All veterinarians take this oath upon graduation from veterinary college, being admitted into the field of veterinary medicine to practice wisely, with compassion and concern for both human and animal welfare. We also generally adhere to the medical profession’s ethic of Primum non nocerefirst do no harm.

While I firmly believe that all veterinarians hold this oath in their hearts, I often question whether we are “doing no harm”. Increased knowledge regarding effectiveness and duration of vaccine immunity has shown that animals do not need annual vaccinations, yet it is estimated that up to sixty percent of veterinarians still recommend giving annual core vaccines to dogs and cats. Over-vaccination does cause illness in our pets and should not be taken lightly.

While parasites such as fleas and ticks can cause diseases in our pets, the new chemicals that are being developed to prevent and treat infestation are extremely toxic, resulting in serious side effects such as seizures, tremors, liver failure, and death. In many cases, a less toxic method of treatment could be undertaken, minimizing risks to our patients.

I recently received a message from a devastated pet owner who lost her precious dog from a medication reaction after giving an NSAID for post-op pain. We’ve become dependent on these medications to treat pain in our patients, but it can become easy to overlook the potential disastrous outcomes when a pet reacts badly.

Pet owners are no different than parents with children – it is up to each individual to alert their veterinarian or doctor to any adverse events or reactions, to question the use of vaccines and chemicals, and to ask for safer alternatives when they are available. Newer generations of veterinarians are being taught about decreased vaccine usage; hopefully this trend will take hold for future generations of animals.