The Goal: No More Pets Made Sick by Over-Vaccination

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. John Robb gives an update on his Protect the Pets movement to transform and bring back morals to the practice of veterinary medicine
  • The primary goal of Protect the Pets is to change vaccination laws and practices such that pets are appropriately immunized but no longer over-vaccinated
  • For decades, pets have been harmed by the conventional veterinary community’s pro-vaccine approach, while vet practices and vaccine manufacturers have profited at their expense
  • Protect the Pets is moving forward incrementally, and has made inroads in seven states to date; Dr. Robb and other titer advocates, including pet parents, will not stop until their work is done

Today I have a repeat guest, the wonderful veterinarian Dr. John Robb, who as many of you know, founded Protect the Pets. Dr. Robb is here today, by popular request, to give us an update on the movement. Dr. Robb invested his life savings in 2006 to launch Protect the Pets, a movement intended to transform and bring back morals to the practice of veterinary medicine.

“It came from my heart,” he explains. “It became my calling in response to what I saw as a lack of morality in veterinary medicine. When I got out of veterinary school and went into practice, I encountered a lot of roadblocks, especially from the veterinary medical associations and the old boys’ network. It was very difficult to do the right thing for my patients, and it seems I was being persecuted for trying.”

Both Dr. Robb and I view over-vaccination as one of the most significant examples of the problems inherent in the practice of conventional veterinary medicine today. To learn about his own harrowing experience when he dared to buck the system, check out our 2017 interview.

Are Profits the Real Motive Behind Over-Vaccination of Pets?

Today, 26 states have launched a Protect the Pets Facebook page to encourage pet parents to take action steps to change the laws on vaccinating pets. Legislation has been proposed in seven states. Some progress has been made each year since the movement began, despite opposition from both expected and some rather surprising sources as well.

“This is very simple stuff,” Dr. Robb explains. “We vaccinate to produce immunity. We can measure that immunity with a simple blood test called the titer. In human medicine, if you want to go to work in a hospital as a nurse, they’ll run an MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) titer to check your immunity to those illnesses. What they won’t do is automatically give you an MMR vaccine.

Titers have been available for a very long time, but veterinarians continue to vaccinate pets year after year, causing all kinds of health issues. It’s complete nonsense. I’ve testified in four different states, and my opposition never presents scientific evidence to back their automatic revaccination stance. Instead, they use fear tactics along the lines of, ‘If we do what Dr. Robb recommends, everybody’s going to die of rabies.’

But state legislators are starting to catch on. They’re seeing me come in with scientific facts while the other side comes in with fear tactics. We’re working in one state now, which I won’t name, and we’re close to breaking through.

The bill got through the House clean and it will go to the Senate in a few months. If it passes, we’ll have the first state where a positive titer for rabies means the pet is exempt from revaccination. No medical reason necessary — the positive titer is all that will be needed.”

Dr. Robb believes the challenge is that many in the veterinary community know the truth but are part of a system that promotes over-vaccination and the money it brings in for both veterinary practices and the pharmaceutical companies that produce the vaccines.

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How Pet Parents Are Making a Difference

I asked Dr. Robb how we can go about replicating his success in seven states so far, and he suggests that people start at his website, Protect the Pets, which is dedicated to changing state rabies laws. There, you can find a letter that goes over the science of vaccines and immunity. There are also petitions at the site and flyers to educate other pet owners.

When it comes to building momentum and successes, there are pet lovers who are either legislators or know a legislator who gets involved. There are people out there who’ve had a pet severely injured by a vaccination who get involved. Success happens when pet owners take action by writing their legislators and by getting others involved through the Protect the Pets pages in each state.

It also takes credentialed professionals like Dr. Robb and me and others who’ve studied the science, seen the effects of over-vaccination and who are willing talk to legislators and show them the science.

“What I’d like to see happen from our chat here today would be to get more pet owners to take those action steps,” says Dr. Robb. “My email is readily available, and so is my office number. When it gets to the point where you’ve got a legislator who’s listening, that’s where I can come in and break it down for them.

There are also town meetings and events like legislators’ breakfasts. Pet owners can show up at these gatherings and ask to talk about the rabies vaccine. Say something like, ‘I want to talk about the fact that we should be titer testing instead of giving pets vaccinations every year.’”

Fact: Every Day, Pets Are Being Seriously, Permanently Harmed by the Veterinary Community’s Pro-Vaccine, Anti-Titer Stance

Dr. Robb’s goal is to have every veterinarian vaccinate appropriately for core diseases only. “Vaccinate appropriately” means to give the smallest volume of vaccine to produce a titer and then measure it as often as necessary and never vaccinate again as long as it stays positive.

He doesn’t buy into the idea that the veterinary community needs a whole new set of scientific studies to prove titering is effective and repeated vaccinations aren’t necessary. He believes that if vaccine manufacturers had a heart for pets, they would have done that work before they ever set up their entirely arbitrary vaccination schedules.

In any event, Dr. Robb already has multiple studies that prove his point, including research that shows that titers go up as a pet’s weight goes down, which tells us that contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, vaccines are dose-dependent and shouldn’t be given in a one-size-fits-all dosing approach. There are also challenge studies that show that if, for example, a pet has any circulating rabies antibodies based on titer testing, he or she is protected and cannot contract the disease.

Dr. Robb and I also know from our own professional experience that the vast majority of veterinarians are simply too overwhelmed and exhausted to report most vaccine adverse reactions, and therefore, the problem is much bigger than reports indicate. One of the tools at the Protect the Pets website is information for pet parents on how to report adverse reactions rather than assume their veterinarian is reporting it.

Dr. Robb and I also know that our minimal vaccination approach results in very few patients with diseases like autoimmune hemolytic anemia as compared to most conventional veterinary practices. We both firmly believe this horrible disease is one of several caused by over-vaccination and too-high dosing.

The question the veterinary community should be asking is, regardless of how supposedly infrequently adverse reactions occur, why put any pet at any level of risk when you can do a simple blood test to confirm their immunity, and skip the vaccination? The current approach is to wait until an animal develops a vaccine-induced disease and then write an exemption for future vaccines. It’s unconscionable.

The veterinary community also makes titer test results much more complicated than necessary. The standard should be that if a titer shows any measurable level of antibody to a disease, the animal is protected. The results should be positive or negative — no numbers — just like a pregnancy test. A woman is either pregnant or she isn’t. A pet is either protected against a given disease, or he isn’t.

Moving Forward One Step and State at a Time

A piece of good news is that titer testing is becoming more widely available at affordable prices at veterinary clinics and through other sources like Dr. Robb’s Protect the Pets order a titer page, in large part because pet parents are no longer taking no for an answer.

“The veterinarians who won’t do it are the ones who don’t want to do it,” says Dr. Robb. “Because let’s face it, if they start doing titers, and they start seeing how many pets are immune, they can no longer walk into the next exam room and not offer titer testing. That’s why they won’t do it. But the ones who are doing it are coming in record numbers.

It’s like a runaway train at this point. The people know the truth and they’re going to go forward. But I’m still in it. You’re still in it. I’m going to keep pushing this until we get it done.”

One of the keys to Dr. Robb’s success is that he just keeps at it, slowly but consistently moving toward the goal. And while legislation may be slow in coming, awareness among pet parents and veterinarians is saving lives by the hundreds of thousands — especially with regard to distemper/parvo titers and getting rid of Lyme and leptospirosis vaccines, which don’t work.

“We’re saving lives while the movement gains momentum,” Dr. Robb points out. “Certainly, changing the rabies laws will be the ultimate, but we’re saving lives as we march forward. There’s no stopping us. I don’t care if it’s decades from now and I’m 90 and the laws still aren’t changed. I’ll still be knocking on doors and saying, ‘Let’s do this.’ There’s no giving up.

People listen. We walk without fear. We’re walking in the truth. We don’t stop no matter what. If you have that attitude, we win. People need to stand up. They do a titer. Their dog’s immune. The city is saying you’ve got to do this. Sue the city. Get in front of a judge and ask, ‘Why would I have to give my pet an injection that has no medical benefit and could make him sick or kill him? Why? I’m not doing this.’

Make noise. That’s what drives change, not sitting there being a victim and saying, ‘I guess I have to do it.’ No, you don’t have to do it. We don’t sell out and we don’t negotiate. There’s no negotiation.”

I think this is probably one of the biggest benefits to the movement Dr. Robb has started. He has empowered pet parents to say, “I really wish I had a backing but there’s no one behind me, so I’m going to do this myself.” Dr. Robb and I hope this encourages more pet owners to challenge their veterinarians.

Protect the Pets has made inroads in seven states in just a decade, which is pretty remarkable. It may not be moving as fast as we would like it to, but there have been noticeable shifts in the culture. Dr. Robb is getting it done one step at a time.

I love this update and I hope it inspires pet parents to recognize that even if you don’t have an integrative veterinarian where you live, it is our job as guardians of the animals in our care to make the best healthcare decisions for them. Once people start thinking about these topics, they ask questions. If their veterinarians can’t answer their questions, they should insist on titers until their questions are answered to their satisfaction. Don’t agree to vaccinate, insist that your vet agrees to titer.

I’m really looking forward to the next update from Dr. Robb, and to hear that he’s moved the needle in many more states! I sincerely appreciate the time he took to chat with me today.