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I spent the majority of this past Thursday evening’s appointments thoroughly annoyed by one of my earlier cases. My annoyance had nothing to do with the lovely retired couple and their sweet little miniature poodle they brought in to see me. My annoyance stemmed from reviewing the record from a local veterinarian they were previously bringing this poodle to in years past in order to determine which vaccines she was due for in her yearly wellness visit with me.
My tech who was in charge of the case was confused because the dog had been given a yearly DHLPP vaccine, abbreviations that stand for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvo, Parainfluenza. A graduate in the past 3 years and having worked only in my American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited veterinary clinic, the tech did not recognized this vaccine because we do not administer it. We administer the DHPP vaccine that separates out the Leptospirosis which we give alone as a separate vaccine.
The reason we give the DHPP and Leptospirosis as separate vaccines is because as viral infectious diseases, DHPP imparts longer protection and only has to be boostered once every 3 years, whereas Leptospirosis as a bacterin based vaccine for bacterial infectious disease imparts shorter protection and needs to be boostered once per year.
So why did this taint my evening so much? The DHLPP started to fall out of favor around the time of my graduation (2002) when research conducted in joint efforts by AAHA and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) led to vaccine reform. The result of this research determined that immunizations for viral disease such as Rabies, Distemper, and Parvo imparted protective antibody titers and protected against challenges with these diseases for at least 3 years; while bacterin based immunizations for diseases like Kennel Cough, Leptospirosis, and Lyme Disease imparted less extended protection with protection starting to wane at one year.
AAHA and AVMA also put out guidelines advising veterinarians to really examine an animal patient’s lifestyle and geographic location to assess relative infectious risk and vaccinate only for diseases that pose a real legitimate threat for the patient. For example, when I worked on the North Shore of Long Island, NY, Lyme Disease was a massive risk with 5-7 newly diagnosed cases per doctor per month in the 4 doctor practice I worked in. Of course we vaccinated for it. On the other hand, where I now own an animal hospital on the Central/East coast if Florida, there is no Lyme Disease so I do not include it as a core vaccine protocol, reserving it only for patients that frequently travel to areas where Lyme Disease is endemic.
The intent of this research and the vaccine reform that followed was to minimize frequency and numbers of vaccinations administered to pets needed to protect them. While current vaccine technology is very safe with adverse effects being very rare, they are not 100% without risk. As such, it makes sense to minimize them to a level and number that is tailored to each pet’s lifestyle and infectious diseases that are endemic to the area(s) they live.
This veterinarian that saw this patient is still administering the DHLPP on a yearly basis stuck in my craw so badly because it shows that she is practicing antiquated preventative medicine with either a willful disregard for millions of dollars worth of research conducted by our profession’s two prominent governing bodies; or she is ignorant about the vaccine reform that swept the profession starting in 2003. Either scenario is glaringly unacceptable. The fact that there are vaccine manufacturers that are still making the DHLPP is also glaringly unacceptable in my opinion.
So when checking your invoices for the vaccines your dog receives after each yearly well visit, if you see DHLPP as one of them, my advice to you would be to seek out a new veterinarian.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.