Study Concludes New Dog Vaccination Rules

Monday, March 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor's research has helped shape new guidelines recommending a major change to how dog owners vaccinate their pets.

Ronald Schultz said his findings suggest annual vaccinations to prevent rabies, distemper and other life-threatening diseases are not necessary, and their side effects may even hurt dogs.

Schultz recommends dogs receive the major shots once every three years and less critical vaccines only in certain instances.

``If it's not necessary, don't do it,'' said Schultz, chairman of pathobiological sciences at UW-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine.

The guidelines published this month in Trends, the journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, are based primarily on Schultz's research.

``Not one program fits all animals, and unfortunately that is what the vaccination practice has been for many, many years,'' Schultz said.

But Morris Link, a veterinarian at Madison's Spring Harbor Animal Hospital, said he would rather vaccinate dogs every year to make sure they're safe.

``I vaccinate with the full battery of stuff every year with my dog,'' Link said. ``I sure wouldn't be doing that if I thought it was creating any harm, and I've been raising real healthy dogs who live into old age.''

Schultz became convinced American dogs were being over-vaccinated after conducting years of clinical trials measuring the potency of vaccinations.

His studies showed a rabies vaccine lasts about three years, while the three other core vaccines for the most dangerous canine diseases lasted seven years or more, he said.

Veterinarians have recommended annual shots of many of these vaccines for decades. Schultz said that puts dogs at risk for infrequent but potentially serious side effects including skin problems, allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases.

``These adverse reactions have caused many veterinarians to rethink the issue of vaccination,'' Schultz said. ``The idea that unnecessary vaccines can cause serious side effects is in direct conflict with sound medical practices.''

Schultz said dogs should still make yearly visits to the veterinarian for annual checks for heartworm, skin problems, tumors, tooth decay and other problems.

Other groups supporting the new guidelines include the American Colleges of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Veterinary Microbiology and the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists.