Do Vaccinations Cause Addison’s Disease in Dogs?Posted: July 25, 2009
Most of us visit the veterinarian once a year for vaccinations. I never gave this annual event a second thought until my border collie, Shakti, developed Addison’s disease. I have since discovered that additives to vaccines (adjuvants) are thought to cause immune disorders in dogs (including Addison’s disease in dogs), so I’ll be foregoing her usual annual shots.
Shortly after Shakti was diagnosed with Addisons, a post on an Addison’s discussion forum caught my eye: a woman who said her poodle, “Timmy”, came down with Addison’s disease two and a half weeks after he received his annual booster shots. This came at the time when Shakti was due for her annual booster — four months after her initial Addison’s diagnosis. I wondered if I should take her to the vet; I decided to look into the validity of these anecdotal claims before I made my decision.
Most dogs are vaccinated annually against distemper, leptospirosis, canine adenovirus-1; hepatitis, canine parainfluenza virus, canine parvovirus, canine Corona virus as well as canine bordatella (kennel cough) and Lyme disease. I was shocked to learn that these annual visits are actually recommended by any major organization or drug manufacturer and may actually be harming our dogs!
Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies to a particular disease; if the dog is exposed at a later date to the pathogen, antibodies will attack and neutralize the disease. The puppy shots (those vaccinations given in puppyhood, are recommended by most veterinarians. It’s the adult booster shots that are causing the most controversy.
Until recently, vaccine manufacturers recommended that all dogs be given a booster shot once a year. Veterinarians were in agreement: yearly booster shots are away to encourage animal owners to visit every year and increase income. However, in 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released new guidelines and recommendations for shots that differed from the once a year visit that most pet owners were used to.
The AAHA designated four core vaccines that are necessary because of the serious nature of the pathogens: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus-2, and rabies (for rabies, pet owners need to follow local laws–most municipalities require and annual booster). For the other three diseases, the recommendations are:
1. Vaccinate at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks, and 12-14 weeks.
2. Give a booster shot at one year
3. Subsequent booster shots should be administered every three years unless indicated otherwise (i.e. dogs at high risk or dogs who have immune disorders).
There are many factors that an owner needs to take into consideration when deciding how often to vaccinate (and which diseases to vaccinate against), including:
1. Reported duration of immunity from each shot (not all drugs are created equal; shots from different manufacturers will have different durations)
2. Health and lifestyle of each pet (i.e. indoor vs. outdoor)
3. Probability of contracting any particular disease (i.e. working dogs are exposed to more infectious agents than family pets). Dogs that roam, have contact with wild animals or swim in streams are all at higher risk from contracting disease.
4. Public health concerns (i.e. rabies shots are required frequently by law)
Pfizer, one of the major manufacturers of dog vaccines, reported in a study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine in January 2004 that vaccines can protect a dog for four years or more, giving credence to the new guidelines issues by the AAHA. Other studies have found that immunity can last up to seven years.
As Shakti is definitely immune-compromised, I chose to forego her annual shots. From what I’ve read, dogs with Addisons should most probably not get booster shots. She’s at low risk for most diseases: she stays at home when we are away (we have a pet sitter), and she rarely plays with other dogs, even at the dog park, she keeps to herself. Every couple of years I’ll get a titer test done to make sure she is fully immunized against the major diseases.
When the time comes to revaccinate (which I hope will not come), I’ll weigh the risk of possible side effects with the risk of her contracting a life-threatening illness. If she does need a shot, I’ll ask my vet to get a vaccine from a company that does not put additives into their shots: Intervet is one such company, another is Heska, which produces intranasal vaccines.
American Animal Hospital Association. Report of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccine Task Force: 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature. 2003. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association.
Morre Glickman, L. A perspective on vaccine guidelines and titer tests for dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, January 15, 2004, Vol. 224, No. 2, Pages 200-203