March 31, 2012

What a Holistic Vet REALLY Feels about Vaccines

What a holistic vet REALLY feels about the requirement to vaccinate... by Dr. Melissa Shelton
1. All traditional vets, please don't be offended. What I am going to discuss with you might give you more ammunition than most traditional vets can handle. So, PLEASE, go easy on them. It isn't easy to go against the grain, and buck the entire system that we were brain washed with in vet school. Remember, that we are all on a path of enlightenment and learning. Well, hopefully we all are. I have certainly met some that make me wonder! Regardless, I like to remind people, that I too, was once a traditional vet. Maybe not the average traditional vet, but still one that once required vaccinations as "hospital policy", and adopted main stream ideals of veterinary care.
2. Clarify when vaccines are required. It is important to clarify that if vaccines are required, just what these requirements are. Are they recommending that your animal is vaccinated at the time of the spay or neuter? Are they recommending it 2 weeks before the spay or neuter? Are they recommending a full series be completed prior to the spay or neuter? These are the questions and answers that aggravate me the most holistically. These are also likely to be the subjects that will produce a stammering vet - who doesn't quite know how to reply to the line of questioning I am going to propose to you... I think it is an awesome idea to ask your vet, or your potential new vet, why they do what they do. I can assure you that I have a reason for everything that I do in my vet clinic. From the brands of vaccines that are chosen, to the anesthetic drugs I use. There is a reason for everything - and it isn't because it was on "special" this month. I have REAL medical and experiential reasons behind each and every product selection, food recommendation, prescription medication, and treatment protocol that I am involved with. So if you find yourself "required" to vaccinate a pet for a spay or neuter procedure (a common complaint of holistically minded owners) - ask the veterinarian why they require this. Do they have an answer? Is it only because the office manager made a hospital policy? Is it because it is truly what is best for the animal, or is it because of a "human safety issue".
3. We are taught better. We are actually taught in vet school (and on vaccination literature) to NOT vaccinate animals who are ill or debilitated. To me, undergoing general anesthesia is quite a serious event (although I don't really classify it as dangerous when done correctly). And, although a neuter may not be as significant of a surgery as a spay, the body is still asked to endure anesthesia and is asked to put energy into healing and recovery post-op. If a veterinarian is attempting to say that a surgical event is not a stressor to an animal - let's have them have a similar surgery, get vaccinated, and also run around with the energy of a dog! But wait, in case you are not convinced that they are looking out for your animal's best interest - let's consider the best interest of the HUMANS!
4. The stupidity of it all. As veterinarians, we handle non-vaccinated animals everyday. Are we all of a sudden going to start popping an extremely ill dog with a vaccine just so it can be hospitalized? This would be met with extreme resistance. If the excuse to vaccinate is a human safety concern, this doesn't hold water with me either. We do not turn away unvaccinated ill dogs and cats from hospital stays. And during the hospitalization of an ill patient, we are in far more contact with that animal than with a basic spay or neuter. Exposure to "bad things" is a much higher potential when we hospitalize a sick animal - for humans and other animals - however, veterinarians would likely start to see more and more law suits if they insisted on vaccinating already ill patients. It just doesn't make any sense at all to me.
5. The heavy hitting questions. These questions might likely aggravate your vet. But, if I were in an argument over the situation with them, here is how I would let it rip. Just BE NICE. More flies are caught with honey than with vinegar!!! If my dog has never been vaccinated, how long does it take for my dog to develop immunity from the vaccine? I will beg to offer that not many vets will have an exact answer. Quite honestly, I would have to think about it a bit, and also look some things up as well. There would not be many vets who would ever try to sell you on a line of goods that your dog would be 100% protected from parvo after only one vaccination. So, why would they be okay doing surgery after only one vaccine? Again, it doesn't make sense to me. Yet, there are many vets who would require a previously non-vaccinated animal to have its very first vaccination less than 2 weeks before surgery. If you actually ask a vet when and why they require a vaccination, and the actual time frames of the "immunity" - you may stump them. The real point of this question, is to force the veterinarian to actually think about if their policy of requiring vaccinations, is actually "providing a level of immunity" or not. (Which of course holistically is up for debate regardless of timing.)How stressful is vaccination on the body while it is trying to heal from major surgery? If they don't think it is, I have a feeling they have never had surgery and been vaccinated all in the same day. Just because dogs run around like crazy after an invasive abdominal surgery - we should not "cheapen" the major event that just occured. A human having a similar surgery, would likely be in bed and not very mobile for some time.Are the actual risks of infection on the "unvaccinated" or the "vaccinated" animal? Basically - if you choose not to vaccinate your dog, YOU are choosing your own risk level. Shouldn't it be up to everyone individually, whether or not they choose to vaccinate? Tell them you'll sign a waiver - stating that you will not hold them responsible if your animal "catches" something while at the vet. Which, by the way, I have seen happen more with vaccinated pets than unvaccinated! Shouldn't it really be my decision? I personally do not vaccinate my children. I feel STRONGLY that whether or not to vaccinate 2-legged or 4-legged kids - is a decision that should be made personally and based on education - not dictated by a population experiencing poor health. When veterinary medicine starts to vaccinate EVERYONE for EVERYTHING, even the industry leaders start to take it back very quickly! If your veterinarian cannot "educate" you into thinking their way is the "right" way - they probably don't have a valid argument.If I can decline a heartworm test, why can't I decline a vaccination? Sometimes we just don't ASK if we can decline something! Don't let them bully you, ask questions politely, but make them answer you! Truly, there are times when it is just best to move on. I consult with many people who are attached to their current veterinarian, but it is a relationship that is not serving anyone, and only results in more frustration on both sides. Finally - JUST SAY NO! If you do not wish for your animal to have vaccinations, you CAN find a veterinarian who will support your decision. You can search for holistic vets in your area at or ask other pet owners for recommendations. Holistic veterinary medicine is growing thankfully, and there are even some great traditional vets siding on the non-vaccinating viewpoint these days. Supporting research such as the is another great way to advance what is known about vaccinations, immunity, and duration of immunity. If you want to learn more about holistic care of animals, including the use of Essential Oils - one amazing educational opportunity is the Animals & Oils Intensive Training Course. This course is now available ONLINE! This is an amazing 3 days worth of course material presented in a very fun, easy, and convenient way. See the link to the right - or go to to find more class information. There is also a wealth of information, sample protocols, and holistic recommendations for many, many ailments on my membership website Read about it below.

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I train dogs using positive reinforcement training to modify unwanted behaviors.  I step outside the traditional training box and use therapeutic-grade essential oils to assist in my behavior modification regime when it comes to dogs plagued with fear and anxiety as well as aggression.  My philosophy is to heal the dog's mind, body and spirit, not just to rid the dog of unacceptable behaviors.  I specialize in shelter dog rehab, reactive rover, and fearful fidos.