Walk into any Tractor Supply, Rural King, farm store or coOp and you are bound to see the ubiquitous little refrigerator that houses dog, cat, and livestock vaccines. Many people, including several I know, purchase vaccines (except rabies, which is required by law to be administered by a vet) at these places and inject their animals themselves at home.
Supposedly it saves time and money. Cheaper than going to a vet, and one does not have to make a special appointment.
I recently heard of a six month old, otherwise healthy female dog being euthanized because of Parvovirus. The kicker is that she had been vaccinated for it. At home. With vaccines purchased at a local feed store. As this sad story was discussed, many people chimed in with anecdotal tales, stating that their vets had told them they had seen many cases of parvo in dogs vaccinated at home with feed store vaccines. How and why does this occur?
About Canine Parvovirus
Parvo is a highly contagious disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract of infected dogs. The diarrhea and vomiting cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which is typically what proves fatal in dogs which do not receive treatment.
Parvo can survive in the soil for up to one year, so it is recommended that a home with a confirmed parvo case not get another dog or allow other dogs on their property for a minimum of six months.
Lactating females that have been vaccinated against Parvo (or survived having it) will pass on some antibodies to puppies through their milk. It is recommended that puppies get their initial vaccine sometime between five and eight weeks of age, depending on the literature read.
The Appeal of At Home VaccinesFaolan just went to vet a couple of weeks ago. The cost of his DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) was $27.50. Office visit fees can range anywhere from $25-$50 or more, depending on the veterinarian used. A nine way booster vaccine is available at Tractor Supply for $11.99. From a financial standpoint, $11.99 is much better than $50 or more.
Time wise, it is easy to spend two or more hours driving to the vet, waiting at the vet, being seen by the vet, and driving home from the vet. Or, one can swing by a feed store on their way home, spend 5-10 minutes inside purchasing the vaccine, drive home, and inject their dog.
It is easy to see the appeal of giving a dog a vaccine at home. $10-$15 spent vs $50 (or easily more), and 10-20 minutes of extra time spent vs two hours.
Most canine vaccines have a narrow window of temperature exposure in order to remain effective, typically 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. This is likely the base problem of many of the examples I read of dogs vaccinated at home with feed store vaccines developing Parvo.
The vaccine is made by the manufacturer, and shipped by refrigerated truck, or in coolers to the store. Upon arrival at the store, it should be put in a locked refrigerator that is frequently and well monitored for appropriate temperature control. The owner then purchases the vaccine, and takes it immediately home and administers it to the dog.
Unfortunately there is a large amount of room for human or equipment error in the above situation. What if the vaccine sits on the loading dock or store room for a couple of hours prior to be placed in the refrigerator? What if said refrigerator does not have an accurate thermostat? What if the person purchasing the vaccine decides to run a couple of other errands prior to taking it home, or takes it home and leaves it on the counter for a few hours prior to administering it? All of these scenarios can cause the temperature of the vaccine to be out of the acceptable range, thus rendering it ineffective. Administering an inappropriately stored or inappropriately handled vaccine is useless.
Whether one chooses to vaccinate their dog or not, I believe every dog should see a vet yearly for a wellness exam. While cost is a factor for many, I feel safe knowing that vaccines received at a vet's office are handled and administered by professionals, as opposed to employees of a chain or private feed store or coOp. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, I would much rather a dog receive a vaccine that has been properly handled and stored appropriately, as opposed to a vaccine that is not effective at all once it has been exposed to a temperature that is higher or lower than the narrow window. I think spending an extra $40 or more is well worth it to avoid heartbreak that can potentially be prevented.
What say you? Would you or do you give your dog vaccinations at home?