More on over-vaccination of pets…

Recently the magazine Dogs NSW published a fear-mongering article, “The Deadly Canine Parvovirus – Is Your Dog At Risk”, promoting annual revaccination for parvovirus, in other words promoting gross over-vaccination of dogs.

See below my response to Dogs NSW on this matter:

Letter to the Editor of Dogs NSW:

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Charlotte Long’s article “The Deadly Canine Parvovirus – Is Your Dog At Risk?” (Dogs NSW, Sept 2013) promotes annual revaccination for parvovirus and fails to address the controversy about over-vaccination of pets, which exploits companion animals and their owners. 

Over-vaccination of pets was raised by the consumer watchdog CHOICE in 2010 with the article: Pet vaccination: Over-vaccinating your pet could be harmful to their health as well as your own hip pocket.[1]  In July 2013 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on another CHOICE investigation which found “the three common areas for “up selling” by vets were unnecessary diagnostic tests, over-vaccinating and mark-ups on products sold by vet practices”.[2] (My emphasis.)

Many vets are failing to advise pet owners about vaccination ‘best practice’, and are failing to obtain ‘informed consent’ before vaccinating their clients’ pets.

Charlotte Long maintains the lack of information by failing to refer to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats (2010), which advise that after effective vaccination with the core vaccines for parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus, duration of immunity “is many years and may be up to the lifetime of the pet”.[3]  The WSAVA Guidelines also warn “we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on individual animals in order to minimize the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products”.[4]

Ms Long also ignores the option of in-surgery or lab-based titre testing to verify a response to core vaccination.  The WSAVA Guidelines 2010 note “the principles of ‘evidence-based veterinary medicine’ would dictate that testing for antibody status (for either pups or adult dogs) is a better practice than simply administering a vaccine booster on the basis that this should be ‘safe and cost less’”.[5]  The latest  WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines for New Puppy Owners (published in May 2013) advise “the presence of circulating antibodies indicates that the dog is immune, and revaccination (with core vaccines) is not required”.[6]

Similarly there is no discussion about the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) Position Statement on Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats (first published in January 2010 in response to pet owners’ concerns about over-vaccination) which states “…the aim should be to ensure that all susceptible animals are vaccinated, rather than that already well-immunised animals are re-vaccinated”.[7]  (My emphasis.)

The APVMA is the government regulator of veterinary vaccine products.  In September 2010 the APVMA requested all eight Veterinary Boards in Australia circulate its Position Statement on Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats to veterinarians in their jurisdictions.  It is my understanding that some, if not all, of the Veterinary Boards, ignored this request by the government regulator, an appalling dereliction of duty.[8]  As a result many pet owners still remain unaware of the APVMA’s Position Statement on Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats.

The APVMA’s past failure to ensure that vaccine manufacturers’ revaccination recommendations are evidence based is at the heart of the continuing problem of over-vaccination of pets, coupled with the reluctance of many members of the veterinary profession to keep abreast of and acknowledge the latest science on duration of immunity and vaccination ‘best practice’. No wonder the World Small Animal Veterinary Association warns “there is an urgent requirement for education of practicing veterinarians in this area”.[9]

The APVMA’s Position Statement notes: The APVMA does not support the retention of label statements that direct or imply a universal need for life-long annual revaccinations with core vaccines…The APVMA is working with vaccine registrants with a view to updating labels.”(10)  (My emphasis.) However, more than three years after publication of the APVMA’s Position Statement, core vaccine products with an annual revaccination ‘recommendation’ remain on the market, e.g. Virbac’s Canigen DHA2P (11) and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Protech C3 (12).

Another important omission in Ms Long’s article is discussion about appropriate timing of puppy vaccination, with some vaccine product labels recommending a finish at 10 or 12 weeks(13), which is in conflict with the WSAVA recommendation for a finish around 14-16 weeks. It is possible that, due to the interference of maternally derived antibodies, some puppies may remain unimmunised and unprotected with the earlier finish.  (In this regard, refer to my article Vaccination failure!, published in the dog breeder’s magazine National Dog in 2010.[14])

In short, Charlotte Long’s article fails to include a simple and effective message to promote successful immunisation of puppies to protect against parvovirus, rather than over-vaccinating already immune dogs over and over again.  Instead we are presented with a fear-mongering advertorial promoting lucrative over-vaccination of dogs on behalf of the veterinary vaccination industry.

Readers of Dogs NSW have been poorly served by Ms Long’s biased and ill-informed article.  As a result it is likely many already immunised dogs will be unnecessarily revaccinated.

I request that Dogs NSW take steps to redress the misinformation it has spread in the community.

Sincerely

Elizabeth Hart

References:

1. “Pet vaccination – Over-vaccinating your pet could be harmful to their health as well as your own hip pocket.” CHOICE. Published online August 2010: http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/household/backyard/pets/pet-vaccination/page.aspx

2. Choice urges vets to dump high fees and unnecessary charges. Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2013: http://www.smh.com.au/national/choice-urges-vets-to-dump-high-fees-and-unnecessary-charges-20130721-2qck5.html

3. MJ Day, MC Horzinek, RD Schultz. World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA) Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats. Journal of Small Animal Practice. Vol.51. June 2010: http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/VaccinationGuidelines2010.pdf  Also refer to the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines webpage: http://www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines for New Puppy Owners. (May 2013.): I have highlighted important points in this version of the guidelines: http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/WSAVA%20Puppy%20Vax%20Guidelines%20May%202013.pdf

7. Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – Position Statement – Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats. 21 January 2010. Revised 25 January, 2 and 13 September 2010. http://www.apvma.gov.au/use_safely/vaccination.php

8. On 19 May 2011 I circulated an email to the veterinary boards in Australia, asking what steps they had taken to forward the APVMA’s Position Statement to registered veterinarians in their jurisdictions: http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/Email_to_Vet_Boards_May_2011.pdf  The veterinary boards of Queensland and the Northern Territory advised they had taken no action to circulate the Position Statement.  My enquiry was ignored by the other veterinary boards.

9. In the ‘read more’ section, the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group webpage notes: “It is clear that the controversy surrounding small companion animal vaccination has not diminished and that there is an urgent requirement for education of practicing veterinarians in this area. The members of the VGG are actively engaged in delivering national and international lectures to help address this demand.” (My emphasis.) http://www.wsava.org/educational/vaccination-guidelines-group

10. Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – Position Statement – Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats. 21 January 2010. Revised 25 January, 2 and 13 September 2010. http://www.apvma.gov.au/use_safely/vaccination.php

11. Virbac’s Canigen DHA2P label states: “An annual booster is recommended.” and “This product has been assessed as providing at least 12 months protection. Many factors influence the effectiveness if [sic] vaccination and the need for re-vaccination. The vaccination for an individual animal should be determined within a veterinarian-client-patient relationship, taking all these factors into account.”  The label is accessible on the APVMA’s PUBCRIS database: http://www.infopest.com.au/extra/asp/infopest/nra/labels.asp?prodcode=40758

12. The ‘suggested’ revaccination ‘recommendation’ on Boehringer Ingelheim’s Protech C3 label reads: “Annual vaccination Either Protech C3 +Protech C2i and Protech Bronchi-Shield III Or Protech C4 + Protech C2i and Protech Bronchi-Shield I.  Protech C3 and Protech C4 have been assessed as providing at least 12 months protection against canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus and canine parvovirus. Many factors influence the effectiveness of vaccination and the need for revaccination. The vaccination program for an individual animal should be determined within a veterinary-client-patient relationship, taking all these factors into account.”  The label is accessible on the APVMA’s PUBCRIS database: http://www.infopest.com.au/extra/asp/infopest/nra/labels.asp?prodcode=51487

13. For example, Boehringer Ingelheim’s Protech C3 label suggests finishing the primary vaccination program at 10 weeks: http://www.infopest.com.au/extra/asp/infopest/nra/labels.asp?prodcode=51487  MSD Animal Health’s Nobivac DHP Continuum vaccine label recommends final puppy vaccination at 10 weeks:  http://www.infopest.com.au/extra/asp/infopest/nra/labels.asp?prodcode=59043  Virbac’s Canigen DHA2P vaccine label recommends the second primary dose at 12 weeks also stating: “In situations where high maternal antibody and potential challenge is possible an additional vaccination should be considered at 16 weeks of age.” http://www.infopest.com.au/extra/asp/infopest/nra/labels.asp?prodcode=40758

14. Elizabeth Hart. “Vaccination failure! There is a potential for maternally derived antibodies (MDA) to interfere with a puppy’s response to core vaccination.” National Dog. Vol. 14, No.5, pp 29-30 (2010): http://users.on.net/~peter.hart/Vaccination_failure!.pdf

 

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