To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate? That Is The Question!

Over the years, veterinary diseases have evolved, resulting in changes to our protocols, recommendations, products and veterinary medicine and services.

Vaccinations have been the crux of the relationship that exists between veterinarians and pet owners; annually, pet owners bring their pets in for an exam and vaccines, the majority of which are for diseases they have never heard of. Skepticism comes up from time-to-time, we hear people say that they do not want to vaccinate their pet for XYZ disease “because it doesn’t exist in Ontario anyway.”

Of course, this argument is true for most vaccine-preventable diseases.  In humans, Measles, Mumps, Whooping Cough and Chicken Pox were diseases all but eradicated thanks to vaccinations. Vaccines prevent the occurrence of, and spread of, infectious diseases. That said, the anti-vaccination movement has brought about a marked increase in outbreaks of these diseases. Before criticizing we must understand that there is truly fear surrounding the idea of vaccinations, and over-vaccinating.

We have closely followed the research and subsequent recommendations from the American Animal Hospital Association as our guide to what is most appropriate for your beloved furry family members and, as such, you have seen changes in our protocols over the years. While we at Westway Animal Clinic (and really all veterinarians who are, by trade, scientists), believe in vaccinations and their importance, we respect the personal wants of our pet owners and so, work constantly to ensure the best for pets with the best for pet owners in mind also.

In the case of vaccinations, there is no better way to bridge that gap than vaccine titres.  To understand titres it helps to understand exactly what vaccinations do. Vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies in your pet. The presence of these antibodies is what provides immunity from the various diseases vaccinated against. Titres allow us to measure the presence of, and amount of, antibodies in the blood of an individual animal. If the titre is high, it means a pet has enough antibodies to protect against a specific disease. We normally booster and re-vaccinate based on a schedule determined by the average immunity response of a dog or cat, titres allow us an individual understanding of whether a specific pet requires re-vaccinating. Knowing that every animal is different, there is a chance that your pet maintains immunity for longer than the average pet after a vaccination. If a pet has sufficient immunity, re-vaccination could be postponed.

Currently, we utilize titres for Canine Distemper Virus, Adenovirus and Parvovirus, along with Feline Calicivirus, Herpesvirus and Panleukopenia. While there is an antibody test for Rabies also, the law in Ontario states that every dog and cat must be vaccinated for rabies regardless of their titre. We are very pleased to be able to offer titres to our pet owners as an alternative to vaccination.

When you come in with your pet for their annual physical exam we will discuss their vaccination status and decide with you (based on their previous history, a risk assessment and health status) what the best approach will be for them, then vaccinating or drawing blood for a titre test accordingly.

We do want every pet in our care to be as safe as they can be. There are so many health issues that we cannot protect against, anything we can do to keep them safe, we should do.  You may have read in the news recently that 2 greyhounds rescued from South Korea were brought into Southern Ontario through Michigan, only to test positive for Canine Influenza Virus. These two dogs infected another 5 dogs and now there are a total of 7 dogs with a disease we have never seen in Canada before! As well, we have seen a significant rise in rabies over the past few years. In 2017, of 1619 samples tested, 149 tested positive for rabies in Ontario. These 149 cases consisted of 20 bats, 4 cows, 1 cat, 1 red fox, 37 skunks and 86 raccoons. In Canada, 2017 saw 7 dogs and 4 cats test positive for rabies. If you followed the news closely this week, you would have seen the case of the young boy in the US who passed away from rabies after being scratched by a sick bat. Sadly, the WHO reports that 59,000 people a year die from rabies, 99% of them infected by dogs. In North America, our efforts with canine vaccinations are what have allowed for our almost non-existent human rabies cases.

Vaccination Works! That said, we are happy to do anything we can do to lessen the need for vaccination while still keeping your pet protected from preventable diseases! Please speak to the team at Westway Animal Clinic today about what is best for your pet – every pet is different and that’s why together, we will customize the best plan for you and yours!

Ontario cases of Canine Influenza

Rabies in Canada Stats