29 November 2011

On Science and Scare Tactics

For some strange reason that I don't quite understand, the more scientific advances our civilization makes, the more some people start hunting for old, non-scientific methods of doing things. This ties into the "persecution complex" that many majorities mistakenly harbor, for instance the "war on Christmas" or "doctors are out to get you, not help you", things of that nature. For instance, if doctors (and veterinarians) are "out to get you", you will start believing that drugs are not helpful, only harmful. This is pure bunk. Being a skeptic myself, I believe science and scientific studies over "Mary Sue's friend's sister's dog turned into a raving aggressive maniac RIGHT AFTER he got his Rabies Vaccine!"

And so we talk about vaccines. Did you know there is NO GOOD study that says vaccines of any kind cause long term adverse reactions? Sure, there are some reactions to vaccines, such as a bump at the site, and certainly some dogs can have very strong reactions to any disease or ingredient in the vaccine. However, those dogs are having what basically amounts to a very strong allergic reaction.

Do you know what a vaccine is? It is a small amount of (usually dead) disease, injected into a dog's or human's body, so that the body can build up a good immune response to that disease without the risk of the (dead!) disease killing them. I do not understand how anyone can think it is better to risk their dog DYING of parvo or distemper or rabies rather than introduce this small element into their immune system. Do you know why I think this? Because over the last century people and dogs both have begun to enjoy much longer lives with much lower risks of disease. Why? Well a big part of the reason is vaccines. Get a small innoculation against something and enjoy an almost zero-risk of ever catching the actual disease later in life.

All of that said, I certainly do not vaccinate my dogs needlessly every year. They get puppy shots according to Dodds' recommendations at 8/12/16 weeks or so, they get Rabies after 16 weeks, then they get all their booster shots between 12-18 months. Then I just do Rabies every 3 years as required by the law in my area. That's it. Why? Because real science tells me that vaccines last longer than a year, in fact most of Parvo and Distemper studies I found said they lasted at LEAST 7 years, with strong indications they carried immunity for (a dog's) life.

Anyway, this post was inspired by an online magazine I see posted around Facebook a lot, called Dogs Naturally. This magazine has some good articles, but a lot of pseudoscience is also included. Lots of scare tactics. Lots of "rabies vaccinosis!!!! ZOMG!!!!" type stuff. I've lived with vaccinated dogs all my life. None of them seem to have any strange "rabies vaccinosis". They all seem the same before and after their vaccines... one got a bump one time. It went away after a couple weeks. I told the vet before the next one and he injected a different site that has more loose skin and no bump followed. I do not think magazines like Dogs Naturally really have a dog's best interest at heart. By encouraging people to believe in pseudoscience and quote mining real scientific papers for the single scary line or two, then emphasizing and blowing that part way out of proportion, they are simply invoking an emotional response in readers who are trying to do their best. Another tactic is to tell the reader a lot of bad things about vaccines, but have no link to source material proving the listed information.

I have important news for people. Vaccine companies, veterinarians, doctors - none of them are out to get you. Some of them are out to make money, this is true, but most health care professionals got into that profession specifically to help people or animals, and oftentimes that money is recycled straight back into more advances in the field. My vet does not live on a yacht, laughing at the foolish masses who paid the extra $30 for a vaccine they didn't need every year. I'm sure he does own a car. He's a nice guy. He enjoyed showing me the digital x-ray machine and how it worked. He didn't try to steal my wallet.

So the next time someone tells you that a magical plastic bracelet changed their life, look for the real science before automatically believing it. You will find that magical plastic bracelets have a lawsuit pending in Australia for false advertising....

As skeptics have been known to say "many anecdotes do not equal data".


K-Koira said...

I follow the same protocol as you with vaccines- puppy series, rabies at 6 months or so, one year boosters, then only rabies every three years. And, the only reason for the rabies every three years is that it is required by law (and after my dog being bitten by a coyote over the summer, I am glad of that, since they may have seized her for a rabies watch if she wasn't current).

I am hopeful that the studies being done right now about the length of effectiveness for rabies vaccine will make a difference in how often we have to vaccinate- since so far the studies have supported that the vaccine lasts at least ten years. I would be happy with it being like tetanus- vaccinate once every ten years, and if/when there is a risk (such as coyote bites...)

Amy Siegel said...

I realize that it is anecdotal, but there are two dogs that you know, that had very serious, near death reactions to a rabies vaccination. The science does support that some dogs may have a severe reaction, allergic or not. Allergies can deal death also. Years ago it was supposedly a rumor that HeartGard killed collie varieties of dogs. For a long time there was no,science to support this and Meriel denied it vociferously. Then they discovered the MDR (multidrugresistant) genes and it was true. It often happens that science runs behind experience.

Rosanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rosanne said...

Two dogs? I know one off-hand. Even assuming I know the 2nd and didn't know it was a vacc reaction, that's still only 2 out of the literally hundreds (thousands?) I know. Not a high rate. And yes, there will be strong reactions to any drug or disease by a small section of animals. That's not a surprise.

As far as MDR1 goes though, collies should NOT react to any heartworm meds because the dose required to make an MDR1 mutated dog react is significantly higher than the dose given in the preventatives. usually dogs that have reactions get it from something like eating sheep or horse manure, getting an extra large dose.

(original comment deleted because I bumbled a couple words)

barjor said...

I totally agree with this! There is a reason that vaccines are useful and while I do think that a yearly booster is more than overkill, I do follow the Dodd protocol.

cedarfield said...

It's easy to forget in this day and age that vaccines prevent far more deaths than they will ever cause. We're so used to the health benefits of having generations of well vaccinated children and pets that we've forgotten how many family pets used to die of distemper and parvo. Without Rabies vaccines, we'd all be at tremendous risk from our pets every day. I work for the Health Department and I see how many positive Rabies cases (mostly in raccoons, foxes and feral cats)there are just in my county alone. No vaccine is without risk but that risk is constantly being overblown and exaggerated by the media because it generates a lot of interest.
I hate that anyone's pet or child should have a bad reaction to a vaccine but the huge benefits far outweigh the very small risk.