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Today's Quick Question: Should I vaccinate my dog if they have an Autoimmune disease?


Just the word vaccination can cause both pro and con arguments amongst people- we only need to look at what happened during COVID to see evidence of this. For most dog owners, annually vaccinating their pet is a routine part of being a dog owner- but we are starting to see issues with our dogs when they are constantly vaccinated each year with multiple vaccines.


So what about those dogs out there that have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease- in today’s quick question let’s look at whether vaccines are advisable in these situations and if not, what are the alternatives.


I guess I wanted to post this quick video because I am currently treating a number of dogs with some type of autoimmune disease and I have found that there are differing opinions from some vets in regards to whether vaccines are safe to give in these cases- some are completely ok with it while others tend to be less comfortable with the idea.


In my opinion and experience, I honestly believe that vaccinating a dog that is already in this overactive immune disease can potentially be disastrous. We know that an Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks the body's own tissues, leading to a range of health issues.


So what are the issues around vaccinating with active autoimmunity? Well firstly we know that every vaccine is designed to stimulate the immune system, and in some cases, this stimulation can trigger an autoimmune response, causing your dog's immune system to attack its own tissues more aggressively. So it can not only potentially trigger an autoimmune response but if your dog is already struggling with an autoimmune disease it can make the symptoms much worse and cause flare ups.


So for example, if your dog has IMHA or immune mediated hemolytic anemia a vaccine could stimulate the immune system to destroy more red blood cells making the anemia worse. Similarly, in Lupus, (especially if systemic), vaccines can cause a trigger that makes the inflammation in affected organs much worse causing a worsening of symptoms and the potential to have to increase medications like steroids and other immune suppressive drugs.

In addition, many dogs with an autoimmune diseases often already have compromised immune systems, making them much more susceptible to infections. Vaccinating them can potentially weaken their immune response further, leaving them more vulnerable to diseases so not only will they be fighting the autoimmune issue but then other infections can develop and these may become chronic depending on your dog.


Now its not uncommon too that dogs that are already in this autoimmune state can actually be very sensitive to vaccinations and may be more likely to experience adverse reactions to vaccines, including allergic reactions, fever, and other side effects. These reactions are typically more severe in immunocompromised dogs.


So all in all, for any dog that is suffering from an autoimmune disease or allergy state is most likely going to benefit from not being vaccinated during this active phase of the disease. Of course this needs to be discussed with your vet or holistic practitioner but anytime we give something that stimulates the immune system in the way that vaccines do, we can expect that the immune system can become even more overactive in the short term and this is where the problems lie.


With all my clients and especially those with autoimmune or allergy states, I recommend avoiding further vaccines at least until the body is more stable and opting for titre testing if they are concerned. A titer test, also known as a serologic test or antibody titer test, is a blood test that measures the concentration of antibodies in your dog’s blood against a specific pathogen, such as a virus or bacterium. Titer testing is so valuable because it allows for a more informed decision about vaccination. Instead of automatically administering booster shots, titer tests can help identify if your dog is already adequately protected reducing unnecessary vaccinations and potential side effects. And of course, vaccine schedules can be stretched out to 3 yearly too.


Remember when our dogs are going through autoimmunity and other states where the immune system is out of balance, we want to do everything we can to help bring things back into balance so holding off on vaccines I believe is a wise thing to do and can help avoid further triggers and flare ups.


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