The Vaccination Debate for Puppies - by Dr. Sylvie Abrioux

At Hillside Veterinary Hospital we get asked lots of questions about vaccinations and the accuracy of the information available on the internet. Here is Dr. Sylvie Abrioux's answer to the vaccination debate for puppies:

First of all, keep in mind that anyone can post anything they choose to on the Internet, and that (unfortunately) these opinions are rarely based on scientific facts.  As a veterinarian, what I can tell you is that vaccines exist for a very good reason and that we have them to thank for the fact that we rarely see diseases like canine parvovirus and distemper anymore in this part of the world.  Notice that I said “rarely”, as we have recently started to see more cases since vaccines have been blackballed by certain breeders and other well-meaning, but misinformed, people.  I can think of at least one incident in the past year whereby I examined a young puppy and recommended starting a series of basic “puppy shots” but the owner declined because her breeder had told her that under no circumstances should the puppy be vaccinated.  I was saddened to receive a report from the emergency veterinary hospital several weeks later showing that the puppy had been admitted for treatment for parvovirus and that it had (thankfully) pulled through but not without intensive medical care and a very large veterinary bill for this preventable, and often deadly, disease. 

While I do not advocate “all vaccines for all pets”, I feel strongly that the basic combination puppy vaccines are extremely important for priming the immune system.  This consists of a series of vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age.  Whether or not you choose (and I recommend) to vaccinate against Bordetella (“kennel cough”) & Rabies will depend on the intended lifestyle of your puppy and whether or not you intend to travel.  We can discuss all these things when you come for your first appointment. 

I cannot say that there is no risk of complications from giving vaccines.  Anytime we inject a foreign substance there is a risk of side effects, but thankfully the actual incidence of serious adverse reactions is low, and I feel strongly that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.  I consulted a scientific paper and was able to find a rate of VAAE's (vaccine associated adverse events) of 0.38% overall.  To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to less than 4 dogs out of 1000.  The risks were higher in certain breeds and in puppies weighing less than 5 kg, however the rate was still very low.

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