The Kennel Club, Pet Vaccination, and Muddy Waters

Does the Kennel Club put the wellbeing of dogs above all other considerations? The answer, as with most things in life, depends upon your vantage point. If you love Crufts and you’re a member of the Assured Breeder Scheme, you might think that the Kennel Club is the dog’s whiskers. If you’re looking for a puppy and want assurance that he or she has had the very best start in life, you might also choose to buy from a KC Assured Breeder.

But what if you are being tragically misled? What if the Kennel Club is imposing advice that could harm dogs for generations to come?  Here are the facts – you decide.

A few years ago, the Kennel Club issued new guidelines for breeders wishing to register under the KC’s Assured Breeder Scheme – and the guidelines still stand, despite our campaign to urge them to change outdated vaccine guidelines.

Membership of the Scheme allows breeders to use the Club’s literature and logo to promote their puppies, lending an air of authority and respectability. The updated document can be seen in full at http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/download/393/absappform.pdf.

KC Assured Breeders are now required to keep their ‘breeding stock’ ‘fully immunised’.  The question, in the light of conflicting information, is what is fully immunised? The Kennel Club’s document states:

“In order to be eligible for Scheme Membership, and remain an Assured Breeder, applicants must . . . Ensure that all breeding stock is protected, as far as reasonably     possible, by routine immunisation against current common          infectious diseases, unless    advised otherwise by a veterinary professional.”  

As members of the Scheme, breeders must submit to inspections of their paperwork (including vaccination records) and facilities, and issue an information pack to new puppy owners that follows templates provided by the Kennel Club. Puppy owners then receive a questionnaire to ensure that the breeders are giving out Kennel Club approved information.

However, someone needs to define the word ‘routine’ as it applies to dog vaccines because, historically, we have been advised to administer a cocktail of vaccines to our dogs every year, and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association is trying to get vets to stop this. If you would like to see the WSAVA’s guidelines, go to http://www.wsava.org/educational/vaccination-guidelines-group.

The Kennel Club’s vaccination template for Assured Breeders’ puppy packs can be seen at this link:  http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/download/12667/vaccinationas.doc

According to the Kennel Club, this document has been prepared, ‘in conjunction with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’. But how can this be, when the advice given by the Kennel Club is materially different to the advice given by the WSAVA?

“You Must Follow Your Vet’s Advice”

The Kennel Club Scheme makes it mandatory for Assured Breeders to follow their vet’s advice, and advise puppy owners to do the same.  Yet it is well known that vets routinely recommend annual vaccination when it has been shown to be unnecessary and potentially harmful.  In fact, members of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association have been quoted as saying that vets don’t actually know a lot about vaccination.

The WSAVA Vaccine Guidelines Group (VGG) web page states:

“It is clear that the controversy surrounding small companion animal vaccination has not diminished and that there is an urgent requirement for education of practicing veterinarians in this area. The members of the VGG are actively engaged in delivering national and international lectures to help address this demand.”

During a pet vaccination seminar held in the US in 2009, Professor Ronald Schultz, a leading player within the WSAVA VGG, went a little further:

“Our new [vet] grads don’t know a heck of a lot more about vaccines than our older grads. And I’ve figured out why this is. They know a lot more about basic immunology, but they don’t know about vaccinology and the two are not the same… Also, they’re taught by people generally that know nothing about vaccinology. Now, when do they get their vaccine training? During their fourth year. And who’s giving that? The veterinarians that know how to give vaccines, that still don’t know about vaccinology. So we haven’t gone very far from where we were ten years ago or twenty years ago with regard to training veterinarians about vaccines.”  (Transcribed from a DVD including footage of the 2009 US NJ Rabies Challenge Fund Benefit Seminar (Jan Rasmusen, Dogs4Dogs, http://www.dogs4dogs.com/saferpet )

The Kennel Club also appears to be tying vets’ hands behind their backs on the vaccine issue, stating:  “Vets should make a thorough assessment of the benefits and risks on an individual case basis and discuss them with clients when deciding the timing of vaccination and the use of particular vaccines. Such an assessment will need to be based on the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC), often referred to as a data sheet in the UK, a publicly available document giving particulars of the data package submitted by the manufacturer and agreed by the licensing authority during the authorisation process…

“It is important for veterinary surgeons to understand that, when departing from the SPC, they do so under their own responsibility. . . If they deviate from the medicinal data available to them and/or use a vaccine not in accordance with the instructions on the label and the SPCs it must be done with good reason and informed client consent.”

In essence, this means that if the vet is using a vaccine that is a ‘one year’ vaccine, then the Kennel Club says they must advise the client to revaccinate a year later. If they use a three-year vaccine, then they must advise revaccination three years later. The problem is that a very high number of vets in the UK vaccinate annually, and the WSAVA tells us that vaccines can and do last much longer than is stated on the ‘SPC’.

Specifically, the WSAVA 2010 VGG guidelines state: “In speaking to practitioner audiences about the 2007 [WSAVA] guidelines it is clear that there is widespread confusion about their purpose. Many practitioners are initially alarmed that the recommendations appear contrary to those given on the product data sheet, and therefore feel that if they adopt guidelines recommendations, they are leaving themselves open to litigation.

“A data sheet (or ‘summary of product characteristics’; SPC) is a legal document that forms part of the registration process for a vaccine. A data sheet will give details of the quality, safety and efficacy of a product and in the case of vaccines will describe the legal DOI [duration of immunity … how long it works for] of the product. The legal DOI is based on experimental evidence, represents a minimum value and need not reflect the true DOI of a vaccine. Most companion animal vaccines, until recently, had a 1 year DOI and carried a recommendation for annual revaccination. The sensible response of industry to recent discussions about vaccine safety has been to increasingly license products with an ‘extended’ (generally 3 year) DOI. However, for most core vaccines … the true DOI is likely to be considerably longer.”

I apologise for the complexity of the above paragraphs, but I wanted to give it to you from the horse’s mouth – it essentially means that although the Kennel Club is warning vets that they’ll be in trouble if they follow WSAVA rather than vaccine datasheet guidelines, the WSAVA is encouraging vets to ignore the datasheets on the basis that vaccines provide protection for considerably longer than the datasheets say.

How often do we need to vaccinate?

So, the Kennel Club is insisting that dogs need to be ‘routinely’ vaccinated, but the WSAVA is calling for a reduction in the number of vaccines given.

The Kennel Club says: “Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis … All of these diseases can be fatal so after its first course of vaccinations, your puppy will need booster vaccinations according to your vet’s advice.”

In contrast, with regard to Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus [known as the ‘core’ vaccines], the WSAVA says in its guidelines for vets: “Vaccines should not be given needlessly. Core vaccines should not be given any more frequently than every three years after the 12 month booster injection following the puppy/kitten series, because the duration of immunity (DOI) is many years and may be up to the lifetime of the pet.”

If you have never heard this before, I hope you are shocked and horrified that vets are advising their clients to vaccinate their pets every year against diseases to which they are already immune – for years.

The WSAVA adds in its advice for breeders:  “With regard to your adult breeding dogs, male and female, it is important to ensure they are vaccinated correctly with core vaccines, but that they are not over-vaccinated or receive unnecessary non-core vaccines.”

The WSAVA emphasises:  “We should aim to vaccinate every animal with core vaccines, and to vaccinate each individual less frequently by only giving non-core vaccines that are necessary for that animal.” 

Of the non-core vaccines (leptospirosis and kennel cough in the UK), the WSAVA says:  “The VGG has defined non-core vaccines as those that are required by only those animals whose geographical location, local environment or lifestyle places them at risk of contracting specific infections”.

The words ‘specific infections’ is important in relation to this advice. The WSAVA advises that leptospirosis is a range of 200 different bacterins, and vaccination against one form (serovar) of lepto does not protect against any of the other 199 forms. Also, the vaccine is short-lived, giving only around 70% protection for less than a year. If your vet recommends a lepto shot, you need to ask him two questions. The first is whether he has seen a case of lepto in the last, say, six months (i.e., is the vaccine necessary; is your dog in danger?). The second is which serovar is involved, and is that serovar in the vaccine?  For if it’s not, the vaccine won’t help. The issue isn’t necessarily one of spending money unnecessary, but of safety.

The problem is that vets in the UK are likely to suggest that your dog will die unless he receives the lepto vaccine annually (although it can be treated with antibiotics, and it’s not a common disease in dogs here). Therefore, if you do as the Kennel Club wishes and follow your vet’s advice, you could be vaccinating a dog against a disease that is not prevalent in your area, or vaccinating with a product that doesn’t contain the relevant serovar, leaving your dog unprotected anyway.

The WSAVA VGG names the four serovars responsible for most cases of leptospirosis in the USA but adds, “In many other countries there is insufficient knowledge of which serovars are circulating in the canine population. The VGG would encourage collection of such data.”  No-one seems to know what they’re vaccinating against outside the US!

The WSAVA VGG adds that, “This product [the lepto vaccine] is associated with the greatest number of adverse reactions to any vaccine. In particular, veterinarians are advised of reports of acute anaphylaxis in toy breeds following administration of leptospirosis vaccines. Routine vaccination of toy breeds should only be considered in dogs known to have a very high risk of exposure.”

Acute anaphylaxis is where a dog has a massive allergic reaction to a vaccine, so severe that it can cause death if adrenaline isn’t administered immediately – in dogs of any size. In addition, the lepto vaccine is associated with severe inflammation, which could encompass brain damage. The WSAVA states:  “There are some breeders that recommend their pups not be vaccinated with certain vaccines. If those vaccines are non-core (optional), those recommendations may be acceptable.”

With regard to kennel cough vaccines, the WSAVA informs us that, “it is important to realize that not all members of the Kennel Cough complex have a vaccine. Also, because Kennel Cough is a localized infection (meaning it is local to the respiratory tract), it is an infection that does not lend itself to prevention by vaccination. Vaccination must be regularly boosted and often vaccination simply muffles the severity of infection without completely preventing it.”

Did you ‘get’ the point? Kennel cough does not lend itself to prevention by vaccination! Actually, the datasheets warn that dogs who receive the kennel cough vaccine can shed it for up to seven weeks – which means they can infect other dogs with kennel cough; they can also spread the infection to unwell humans (since it is very close to human whooping cough). 

The WSAVA is keen to point out that the latest vaccine in the puppy series should be given at 14-16 weeks in order to ensure that maternally derived antibodies (which wane at that age) don’t interfere with the vaccine, leaving the puppy unprotected until his 12-month booster. The Kennel Club misses this important point.

The WSAVA Vaccine Guidelines Group “strongly supports the concept of the ‘annual health check’ which removes the emphasis from, and client expectation of, annual revaccination”.

Titer testing option

In addition, the WSAVA, “supports the development and use of simple in-practice tests for determination of seroconversion (antibody) following vaccination”.  This means that you can have your dog’s blood tested to ensure that he or she is immune from viral disease, which means that you can avoid vaccinating unnecessarily. A new and relatively inexpensive in-practice titer testing kit – the VacciCheck – makes this more practical. The Kennel Club makes no mention of titer testing.

In short, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association:

  • advises against annual vaccination for the core diseases;
  • advises that dogs should be vaccinated no more frequently than three yearly, but that in most cases immunity can be lifelong.
  • is not keen on promoting indiscriminate use of the non-core vaccines (lepto and kennel cough in the UK);
  • promotes titer testing as an alternative to indiscriminate vaccination;
  • and informs vets that it is acceptable to stray from the SPC with informed consent (informed consent means that the vet has discussed the risks and benefits with you, and you have agreed with his advice in writing).

By contrast, the Kennel Club:

  •  Is pushing ‘routine’ vaccination;
  • Fails to inform breeders and pet owners of the long-term effectiveness of core vaccines;
  • Insists you must follow your vet’s advice, irrespective of his lack of knowledge
  • Fails to advise you that some vaccines are non-core (optional);
  • Makes no effort to minimise over-vaccination
  • Issues a veiled threat to vets, warning them not to stray from datasheets
  • Ignores WSAVA advice in most respects

What are the risks?

Kennel Club advice to puppy owners states:  “Does vaccination have any side effects? . . . Anybody who has ever been vaccinated knows that it can occasionally make you feel quite feverish and poorly for a short while. Whilst this effect is not pleasant, it is a sign that the vaccine is stimulating the body’s disease defences. The perfect vaccine would not cause those effects, but not all vaccines are perfect, although safety is paramount in the licensing of vaccines. Exceptionally there can very occasionally be more severe side effects but they are so rare that the benefits obtained with vaccination far outweighs the risks. If you are concerned about any possible side effects, discuss this with your vet prior to the vaccine being administered to your puppy.”

The WSAVA, however, seeks to quantify potential side-effects. They say:

A general estimation of the prevalence of adverse reactions classified by severity would be:

  • 1 of every 100 to 500 vaccinations for mild reactions
  • 1 in every 1,000 to 5,000 vaccinations for moderate reactions
  • 1 in every 5,000 to 10,000 for severe reactions.

If there are 11 million dogs in the UK, and only half are vaccinated annually, and one in 5,000 has a severe vaccine reaction, this means 1,100 dogs can expect severe vaccine reactions: skin problems and arthritis, all the way through to epilepsy, brain damage, and death. Let’s hope it’s not your dog suffering after receiving a vaccine he didn’t need, and that it’s not your vet who failed to tell you that he didn’t actually need the vaccine.

As for moderate reactions, a further 1,100 to 5,500 can expect to suffer from behavioural changes and lameness, all the way through to ‘inherited’ allergies and respiratory disease. Still alive, but suffering unnecessarily.

WSAVA

Adverse Reactions Associated with Vaccination in Animals

Severe Reactions

(Rare to Uncommon)

Moderate Reactions

(Uncommon to Common)

Mild Reactions

(Common)

Injection site sarcoma Immunosuppression Lethargy
Anaphylaxis Behavioural changes Hair Loss
Polyarthritis,

hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)

Vitiligo Hair colour change at injection site
Immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia (IMHA) Weight loss Fever
Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP) Reduced milk production Soreness
Glomerulonephritis      Lameness Stiffness
Disease or enhanced disease the vaccine was designed to prevent Granulomas/abscesses at the injection site Refusal to eat (transient)
Myocarditis Hives Conjunctivitis
Post-vaccinal encephalitis or polyneuritis Facial oedema Sneezing
Seizures Atopy Coughing
Abortion, congenital anomalies, embryonic/fetal death, failure to conceive Respiratory disease Oral ulcers
Allergic uveitis (blue eye) Diarrhoea
Skin disorders Vomiting

Has your vet ever told you any of this before you agreed to have your dog vaccinated against a disease he is already immune to? Has your vet ever told you he might already be immune, and offered you a titer test? I can answer this question for you – it is very unlikely that you have been offered ‘informed consent’.

I emailed members of the WSAVA Vaccine Guidelines Group to ask whether the WSAVA had really collaborated with the Kennel Club to produce its vaccine guidelines to breeders and puppy owners. Professor Michael Day, senior lecturer in Veterinary Pathology at the University of Bristol, replied:

“The WSAVA VGG did indeed make suggestions on this document and our key recommendations related to current core vaccination for puppies and boosters for adult dogs were incorporated.  As you will see, a link to the guidelines has also been provided.  The WSAVA Guidelines are generic in nature and have been, and will continue to be, adapted according to national requirements.  There are numerous examples of this throughout the 90 member countries of the Association and we continue to encourage national organizations to incorporate the principles into their own national guidelines.”

I personally don’t see how ‘national considerations’ change the science. However, professor Day, in his presentation to the WSAVA Conference in Geneva during 2010, said something slightly different:

“…The first consideration is whether this dog requires revaccination at all. This is an adult dog that was appropriately immunized as a pup… Although the licensed duration of immunity (DOI) for the core vaccine components (DHP) is three years, there is now evidence for a minimum DOI of 9 years for CDV and CPV and, in reality, a dog that is appropriately immunized as a pup probably never requires another core vaccine during its lifetime. The non-core components of this animal’s vaccine schedule (LPi) are also unnecessary. Although they do not have a DOI greater than 1 year, this is a city dog that is never kennelled in a boarding establishment and its lifestyle means that its risk of exposure to Leptospira or the canine respiratory complex is minimal. If the owner is in any doubt as to whether the animal is protected against the core vaccine-preventable diseases, then serological testing may be used to allay any fears. The presence of any titre of antibody to CDV, CAV and CPV is indicative of protection.” 

Why the discrepancies?

A growing number of people around the world who have campaigned to end over vaccination (in my case for over 20 years), are increasingly alarmed by discrepancies in the advice given by veterinary bodies and their members in public and private. They say one thing to one audience, and another thing to another. On the one hand I want to praise and honour the people who have worked on the dogs’ behalf, and on the other hand I want them to be clearer. There is a suspicion that there are political compromises involved, especially considering the widespread financial influence of the veterinary vaccine industry.

What do you think?

Do you see significant discrepancies between Kennel Club vaccination advice and WSAVA advice?  If so, do you question – as I do – why the WSAVA should lend credibility to incomplete and misleading information that can lead to the over-vaccination of our dogs, risking some pretty tragic life-threatening adverse reactions? Do you think the Kennel Club should issue incomplete and misleading guidelines and hold Scheme members to them, forcing Assured Breeders to spread that incomplete and misleading information to puppy owners?  Should the Kennel Club incorporate more of the known science, rather than appear to be pushing vaccines when they are not needed?

It’s not as though the Kennel Club is without top-ranking expertise to draw upon. Its former chairman, Steve Dean, started as a vet and spent many years as head of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the government body in the UK that licenses veterinary drugs and biologics, and which is charged with the task of ensuring the safety and efficacy of veterinary medicines. As head of the VMD, Steve Dean was one of the most highly paid and respected vets in the UK, and he should have the knowledge to reflect this status.

Indeed, Steve’s expertise goes further: he also worked for 17 years in the pharmaceutical industry, becoming technical and marketing manager (Europe) for Syntex Animal Health. He was a consultant to the veterinary pharmaceutical industry prior to being recruited to the post of director of licensing, VMD, in 1996. He was also a past-chairman and treasurer of the Association of Veterinarians in Industry.

Having spent many years as a marketing man within the pharmaceutical industry, and having worked as a consultant to the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, even chairing the organisation that championed vets in industry, and working as a regulator, we would be forgiven for expecting the Kennel Club’s new chairman to understand the importance of scientific accuracy.

In fact, once he retired from the VMD, Steve Dean wrote an article in Dog World which contained the following sentence:

“Whatever you choose for your dog, the minimum immunisation in the form of a course of puppy vaccines, offers protection that could prove life-long.”

Perhaps the Kennel Club needed to consult its in-house expert before publishing misleading advice to breeders and vet owners, and holding them to it.

For rather than helping the WSAVA to spread its message that we should: “vaccinate every animal with core vaccines, and vaccinate each individual less frequently by only giving non-core vaccines that are necessary for that animal”, the Kennel Club is in danger of taking us back to pre-1978 when no-one queried over-vaccination. Then – 35 years ago – Kirk’s Veterinary Therapy first published the statement from Drs Ronald D Schultz and Tom R Phillips that: once a dog is immune to viral disease, he remains immune for years or life”. 

Why, as a dog owner and averred dog lover, a vet, a former regulator and pharmaceutical industry man, would the chairman of the Kennel Club – a clearly brilliant mind – allow the Kennel Club to muddy the known science and impose misleading information on breeders, and circulate that misleading information to puppy owners?

And why would the WSAVA – which has worked so hard to end over-vaccination – lend its endorsement? Currently there is much concern from dog owns whose dogs appear to have had adverse reactions to the new Lepto 4 vaccine. Yet the WSAVA is sitting on the fence, saying it’s up to individual countries to set their own policies.

My concern is that individual countries are amendable to control, and the pharmaceutical industry is happy to wield that control. For your dog’s sake, or profit’s sake – you decide.

After we protested about the Kennel Club’s outdated vaccine guidelines, I was asked – by Bill Lambert of the Kennel Club – to draft new guidelines and have it approved by the WSAVA. If I did this, he said, he would make them available to ABS breeders. This was several years ago, and the promise has not been fulfilled. Instead, the WSAVA approved of the summary so much that they put it on their own site. You can see it here: http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/New%20Puppy%20Owner%20Vaccination%20Guidelines%20May%202013_0.pdf

 

http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/New%20Puppy%20Owner%20Vaccination%20Guidelines%20May%202013_0.pdf

http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/New%20Puppy%20Owner%20Vaccination%20Guidelines%20May%202013_0.pdf

 

 

 

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