I think it’s very important to do your research before vaccinating your pets. Do they really need a distemper booster every year? Do they need a Lyme vaccination? What about all these newer shots that your vet might be suggesting, like Lepto? Well, maybe they do and maybe they don’t. A lot depends on your dog and his or her lifestyle. Here’s what the American Veterinary Medical Association has to say about Lepto.
Dogs are most commonly affected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs. – AVMA.
I have a family member whose dog just underwent surgery to remove a rather large mass that was probably, according to the pathologist, caused by an inflammatory response to his most recent vaccine. What was the vaccine? It was for Leptospirosis! There are of course dogs that do need to be vaccinated against Leptospirosis due to their risk of exposure. Hers however, does not! He’s a six lb Yorkie that barely ventures outside of the house. His risk of contracting this disease is slim to none. The risk of injury from the vaccine was obviously much higher! And in my opinion, her Veterinarian should have asked about his lifestyle and risk of exposure before giving the shot. But, more than that, if she was aware of what the shot was for, she could have refused since her dog is at such a low risk.
The Lyme vaccine is another thing to think seriously about. What is your dog’s exposure to ticks and tick borne disease? The Yorkie I mentioned above probably has about the same risk of exposure to Lyme as he had to Lepto. Learning how to identify ticks and how the disease is transmitted will help ease your concern a bit. Also, please realize that there are ways to prevent ticks and Lyme that don’t involve exposing your pets to the chemicals and poisons in the spot on flea & tick treatments. The manufacturers of these drugs count on us believing the hysteria of the news media regarding ticks and Lyme disease so they can sell more of their products. The same holds true for Heart Worm Disease. Is your dog on a Heart Worm regimen? Do you give them the meds year round? Did you know that only adult female mosquito’s can transmit heart worm disease? And their life cycle is very short here in the Northeast. In fact, they only live a couple of months and since they’re cold blooded if the temps drop below 50 degrees, even for one day or overnight, they hibernate or lay their eggs in cold water and die off and the cycle starts all over. In the southern states Heartworm is much more prevelent since the temps are warmer, humidity is higher and it’s a great breeding ground for Mosquito’s. Dog’s that come here from the south that may be carrying the disease CAN pose a risk to our pets since if a mosquito bites an infected dog and then bite’s your dog, they can spread the disease, but again, what are the odds? If you don't want to have your dog's blood tested every year for Heart Worm, you can keep them on the meds all year, but is it necessary to give your dog heart guard in the middle of January? I don’t think so. Besides, the blood test is probably less expensive than buying Heartguard 12 months out of the year. but that decision is up to you and what you feel is best for your own dog.
I no longer give my dogs Heart worm meds at all. I use other safer topical repellents instead and limit their exposure during peak season and have them tested each summer. I know, I’m a rebel. It’s not that I don’t think my Vet’s have my dogs good health and best interest at heart. I truly believe they do. However, their knowledge is limited to what they were taught in school and what they choose to pursue in the way of continuing ed. Most people don't realize that in general, Veterinarian's have very limited knowledge in nutrition and behavior. Unless they specialize in these areas. In which case, they would have a title stating so, such as Veterinary Behaviorist or Veterinary Nutritionist. As some of you may know, I lost 2 dogs to cancer within 6 months of each other that were only middle aged. Both for whom I followed the protocols put out by their vet. Vaccines, flea/tick treatments, heart worm prevention, early spay/neuter, etc. Plus, my Gus had serious health issues throughout his life, seizures, allergies, torn ACL’s, food sensitivities, the list goes on. And Mike has suffered from Hypothyroidism since he was two! I always say I’m four for four. Four dog's, all 4 with life threatening illnesses. So, I’ve taken a new approach. I question EVERYTHING. Following Dr. Jean Dodd’s vaccine protocols (http://www.dogs4dogs.com/puppy-shots.htm) I’ve done only puppy vaccinations for Walker, my 18 month old Lab, and will have the vet run titer’s to make sure he’s got amunity to Distemper, Parvo, etc, if he doesn’t we’ll have another round of shots and go from there. That goes for Mike too. He’s now 8 ½ and since Molly (His littermate) died at 7, I’m very cautious with his health and wellness too. In addition to all of this, I’ve taken them both completely off Kibble and feed them a balanced homemade raw diet. (But that's a story for another time)
Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion and what I’ve discovered through my own research and quest for better health for my dogs. Information and misinformation abounds these days. All I’m suggesting is that you research your options when it comes to your dog’s healthcare and nutrition and don’t let yourself be bullied into choices that you’re not comfortable with.
 A titer test (pronounced TIGHT er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies to disease in blood.