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On Your Side: Are pets getting over-vaccinated for profit?

No one likes to get shots. That includes your pup. But owners know it’s part of the necessary healthcare for your pet. Or is it?

“It seems like something you are doing a lot of that can put your dog at harm,” said Matt Rysavvy, who has a 5-pound Maltese named Ox.

Rysavvy never thought to question the number of vaccines for his dog until Ox had something go terribly wrong with his liver.

It was just two weeks after his veterinarian gave Ox another round of five core vaccinations, just like he had the year before.

“It was very shocking and scary not knowing what is going on,” said Rysavvy about his dog’s health scare.

Ox recovered, but it left Matt wondering what vaccines are really necessary for his dog.

Three of the major veterinary groups agree that annual vaccinations are unnecessary and can be harmful.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend vaccinating every three years, instead of annually.

But your vet might be recommending more.

“A lot of people do what they’re told,” said Dr. Dale Porcher of Shores Animal Clinic. “I think a lot of people have not stood back and questioned why are we doing this?”

With pet vaccinations expected to reach $7.8 billion in another five years, more and more owners are wondering if those recommended vaccines are for their pet’s health or for profit margins.

Dr. Porcher said over-vaccinating can have a serious impact on your pet’s health.

“Repetitive vaccination over the years can definitely trigger an autoimmune reaction, which can be harmful, if not fatal, to your pet,” said Dr. Porcher.

But over-vaccinating is not what Dr. Rebecca Schwarze is worried about.

“What I really worry about is actually under-vaccinating,” said Dr. Schwarze, of Animal Care Center of Polaris.

At her clinic, Dr. Schwarze said she sees more and more of her clients treating pets like family, bringing them along for errands and even vacations, exposing them to more potential health threats.

“As people are traveling more and pets are kind of visiting more, you know, going along for the holidays with their families, they’re more susceptible to getting some of those diseases that may not be considered a core standard vaccine,” said Dr. Schwarze.

Core vaccines for dogs include: parvo, distemper, hepatitis and rabies.

But, based on your pet’s lifestyle and exposure risk, your veterinarian may recommend additional shots, including protection against Bordetella, leptospirosis and more.

“Dogs are family,” said Luke Westerman, animal advocate and dad to Franky and Dino. “Our dogs are essentially our children."

Westerman brings his pups with him to the office and even on trips, including locations like New York, South Carolina and all over Ohio.

“When we travel, we’ll always find an Airbnb that’s dog friendly. So our dogs will go all over the country and be exposed to potentially things that they may not otherwise be exposed to here,” said Westerman.

He works closely with his veterinarian to make sure Franky and Dino get the necessary vaccines to protect them with their busy lifestyle.

“We want to do anything and everything we possibly can to keep our dogs healthy and safe,” said Westerman.

Dr. Schwarze knows that’s the goal of every pet parent. So, she encourages owners to talk with their vet to come up with the best vaccine plan, based on the individual pet.

But the most important piece to any pet’s health is an annual wellness check. Dr. Schwarze said that’s the best way to determine what might be needed to protect your pet.

“We can work with our clients and work with them to develop the best vaccine protocol for them,” said Dr. Schwarze. “So that we’re not over-vaccinating or we’re not under-vaccinating and missing coverage and protection that those pets need.”

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