Tristan Beagle and the Vaccine Decisions

by Doranna

I have an uneasy relationship with vaccines.

On the one hand, I have far too much experience with vaccine-damaged animals.

Far. Too. Freakin’. MUCH.

On the other hand, I strongly believe in the protection that vaccines provide.  And I strongly believe that eschewing them as a matter of fact will create a less safe world.

All the same, I feel that we need to be smart about these choices for our individual circumstances, and not pressured one way or the other by either fear-mongering or authoritative nonsense.

I especially feel this way as I prepare to take nine-week-old Tristan Beagle for his first shots!

Snow Beagle, doncha know!

Snow Beagle, doncha know!

There isn’t actually a lot of information online about conservative vaccination schedules.  Blogs such as this one might be opinionated, but we’re not providing primary resources. I mean, gee, one might even get the impression that vaccine-conservative vets don’t like to put themselves out there in the middle of this oft-emotional discourse…

I ended up using three primary sources for my decision making:  Dodds, Schultz, and Becker–names that will already be familiar to anyone with vaccine concerns.  None of these folks claim that their exact approach is the very best for any given dog, but they do provide a good starting place, along with actual facts.

From there, I considered a variety of other factors.  One will certainly be what my trusted vet has to say when Tristan has his first shots (and his microchipping, which I will keep updated!).

Otherwise, I considered the prevalence of the diseases, the efficacy of the shots, the potential side effects of the shots, the availability of the shots, and the balance of maternal antibodies still affecting the pup.

(Say that all in one breath, I dare you.)

Well, the tricky thing about maternal antibodies is that there’s no set schedule for how long they protect a pup–too much depends on the individual dam’s immunities.  So there’s a hazy time frame of expected protection, and it varies from five-six weeks for vulnerable puppies and some diseases (like rabies) to four months (parvo).

Random Adorable Puppy picture: Tristan's last day with his brothers

Random Adorable Puppy picture: Tristan’s last day with his brothers, eight weeks old


Basically, if you give the vaccine too early, the maternal antibodies eat it.  Plus you’ve exposed the puppy to the vet’s office where these diseases are actively present.  And even if you wait until nine weeks (Dr. Dodd’s  currently suggested timing), chances are that maternal antibodies are still chugging around, interfering with how well the vaccine “takes.”  (Cue booster shots…for Tristan, planned at 13 and 17 weeks.)

When it comes to which shots, needs vary  with the region.  For parvo and distemper, we do not fool around.  They’re considered core vaccines for good reason!  Tristan will be getting three doses, spaced every four weeks, and probably a final booster at a year (or else titers; I have time to decide that later).

But when it comes to Lyme disease…the vaccine efficacy is only 60-70%.  Our risk here is low.  And there are other natural and chemical deterrents available.  So for us, that’s a no.  (Irony, given the havoc that disease has wreaked with my own life.)

Leptospirosis is another no for us.  Discussion on Dr. Dodds’ site reflects what I’ve seen elsewhere about this one: “Most Leptospirosis strains (there are about 200) do not cause disease, and of the seven clinically important strains, only four… are found in today’s vaccines.” Plus protection lasts only a year, and Schultz notes on that same page, “I find there’s still a fairly high percentage of dogs that do not respond to the 4-way vaccine.   In addition, of all the bacterin vaccines, leptospirosis causes the most adverse reactions.”

It’s the adverse reaction potential that gets my attention, yes it does.  At this point, in this place, with this dog, the benefits aren’t worth the risks.

Coronavirus is just pointless,  as far as I can tell.  “Neither the modified live nor the killed CCov vaccine has proved effective against combination coronavirus/parvo disease. Only the parvo vaccine is protective against dual viruses.”  So we’re not going there.

In fact, other than the core vaccines (and rabies to come, but never in conjunction with other vaccines), the only other thing on my list is adenovirus (infectious hepatitis).  As this vaccine actually causes a ten-day immunity drop in puppies, Tristan won’t be in consideration for it until his final vaccine.  Even then, I’m not sure. It’s a horrible disease but it’s not active, with one exception in the NE States in ’12.  I’m waiting to see what my vet thinks about this one.

None of the decisions or research are straightforward, from the exact schedule to the exact vaccines–and then to the follow-up afterward.  (We’ll talk titers another time…)

Nor is it easy to make one’s own decisions in a world where many-but-not-all vets have been indoctrinated by the vaccine companies who basically made things up when it came to duration of immunity, and where single-dose vaccines (or even the three-way parvo/distemper/adenovirus) are practically a thing of the past.

In the end, I might or might not end up shifting this intended schedule.  The only thing I know for sure is that I’ve done my best to research, be smart, be a responsible owner with respect to group immunity, and protect Tristan while not unduly exposing him to over-vaccination issues.  We’ll go into the vet tomorrow prepared!


You're taking me WHERE?

You’re taking me WHERE?

The Tristan Plan:

One puppy carrier (paws off the ground)!
One extra towel to cover the exam table (table counts as ground)!
One puppy litterbox out in the car (public piddle spots count as ground times one million)!
One dose of MLV (modified live) parvo/distemper combo!
Thuja and Vit.C, ready to be administered post-vaccine!

I think we’re ready.  But who knows!  Either way, I hope reading about our journey helps someone else think through the same decisions in their own way.  Puppy kisses from Tristan!

About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
This entry was posted in The Dogs!, Tristan Beagle and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Tristan Beagle and the Vaccine Decisions

  1. Mona Karel says:

    And some of the maternal antibody questions depend on how long puppies nurse. Most of mine are still snacking off mom up to seven weeks.
    Tristan is teeth numbing cute!!

    • Doranna says:

      Tristan and his brothers were weaned pretty early, per mom’s wishes. I think around 4 weeks. So there’s that, but I think the bigger factor relates to that early colostrum?

      • Mona Karel says:

        Possibly. Or possibly both. If I had a litter that weaned before six weeks I’d be looking more closely at an earlier vaccine schedule. I’ve had them hang on as long as nine weeks, with the moms perfectly content.

        • Doranna says:

          I’m learning with this conversation–thanks!

  2. EMoonTX says:

    Tristan in the snow is jaw-dropping, heart-stopping cuteness. Tristan w/brothers produced a sniff and an eye-sting. Tristan’s look up at you…boy is he going to be master-of-expressions as he grows. Wishing you the best luck with him. How are Dart and Connery reacting to him?

    Last year, @herdyshepherd1 , who posts on Twitter and will have a book out in a few weeks, got a new pup, which apparently spent the first week on his new boss’s lap, often gnawing a thumb or tucked into his coat, or something (from the pictures he showed on Twitter.) Tan is now a working sheepdog, along with older, experienced, Floss. These are two border collies doing what they were bred for and clearly happy in their job. There’s a new pup on the place, older than Tan was this time last year, Jess. She was shown sitting up very alert, ears cocked, fairly humming with energy…eager gaze on some chickens on the farm, but, as the caption said, “being good.” A similar picture of Tan when he was a bit older than that, had him on a hay bale eager to jump down and sort out the chickens, but…staying there.

    • Doranna says:

      Oh, I’ve seen some of @herdyshepherd’s photos! I don’t do twitter enough to keep up with them, but I do like checking now and then.

      Connery likes the puppy very much and is being an excellent uncle dog. Dart loves the puppy in his usual conflicted fashion–too much of everything! He wants to play a little too hard sometimes, but has been terribly sweet about tugging at times. He corrects too hard and feels terrible for it, then growls at everything in his path because he’s all caught up in himself. He resource guards the puppy from Connery when he’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s a work in progress!

  3. Doranna says:

    And to follow up on my own blog…Tristan is back from his first vet visit with bad news and good news. The bad news is all on the clinic staff–in spite of calling in mid-December with a precise request for the vaccine and making the receptionist check THREE times in the same phone call with regards to the availability of the distemper/Parvo two-way and making sure they didn’t need to order it, and then checking AGAIN when I made the actual appointment, and AGAIN at the front desk today…

    You got it. He got crappy extras, and the vet had never been told a thing about it anyway. I didn’t find out until after the vacs, but it wouldn’t have made any difference–they don’t have the correct vacs on hand (which is why I was calling to inquire WEEKS ahead), and I’d have probably had them give it even had I known, rather than have him unprotected and delay socialization. The good thing is that it was just a 4-way, but the bad thing is that if the reseaerch is right, the CAV-2 (adeno) is counterproductive at this age and leaves him even more vulnerable for now.

    I’m so mad I could spit. Maybe I just WILL.

    • Marilyn says:

      Oh, BLAST! I hate it when office staff think they know better than you OR the vet….!

  4. Marilyn says:

    Tristan is terminally cute. Trying to imagine that LOOK of his coming from an adult Tristan is mind-boggling. (You ARE doomed, as you are well aware….) Seriously, it looks like you have things covered. Oh, one other thing — we never microchipped Shadow and Sunny, but both Harper Dachs and Babette Beagle are. I just recollected that my vet also recommended a continuing low dose of Vitamin C to counter any irritation from the chip. There’s not SUPPOSED to be a reaction to the chips, but…. not sure what the dose would be for a pup, but Miss Babette, at about 20 pounds, is getting 500 mg daily.

    Going back and looking at PIX. Gawd, he’s cute! We already know Dart has a not-too-unreasonable lack of tolerance for puppy antics. (Play is one thing. Sharp puppy teeth where they really shouldn’t be is another thing entirely!) How is Uncle Connery doing?

    • Doranna says:

      Marilyn, I was so upset about the vaccine that I wasn’t thinking gave the thuja with food…wasn’t thinking… Is that a problem, do you think? Should I repeat the dose tomorrow AM first thing? I just can’t find any resources on line that apply…

      He’s getting some K9 Power boost, too, which is supportive of immune (really helps Connery!). A bit extra after today! I’ll check and see if it’s got C in it.

      Connery’s doing great! Both with the puppy and in general. He’s starting to show some stiffening, but it doesn’t take too much to counteract it.

      Yes, I am DOOMED…and loving it! Tristan was a little champ at the vet’s–snacked on tiny cookie crumbs through the vaccine, played with me (the “leapy feet!” game) on the exam table, and didn’t piddle in his crate to and fro.

      • Marilyn says:

        Hmm, you mean you put the Thuja IN the food? The only item I’ve ever had to give on an empty stomach is bromelain. (Bromelain, derived from pineapple, is a protease (protein digestive enzyme) when taken with food, but if taken at least two hours after food, and given 35 minutes to work, it’s a GREAT anti inflammatory. I use it for me AND for Mr. Shadow.) I do usually give the thuja by itself — lift the lip and drop the pellets on the gum. Usually, they can’t spit them out (usually!) and they just dissolve and they swallow them. It probably won’t hurt to give another dose tomorrow, although I have never done so for vaccines. When we used it for something else, it could be as often as every six hours, but I don’t think that’s warranted.

        I am glad Connery is doing so well — Tristan can learn SO much from him. (It’s been hysterical watching Shadow carefully instruct Harper in How To Train Your Human. Harper comes bounding over, for instance, to tell me it is Time for Dinner, then rushes back and nuzzles Shadow as if to say, “I told her, boss! Did I do it right? I told her!”)

        I hope Connery can teach Tristan the sheer joy of DOING! Then you’ll have a double Song of Self, and won’t that be an adventure!

        • Doranna says:

          I can try direct feeding. It’s a very small lip to lift. ;>

          But yes, what I couldn’t find was the info about how often it could safely be done. Every six h seems a bit much indeed, but I’d feel better if I followed up with a dose tonight.

          (What I did was dissolve it in water with the C, then got tangled in whether he’d fine the C too tart so added food, forgetting that I’d read to give the thuja on an empty stomach.)

          Have never tried bromelain in that fashion (was unimpressed by its digestive aid factor for myself, but think it was probably fighting too many things).

          Tristan is pretty vocal so far–he croons, he’s done some singing to a bone he “buried” in his bedding, and he’s sure not shy about shrieking for attention. We’ll see if that builds into singing at the start line. That would be fun!

          • Marilyn says:

            I keep looking at how relatively small Babette is in comparison to Shadow (34 pounds of lean Dachs!) and trying to imagine how she must have looked when she was Tristan’s age. (You’ll recall she came to us at around 7 months.) You could probably crush a couple pellets between two spoons and just tip it onto the gum if you think his mouth is so small in comparison. Babette swallows just about anything whole, so if I put it in a gelatin capsule and wrap it in a little bit of cheese, I don’t have to worry about what it tastes like!

            I’ve never used bromelain as a protease — but I deal with an awful lot of muscle and joint pain, and if I wake up aching, I reach over, grab 2 500 mg capsules, swallow it, and then I go back to sleep, knowing the ouch won’t get worse — and usually wake up NOT hurting, which is a joy. I use, btw, the Vitacost brand of bromelain as it has the fewest “inactive” ingredients. Shadow knows entirely well what the bromelain does for him. Should I forget to set the two-hour timer after he eats, he will come and give me aroo-roo-roo! and when I ask what he wants, he goes into the kitchen, and looks pointedly at the bromelain bottle. Not the fridge with the cheese, but the bromelain itself.

            Tristan is clearly a humdinger of a Boy. He has some growin’ to do, but one of these days, it will be good to see him dashing about the field in perfect form. And maybe saluting everyone from the A-frame like his Uncle.

  5. Patty says:

    Great snow shot! What an annoying occurence at the vet! Grr.

    • Doranna says:

      Yes, it certainly was. Massive fail, considering how much work I did to communicate with them and how long ago I started it. I really don’t know how much clearer I could have been. :/

      I love that snow shot! 8)

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