Nobody likes being stuck with vaccine needles, including your dog or cat! Here at Sunvet Animal Wellness Clinic in Asheville NC, we do our best to educate our clients about vaccinations so that they are well-informed about all their options for vaccinating their furry love muffins and to ensure the vaccines our patients do receive are the most appropriate for their age and lifestyle.
As you know from my posts, I am not overly fond of vaccines. I have seen too many animals and people have life-long dis-ease as a result of being over-vaccinated. I thought it would be educational to take a look at why vaccines are able to protect your furry friends…but also wreak havoc on their immune systems. Read on to learn which vaccination choices I help my clients and patients make.
Q: Which is better for my furry friend, a killed virus or modified-live virus type of vaccine?
A killed virus vaccine consists of virus particles, bacteria, or other pathogens that are grown in culture and then killed using heat or formaldehyde. Modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines contain bacteria or a virus that has been modified. This means they’ve lost their disease-causing ability.
The other main constituent in vaccines is the adjuvant. An adjuvant is a substance that acts to accelerate, prolong, or enhance immune responses when used in combination with specific viruses or bacteria in vaccines. Without an adjuvant, the body is less likely to produce an effective response to the disease.
Some of the adjuvants used in veterinary vaccines are aluminum salts (alum), oil emulsions, saponins, liposomes, microparticles, derivatized polysaccharides, cytokines, and a wide variety of bacterial derivatives.
The point here is that we are injecting foreign compounds into our animals’ bodies to stimulate an immune response. This immune response is a general response that basically turns the immune system ON! In reality, that means that the body has the potential to be signaled to react against certain foods, supplements, or even itself. Reactions to these adjuvants can range from reduced activity and food intake one day post-vaccine to life-threatening reactions that occur within 30 seconds of vaccine administration. Major changes to your four-legged’s health might also include occasional reactions, for example, debilitating allergies or autoimmune problems like Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA), which may show up 1- 5 months post vaccination.
Herein lies the conundrum: Killed vaccines are generally considered safer than modified-live vaccines, which may have the potential to induce disease in animals whose immune systems are compromised, and yet the killed vaccine is always linked to an adjuvant that might cause disturbance in the immune system.
A New Technology: The Recombinant Vaccine
Because of adverse reactions related to adjuvants, especially in cats, a new recombinant technology was created. This is a relatively new field created in 2001 by Merial, a prominent veterinary vaccine company.
The recombinant vaccine is created by taking small pieces of DNA from the specific virus and inserting the DNA into the Canarypox virus, which is a separate virus that does not cause disease. Recombinant vaccines do not require adjuvants to stimulate the immune system. Because the recombinant viruses are alive, they naturally stimulate the body’s immune system to create immunity to the disease virus, such as rabies. This technology allows the body to respond to the disease virus or bacteria (pathogen) without truly exposing them to the reproducing and invading pathogen.
So, My Answer to the Question: Which is better, Killed Virus or Modified-live Virus Types of Vaccines?
Actually neither! I would prefer if all our vaccines were a recombinant source. When we vaccinate cats and dogs at Sunvet Animal Wellness Clinic, we take into account age, size, lifestyle, vaccine history, past possible or obvious vaccine reactions, and other immune-related diseases they are already exhibiting. If our client chooses to vaccinate, we reach for a recombinant vaccine, if at all possible. Our bottom line is healthy and happy through and through!