My blog post from last week generated much discussion. Some of you shared that you had similar issues with a senior pet that became sicker following vaccination. (And I felt sad each time I read your story). One person said that she discussed skipping vaccines for her senior dog, and her vet was supportive of this decision. (Insert happy dance here!) There are a couple of points that were raised with which I’d like to spend more time because I’d like to be clear about where I stand.
I’m not anti-vaccine!
No, I’m not a Jenny McCarthy fan. In January I wrote a series about vaccine guidelines for dogs and cats. I included brief summaries of the diseases against which we vaccinate. These diseases make animals very sick, and in some cases they cause death. Animal vaccines were developed to prevent this, and I fully recognize the power of vaccines in preventing disease. I do support vaccinating puppies and kittens for distemper, parvo, hepatitis, panleukopenia, herpes, etc. I observe the law in regard to rabies vaccination. I support on-going studies, such as the Rabies Challenge Fund, which provide data toward lengthening vaccine intervals. What I do not support is blanket vaccination of every animal, every year. I do not support vaccinating animals that are not healthy, no matter what their age.
Revised Rabies Law in PA
Last fall, pet owners and veterinarians were granted a gift in the Rabies Law. It’s called medical exemption (see SB 155 text here), and it means that if the veterinarian deems administering rabies vaccine to a pet will be harmful to his/her health, the vet can write an exemption. According to the law, the letter must include reasons why the pet cannot receive the vaccine, as well as other details. It must be renewed yearly and and a copy placed in the pet’s medical record. You and the vet must sign the letter, and you get two copies: one for your file and one to send to the PA Department of Agriculture, Office of Dog Law Enforcement. If a police officer or dog warden asks you to show proof of rabies vaccination, under the law you have 48 hours to present the medical exemption letter to the authorities.
Best Use of Resources
My colleague, Dr. Melissa McFarland, commented that she’s tired of seeing senior pets receive vaccines instead of diagnostic testing and treatments that will extend their lives and improve quality of life. I didn’t touch upon this last week, but I think this is such an important point. We all have limited financial resources, but we want the very best for our pets. It just makes sense to shift dollars away from vaccination to procedures/treatments that will actually benefit our furry seniors. As Dr. McFarland says, “Time to focus attention elsewhere.”
I want to thank each one of you for reading and commenting on last week’s blog post. This is really what I hoped for when I started YourPetsNeedThis, that it could be a forum for provoking thought and discussion. What other topics would you like to read about?