Are We Over-Vaccinating Our Pets?

Did you know that, unlike most other veterinary drugs, the dosages for vaccines are not based on the size of the animal? It’s scary but true. A 5-pound cat, for instance, may receive the same dosage of a rabies vaccine as a 150-pound Great Dane. Instead of body weight, these vaccines are based on the minimum immunizing dose.

Over-vaccinating animals can not only make them sick, but can cause potentially fatal autoimmune reactions.

“Over-stimulation of the immune system can be problematic,” veterinarian Deborah Wolf told KOMO. “There are (also) potentials for — especially in cats — injection site cancers. We want to protect them without over-stimulating the immune system, and running them down and creating new problems.”

Rabies vaccination laws for animals vary by state. Most states do not allow veterinarians to give partial doses of the rabies vaccine based on a pet’s size or health. Until 2011, rabies booster vaccinations were usually given annually to pets. But that year the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) updated its guidelines to recommend that core vaccines be given to pets only every three years.

Why Are Some Veterinarians Over-Vaccinating Pets?

Why do some veterinarians continue to put the health of pets at risk by unnecessarily vaccinating them every year?

“A lot of people do what they told,” Dr. Dale Porcher, of Shores Animal Clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla., told CBS12. “I think a lot of people have not stood back and questioned why are we doing this.”

Rabies and other vaccinations also happen to be a major source of steady profit not only for veterinary practices but for the Big Pharma companies, like Pfizer, that manufacture them. Last year, pet owners in the U.S. spent $5.81 billion on vaccinations, CBS12 reports.

Yet some veterinarians who don’t want to over-vaccinate their patients are being punished for taking measures not to do so.

Dr. John Robb, who practices in Connecticut, was put on probation Feb. 1 by the State Board of Veterinary Medicine for reducing the dosage in rabies vaccinations for small dogs. From now until 2042, he cannot vaccinate any animals for rabies.

“You’re telling me that if there’s a law that would force me to kill my patient, I would have to do it?” he told News 12 Connecticut. “You know what the state board said? ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘You are crazy.’”

Is it safe to give smaller pets lower dosages of vaccines? Dr. Lisa Boyer, who practices in Loomis, Calif., doesn’t think so.

“Immunologists say vaccines are not dose-dependent, that you need enough antigens to stimulate the immune system,” she said. “It’s not a weight-versus-dose question. My 7-year-old [child] and I get the same vaccine.”

Connecticut May Be the First State to Prevent VaccineOverdosing

To help prevent pets from getting sick from being over-vaccinated — and to prevent veterinarians like Dr. Robb from getting punished for trying to keep pets healthy — Connecticut state representatives Pam Staneski and Fred Camillo introduced the bill H.B. 5659 in January.

The new law would allow vets to adjust vaccine dosages and skip rabies booster shots in the best interest and health of an animal. The bill recommends a titer test — a simple blood test — that can determine if a pet is adequately immunized.

If H.B. 5659 manages to get passed, Connecticut will become the first state to allow animals to be tested for rabies antibodies instead of being automatically vaccinated every few years.

Don’t Let Your Pet Be Over-Vaccinated

It’s important to ask your veterinarian about the vaccinations your pet is receiving.

If your vet recommends annual vaccinations even though your pet has no health or other issues that would require them, you might want to let your vet know about the latest AAHA vaccination guidelines or perhaps find another vet.

As Dr. Porcher told CBS12, your veterinarian’s primary concern should be “your pet’s health and not their profit margin.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

You may think so, even argue against vaccines...until your pet dies from a purely preventable disease. As a veterinarian I can tell you that that anti-vaccination is where epidemics and tragedy starts.

michelle m
jennifer tabout a year ago

Vaccination is very important re animals and their human counterparts.It is essential.Prior to vaccination administration it is important that the weight be measured and the dose administered is dependant on this.

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

thank you for posting

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

Well, we over vaccinate our children too.

Telica R
Telica R2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Yvonne J
Yvonne J2 years ago

I generally don't vaccinate my pets anymore. After health issues with my Akita many years ago, I did extensive research and became more aware of the horrors of many "top quality" kibble at the time (Science Diet, etc) as well as over-vaccination and the difference between immunization and vaccination, and much more info that society tends to not be aware of. I stopped having my dog vaccinated. Same with my cat, who was strictly indoors anyway. I never had my next adopted dog vaccinated- she was inoculated by the rescue before we adopted her, and I felt that was plenty. When I got my next kitten, she had had her initial kitten series of shots, and after much deliberation I decided to get the second series and then call it quits for the rest of her lifetime. Unfortunately, she reacted negatively, and after describing her condition to my vet, he was concerned enough to actually put it *in writing* in her vet records that she is to receive NO MORE vaccinations. Sadly, my usual vet did not feel comfortable spaying my kitten using an alternative to ketamine, so I had to go to another vet for surgery. This vet insisted she had to have a rabies vaccine, despite her history of negative reactions, because it was required by law. They refused to make an exception and do surgery without it. I had no choice so I had to allow it. My kitten reacted even worse than her previous kitten-series of vaccinations. Thankfully she recovered. I promised her, NEVER AGAIN

Irene S
Irene S2 years ago

There is Dr. Schulz who did a lot of research about vaccinations and he thinks, one shot in a lifetime is enough. So does a very experienced German Spitz breeder I know. Those, who´s pets had never any unwanted side effects after a vaccination are very lucky and I hope, the annual shot will be outdated soon.

Lori H
Lori H2 years ago

Our vet always weighs our dog, then draws the rabies vaccine from a vial that has several doses in it. I've seen him do it with many pets and the dosage does vary.

Janet B
Janet B2 years ago


Bill E
Bill Eagle2 years ago

My vet weighs our animals and vaccine doses are adjusted according to weight. I do not think my animals are being over vaccinated.