Pet owners say annual vaccines caused reactions in their pet, but some vets say they are needed

Big money maker or medically needed?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It made Tig so happy going to the beach," recalled Gloria Noakes as she thumbed through photos. "He was such a gentle giant."

Memories of Tig bring back joy and pain.

"He died in our arms," explained Noakes.

Noakes beloved Tig died at just six years old.

"You kind of just trust your vet," Noakes explained.

Especially when it came to annual vaccines.

"He would send us a notice in the mail and it's time for your yearly vaccines and we would comply," explained Noakes.

The last vaccines were given when the vet looked at Tig for a sore on his back.

"Exactly 72 hours later is when Tig's body was broken out in these sores," said Noakes.

Turns out the original spot was cancer. Tig later died.

"No doubt in my mind those vaccines accelerated his illness," said Noakes. "If he hadn't have had those vaccines he could have beat this."

"Any vet my age has killed a dog or cat from vaccines," explained veterinarian Art Malernee of Atlantic Animal Hospital in Delray Beach.

Malernee used to vaccinate dogs every year for 7 diseases until his own dog had a bad reaction.

"It was just a wakeup call for me," explained Malernee.

Now, he only gives the minimum.

"I try to get them fully immunized and then I tell the family they don't need any more vaccines," said Malernee.

Malernee writes a letter to the county getting his pets medical waivers for any required vaccines.

Something Stacey Ollis wishes she had known.

"Zeus is really a miracle dog," said Ollis.

She believes years of giving him annual vaccines, and years of missing the warning signs added up.

"He would have skin rashes after the injections," Ollis explained. "We didn't put the connections together."

Until Zeus collapsed twice in one year. The last time was immediately after an injection.

"They did lifesaving surgery," Ollis explained.

A surgery that changed her outlook on vaccines.

"He was absolutely getting vaccines he didn't need," Ollis said. "In his case we will never vaccinate him again."

Dr. Leonard Fox of Animal Hospital of West Port St. Lucie thinks that's risky.

"I think they are probably going to run into problems," Fox explained. "The problem is over vaccinating can cause problems in certain dogs, but I think the problems are greater for the under vaccinating dogs."

Fox said 90-percent of his pets at his Port St Lucie practice get at least one vaccine every year. Fox said he rarely has adverse reactions, and if that's a concern he gives the pet an antihistamine before the shot.

If pet owners are concerned, they can also do a test called titers.

"It's a test to see how much antibodies or resistance the pet has from getting the vaccines as a puppy," explained Fox.

In a 2011 review of vaccine protocols, The American Animal Hospital Association said bad reactions are uncommon. The Association admitted that they can cause unpredictable effects that may be underreported.

While the USDA regulates vaccines, their scope is limited. They don't require reporting of adverse reactions, and won't release any reports publicly.

The AAHA latest vaccine protocol for vets recommends most main vaccines only need to be given every three years.

"What do you think is the real reason vets are still giving vaccinations every year?" we asked Malernee.

"Because they make money doing it," he explained.

But, Fox said money is not the motive.

"I don't think that's a very lucrative part of a veterinarian's business giving vaccines," explained Fox.

Fox said he bases his decisions based on his experience and what the manufacturer recommends. Most still recommend on the label a yearly vaccine.

No amount of money can bring back Tig.

"I just want people to know vaccines can have this effect," explained Noakes.

And Ollis said she won't spend money on another vaccine.

"Everyday we feel like it's such a blessing. We are just so fortunate because so many others have not been," explained Ollis.

You should have a discussion with your vet about vaccines, and decide what risks are worth it based on your pet's lifestyle and breed.

Some vets are concerned about pet owners stopping vaccination worried there will be a resurgence of deadly diseases. There have been outbreaks recently.

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