no reason why this shouldn't transpose to animals with huge financial implications for farmers especially.

Link to paper here

Roger's opinion on Vaccination

Vaccination is frequently a contentious issue both within human and veterinary medical fields. Contrary to popular belief vaccination was first performed by the Chinese. Whilst in Hong Kong, a friend of Edward Jenner saw vaccination being performed and told Jenner about it when he came home to the UK. Jenner tried the idea by using Cowpox to inoculate against Smallpox and the rest as they say is history.

There now seems to be an idealistic belief that it will be possible to vaccinate for a myriad of diseases from Grass Sickness through to Cancer. IMHO this is unrealistic and fails to recognise that many diseases are multi-factorial and/or can have a number of aetiologies behind the same end result. There is also a failure to learn the lessons from veterinary medicine where over-vaccination in the poultry and pig industries brought about populations of birds and pigs respectively that have seriously compromised immune systems that struggle to cope with pathogens other than those specific strains against which they have been inoculated.

There are a number of fundamental problems with vaccines as follows.

Single vaccines can only have a maximum of 3 components eg this means that there are only 3 strains of the chosen equine influenza virus in horse flu jabs. Nature has a predictable habit of mutating in unpredictable ways. As we know from the outbreak in Newmarket in 2003 where all vaccinations on racing yards are strictly kept up to date, there is no protection against a novel strain of virus. Indeed the veterinary response of increasing the frequency of vaccination to quarterly did not confer protection and in my opinion quite probably compromised an already failing immune system thereby lowering the ability to mount an appropriate immune response. Subsequent retrospective statistical analysis of that situation also demonstrated that 2 year old horses were less effected on the whole than older horses. However nobody officially suggested that it therefore demonstrated that horses that had been given multiple flu vaccinations in the past were less immunologically capable than those that had received significantly fewer vaccinations. I can't think why not?! The age factor here is important as all flat-racing horses are young enough that theoretically they should have similar immune capabilities. It also demonstrates that it doesn't take many vaccinations in the course of a life to significantly compromise immune capability - ie this age difference in immune capability would have been unlikely to have figured if horses of 7 years old were compared with 8 year olds assuming full vaccination had been ongoing throughout their lives - ie they would all be compromised to roughly the same degree. If anything you would expect 2 year old horses to be more stressed in a racing yard due to their physical immaturity, new environment and new training regime than 3 year olds in their second season of training. It is well known that stress reduces immunity and thus it would be expected that 2 year old horses should have been the more effected age group. They weren't. Tetanus vaccination is another story however in horses and should be kept up to date although whether they need it every 2 years must be questionable given that we only seem to need it 3 times in our life.

Vaccines are often given by a different route by which natural infection would be achieved and in many cases stimulate a different branch of the immune system to that which would have to deal with a future challenge. How many horses contract flu by any route other than through their respiratory system? A healthy immune system supported by good quality nutrition and a minimally stressed lifestyle remains the best way to stay healthy and enable the body to generate antibodies to diseases when challenged.

Vaccines contain adjuvants which are necessary to stimulate and amplify the immune response to the viral/bacterial component of the vaccine. Adjuvants usually contain aluminium hydroxide and/or mercury in the form of thimerosal. Both Aluminium and Mercury have been known to cause their own health problems for over 100 years in the form of neurotoxic effects ranging from muscular pain and paralysis to CNS and behavioural changes which has been suggested is amplified if both types of adjuvant are used together. With the advent of supposedly milder vaccines using recombinant viruses etc the use of more aggressive oil-based adjuvants has been proposed to ensure an immune response including those previously thought to be too potent to be used in the past. Indeed oil-based adjuvants are used in vivisection to induce auto-immune diseases in experimental animals. Squalene is one such adjuvant that has been suggested and has already been used. Jounalist Gary Matsumoto wrote after thoroughly researching the subject

"when an oil is injected, the immune system responds to it not only specifically, but with heightened intensity because the oil adjuvant resembles so closely the natural oils found in the body. A ‘cross reaction’ then happens, sending the immune system into chaos destroying any oils found anywhere in the body that resemble the adjuvant oil. Demyelinating diseases akin to multiple sclerosis are an example of this destructive autoimmune process"

Unfortunately it is unlikely that owners of animals being given a vaccine will necessarily be told which adjuvant it contains - not that it's a great choice. Whatever adjuvant is used it is a potential time-bomb ticking away. It is no coincidence in my mind that allergies are an ever-increasing problem in animals as it is with people too. Over-vaccination and poor nutrition must bear much of the responsibility for this. It is commonly stated that it takes the immune system up to 6 months to fully recover (if it really ever does) from a vaccination. The more vaccinations given together at a young age, the greater the difficulty in recovering especially in puppies/kittens etc where the immune system is often not fully developed. However, even in adults, 6 monthly vaccination as is now the requirement for horses regularly competing at FEI level, means the immune system is continually in recovery from vaccination. We are in danger of compromising and permanently damaging these horses. I have seen some horses where I believe an immune-mediated imbalance was caused by 6 monthly vaccination resulting in allergies and poor performance.

A team at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine conducted several studies to determine if vaccines can cause changes in the immune system of dogs that might lead to life-threatening immune-mediated diseases. They discovered that contaminant calf collagen was stimulating antibody production that cross-reacted with the dog's own collagen which would explain so many degenerative diseases such as arthritis and heart valve disease to name but two, where the body's own collagen fails. They concluded that further research should be performed but the practice of annual vaccination in the UK is still largely common practice even though there is no scientific basis for this interval and continued vaccination increases the likelihood of adverse auto-immune effects.

There has never been a study to show that annual vaccines are needed for any of the core vaccines in cats or dogs, there are plenty of studies to show the duration of immunity is much longer than we are being told. Supporting this point is the fact that more than half the dogs, and even more of the cats in the UK are greater than 4 years behind with their boosters (source: Intervet mailing). Yet where are the outbreaks? They just don’t happen as the scaremongering predicts, and this is likely to be because immunity is lifelong. In 2013 the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) produced a statement saying that the success of the first vaccines given in puppyhood with the last dose at 16 weeks old gives approximately 98% cover. Revaccination should be no more frequent than every 3 years and even then only if titre testing indicates it is necessary.

Dogs' and cats' immune systems mature fully at six months. If modified live-virus (MLV) vaccine is given after six months of age, it produces immunity which is good for the life of the pet. If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralise the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. The titre is not "boosted", nor are more memory cells induced. Not only are annual boosters unnecessary, but they subject the pet to increased potential risks such as allergic reactions and immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia.

Cats can get vaccine-induced cancer that has been acknowledged by veterinary bodies around the world. In America, in an attempt to mitigate the problem, they vaccinate cats in the tail or leg so they can be more easily amputated when cancer appears. Vaccine-induced injection site cancer can happen in other species too.

I am writing a special section on Lepto vaccination because I frequently come across owners who have thought about vaccination with limited access to information and have decided that of all the diseases their dog is likely to encounter, Leptospirosis is the one and that they should therefore keep this vaccine going beyond all others. The following information might cause you to change your mind!

  1. Kansas University reports that the Leptospirosis vaccine is THE major cause of vaccine reactions, so much so that they consider the risks outweigh the benefits. It is no longer considered a core vaccine and they even recommend it should not be given to puppies
  2. Another study found the vaccine highly immuno-suppressive and recommended that the vaccine should not be given in conjunction with other vaccines (it is currently in the UK).
  3. The Leptospirosis vaccine does not protect the dog from being infected with the disease; it just minimises the clinical symptoms. Hence there seems to be/have been a real risk of vaccinated healthy dogs shedding the spirochetes to other dogs and humans. Although one manufacturer has recently claimed it has a vaccine to prevent this, the clinical study conducted to test the vaccine was based on a sample of only 6 dogs which statistically is a study so narrowly based that it cannot be scientifically credible.
  4. The duration of immunity measurable by titre induced by the Leptospirosis vaccine can be as little as a few months yet the advised interval for boosters is 1 year, which it seems has been an entirely arbitrary recommendation. By inference it may well be therefore that even vaccinated dogs are not protected as their owners expect.
  5. There is little protection between serovars (types). Use of the vaccine in the USA has led to a shift in the serovar population such that the serovars now infecting dogs are not the ones used in the vaccines. I think it is logical to assume this is true also in the UK. Are we therefore now vaccinating against a disease that barely exists in the form vaccinated for?
  6. The vaccine efficacy seems between only 50 -70%, depending on the author.

The new L4 vaccine is currently being pushed very hard in the UK and scare stories about leptospirosis diagnosis and disease are rife. The truth about the L4 vaccine is as follows ...

  1. The L4 vaccine covers the 2 serovars in the old vaccines as well as 2 new serovars L3 and L4. There are quite a few serotypes within each serovar and there is cross-protection between serotypes within each serovar but, as stated above, not between the different serovars.
  2. The L3 serovar does NOT occur in the UK as the intermediate host is a type of vole that doesn't occur in this country. It is more widespread in Europe and the U.S. So that's a quarter of the new vaccine we don't need already.
  3. The L4 serovar has been so far diagnosed in <1% of cases referred to the Animal Health Trust labs. Of course not all cases get tested but even so it would seem that the new vaccine gives little additional benefit over the older ones.
  4. It would appear that the reason why the vaccine has been launched in the UK when the European and U.S. markets are the real targets is that it makes sense for the manufacturer to produce enough of the vaccine and market it to the UK too knowing that because vaccine uptake in the UK is generally good, we provide a good opportunity to get more data on adverse reactions etc.

Homeopathic Nosodes

Homeopathic nosodes are sometimes wrongly referred to as a homeopathic vaccine. Nosodes are homeopathic preparations of the pathogen but this in itself does not stimulate the immune response in the same way as a vaccination.

Nosodes will cover the individual in the face of an outbreak of disease so that they will asymptomatically seroconvert in response to meeting the disease pathogen. The natural immune response will result in antibodies and memory cell production but it is as a result of being challenged by the pathogen itself and not as a result of the nosode. People who have given nosodes where a future titre test has shown antibodies present have mis-interpretted the meaning of this and have assumed that the nosode stimulated the immune response because they haven't witnessed the pathogen challenge that occurred during the nosode course because it was asymptomatic.

If an individual receiving a nosode does not encounter the pathogen at the same time, they will not seroconvert and will not have an immune response that conveys future cover. It is entirely possible therefore for an individual that has received homeopathic nosodes but not seroconverted to meet the pathogen in later life and become ill with that disease. It is not a failing of the nosode itself - just a failing of the individual to meet the pathogen whilst they were receiving the nosode. I hope that clears up a common misunderstanding.

Titre testing is becoming more popular as more owners realise it is available. However there are some misunderstandings about what titre tests really mean. In order to understand them you need to know what the immune system does in response to infection and/or vaccination.

When a pathogen (eg usually a single strain of bacteria or virus) is encountered the immune system responds in 2 ways

  1. It produces anti-bodies that directly attack the pathogen
  2. It produces Memory Cells that can very quickly divide and produce anti-bodies.

When the pathogen is no longer challenging the individual it is a waste of resources to copntinually produce antibodies that aren't required so the body doesn't. If challenged again then the Memory Cells can gear up very quickly to produce enough anti-bodies.

Titre tests measure the presence of anti-bodies only. A positive titre test means there are anti-bodies present with a higher number indicating a recent or ongoing higher challenge. A low positive titre result means the recenht and current challenge is low. It has no bearing on how quickly the body can gear up to produce more. A negative titre test means there are no anti-bodies currently circulating which either means there has been no challenge recently or ongoing or there is no immune cover. It is impossible to distinguish between these because the titre test tells you nothing about the Memory Cell status. If the titre test is negative but there are Memory Cells then the individuial still has the ability to generate anti-bodies to provide defence against the pathogen. If there is no immune cover then there are no Memory Cells and no ability to switch on anti-body production.

The Ideal Immune Status Evaluation

In order to distinguish between a negative titre test with or without Memory Cells the only way is to have done a titre test a couple of weeks post vaccination or post nosode course to test for anti-bodies. If anti-bodies are present then Memory Cells will also have been produced. Future titre tests are therefore more of a measure of the current challenge than the immune status/ability of the individual. Bear in mind that it takes time to generate anti-bodies from Memory Cells so cover will be slightly delayed if there are no currently circulating anti-bodies.

Once a positive anti-body response has been measured post vaccination or nosode course then the individual has immune cover. There is evidence to suggest this can last anything up to 7 years or life-long. There is therefore no need to revaccinate after a low titre test, or even after a negative one provided the initial titre test to prove sero-conversion has taken place.

NB: There is always a degree of risk whatever course you decide to follow. There is no guarantee that immune cover however generated, whether by vaccine or natural infection covered by nosode will protect against all strains, especially new mutations which may be more virulent. The ability to gear uip the immune system also requires the individual to have that ability which will be impaired if concurrently ill and/or in older individuals. There is evidence to suggest that regular vaccination impairs the immune system response over time too. The choice is yours!