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To vaccinate or not vaccinate, that’s the question……

When I was writing our client information letter and vaccinations in cats and dogs, I came across quite a few sites on the internet attacking the veterinary profession for advising vaccinations.  The arguments were aimed at the financial aspect of charging for services in providing vaccinations and didn’t really seem to address the diseases as such against which vaccinations are given.

There are pros and cons to everything you decide in life and on balance, as a vet, I am still recommending vaccinations in pets.

Looking at what’s going on in Leeds, there are several outbreaks reported of Parvo virus in dogs.  For those guys on the internet who are not vets and seem to know everything there is to know about vaccinations, I can assure you that it’s heart breaking dealing with an animal that has contracted Parvo and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it or cure it.  It’s there, it’s ripping the lining of the guts of those poor dogs and they’re in agony, awaiting certain death.  With over 20 years in practice, I’ve only been able to nurture one Parvo case through its disease and I have been fortunate enough not to see many cases over the years.

But then with the recession, client being strap for cash, a more detached attitude towards pets and prevention and we’re back to increasing number of outbreaks of diseases that we haven’t seen much of for a while.  In the practice we’ve had two cases in the space of a few months coming in, one dead on arrival, the other wanting emergency treatment which didn’t work (at the Emergency Vets).

Another aspect to note is the claims sometimes made by people that a particular vaccine has killed their pet.  Vaccination reactions do occur and they’re very very rare.  The reactions can be as mild as pets appearing more sleepy, having softer motions for a few days, to having an itch where they’ve been injected and scratching to the most severe form of an anaphylactic reaction which can be fatal if not dealt with.  You can have an anaphylactic reaction to anything that goes into the body that doesn’t belong to the body, be it an antibiotic, an anaesthetic agent, a vaccine, a bee sting or anything else.  To then make sweeping comments that vaccines are useless & dangerous is about just the same as stating that bees shouldn’t exist either and are equally as useless & dangerous!  Just drawing some comparisons here in an out of the box way.

We still see Parvo cases in practice and there have been cases just South of Leeds of Leptospirosis like there have been in Europe.  When those dogs, once they had passed away, were sent for autopsy as the vets couldn’t find the cause of the disease, they were found to have Leptospirosis.  It wasn’t however, the usual type of Leptospirosis but new variants that were causing the problem.  The newer type of Leptospirosis is not as easy to diagnose, is not as obvious as the previous two better known variants and what a lot of clients also don’t know is that Leptospirosis is a zoonosis.  This means that the disease can be passed on to PEOPLE!!!  The “vectors” are changing with this new variants and it’s no longer mainly rats that are transmitting the disease to dogs in the first place.  When a dog’s owner cleans up urine for example in the house, if the dog is infected then the client can also become infected on skin contact with the urine.  Not something you would think of is it?  As a practice, even though a lot of neighbouring practices are using the L2 vaccine, we have decide to upgrade ours to the L4 vaccines.  We’ve never gone for the cheapest option.  We care about our clients and their pets and I give my pets the same vaccines as I offer my clients.  Why cut corners with cheap vaccines if you can get one where you get a much better protection?  We also have a fair number of clients with Passports for their pets so they can travel to Europe.  Again, as we are using the L4 (leptospirosis vaccine with 4 Serovars included), they will have the best protection available for travel abroad in Europe aside from the regular Rabies vaccinations.

The following was published in a professional article:

” Reaction to Nobivac L4 article.  Veterinary organisations respond to claims about leptospirosis vaccine

The VMD, WSAVA and MSD Animal Health have responded to a recent Daily Telegraph article which claimed ‘thousands’ of dogs in Britain are reported to be dying or suffering severe allergic reactions after receiving the Nobivac L4 vaccine.

Published online on Saturday (2 July), the article stated that, according to reports made to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) by pet owners: ‘More than 120 dogs are feared to have died after receiving a dosage in the three years the product has been on the market. In the last two years, regulators have received 2,000 reports of dogs having suspected adverse or fatal reactions.’

Responding, the VMD said the incidence of adverse reactions to Nobivac L4 is 0.064 per cent. Or, in other words, for every 10,000 doses administered, the VMD has received six adverse reactions. The overall incidence is therefore classed as ‘rare’ by regulatory authorities.

According to the VMD, the majority of the most commonly reported clinical signs are linked to allergic type reactions, which are recognised as potential side effects of any vaccine, and warnings are included in the product information.

‘It is important to note, as vaccination against leptospirosis rarely occurs in isolation it is very difficult to interpret which adverse reactions are attributable to Leptospira vaccines,’ the directorate said in a statement. ‘Many vaccines providing protection against leptospirosis also contain components for prevention of other diseases, such as distemper, parainfluenza and parvovirus.

‘In addition, many dogs are vaccinated concurrently against other diseases, such as kennel cough and/or rabies, and other products (e.g flea and worm treatments) may be administered at the same visit. Therefore the clinical signs observed may be related to any of the products used or they may be unrelated.’

MSD Animal Health, which manufactures the vaccine, was more recently asked to add additional warnings to the product information, to state that, in very rare cases, there have been reports of immune-mediated reactions, including immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia and immune-mediated polyarthritis.

The Daily Telegraph article also claimed that the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) ‘is urging owners not to use Nobivac L4 vaccine on puppies under 12 weeks old.’

In a statement, WSAVA called the claims ‘blatantly untrue’.

‘The WSAVA would never “urge owners” and would never make recommendations about individual named commercial products…’ it said.

‘The current 2015 WSAVA recommendation for Leptospira vaccines is that when these non-core vaccines are chosen for an individual dog (on the basis of national or regional knowledge about the prevalence and risks of leptospirosis) they should be given from 8 weeks of age in puppies, with a second dose 2-4 weeks later and then an annual booster vaccine.

‘On the subject of generic L2 versus L4 vaccines, the VGG states that “When a Leptospira vaccine is used in high risk dogs, the commercial vaccine that contains all of the serogroups that cause disease in the dog in that region, if available, should be used.’

Following the article, the VMD said it does not currently intend to remove the vaccine from the market but is working closely with the European Medicines Agency, other European agencies and the marketing authorisation holder to assess the data and the benefit versus risk balance of the product.

Meanwhile, the VMD advises vets to ‘make a clinical judgement of the benefits for an individual dog, based on their knowledge of the local epidemiological situation and risk of leptospirosis, versus the potential risks as outlined in the product information before administering a vaccine.

‘Careful consideration should be given as to whether the additional protection provided by vaccines containing four serovars of Leptospira versus those containing two are necessary in each individual dog, depending on their individual circumstances.’

MSD Animal Health commented: ‘As a responsible animal health company, we take every adverse reaction report seriously and investigate thoroughly. Whenever possible, we work with the pet owner and attending veterinary surgeon to assemble as much clinical information as we can to help determine the cause of a pet’s health issue, and whether or not the product may have been involved. The overall frequency of all pharmacovigilance reports received for this product is what regulatory authorities classify as “rare”‘.”

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