by Anne Jones RN, BSNE
It has been the custom for many years to administer vaccines annually to all breeds of dogs. There has also been an increase in all breeds of autoimmune diseases, including in Bichons. Many breeders have long suspected a connection and research veterinarians have agreed. Therefore there have been a number of well-documented research studies in the last 5 years as to whether annual administration of preventive vaccines is warranted.
Research has indicated that yearly vaccines are not necessary to insure immunity and that some vaccines have little effect on prevention of certain diseases. Recommendations have been issued suggesting that only core vaccines be given to all dogs, those being distemper, parvo, adenovirus and rabies. Other vaccines should be administered only on a need basis, if at all. Furthermore, these vaccines should only be given every 3 years or the dogs should have blood titers run to determine if the vaccine is needed at all. More about titers later. The Bichon Frise Club of America also recommends that any combination shots be separated entirely from the injection of rabies vaccines by a minimum of one month.
It seems necessary to us, the parent club responsible for overseeing the health and welfare of Bichons, to strongly urge all Bichon owners to be an advocate for their dogs. While many veterinarians are heeding the recommendations, far too many continue to vaccinate all dogs annually, regardless of health of the animal or advisories against this practice. Therefore the owner must take responsibility to question the habitual action, asking instead for a blood titer.
Blood titers are long established as a means of determining the level of a given substance in the blood, in this case antibodies present in the blood to protect the animal against disease. While a blood titer is more expensive than vaccine, it is far less expensive in the long run than treating a potentially fatal blood disorder or other serious disease. Now there are machines available to veterinary clinics that will enable some to do these tests in house rather than to send them out to laboratories to be run. The test done in the veterinarianís own clinic should reduce costs considerably. But we should never consider cost of testing to be more important than protecting the health of the animal.
Rabies may be the most stressful vaccine of them all. However because of the increase of rabies in wild animal populations, these vaccines remain essential to protecting the dog from fatal illness. Some states require yearly vaccination by law, while others require the immunization be given every 3 years. While we feel strongly that the 3 year vaccine does prove effective for Bichons, which are a house breed and not a yard breed, we cannot recommend that you break the law. It is extremely important to the health of your Bichon that this vaccine, whether the one year or the three year, be given a minimum of one month before or after the combination shot. Better yet, separate them by several months to allow the immune system to recover between injections.
We, the BFCA Health Committee, urge you to discuss vaccines with your veterinarian so that between you, you can do what is best for your dog. We are basing our recommendation on reliable research as well as our own data collected on thousands of Bichons. Too many of them are dying too young from disease that might have been prevented had the immune system been stronger.
To sum up, these are our recommendations:
Please feel free to print out this article for your veterinarian to read and as a start to a discussion with him or her. Your veterinarian will understand that you and the parent club choose to act as advocates for your dog and have his (her) best interests at heart. Our statement is based on valid research and the data that we have collected on the health of Bichons nationwide and around the world.
In addition, because they also can be a factor in autoimmune disease, we strongly suggest that you discuss with your veterinarian the use of preventive drops and medications for fleas, ticks and other pests. You can find more information about preventives and their effects in the article, THE WISE USE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICATIONS. We suggest that you read the article carefully so as to better understand the dangers involved in their use.
Please note the following web addresses for up to date information on vaccine protocols.