Skip to content
Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Vaccinating Dogs with Cancer

Updated: November 14th, 2018


For some dog lovers, this word is a general part of health care for a canine companion.  For others, it is the root of a syndrome called “vaccinosis”.  Vaccinosis is a made-up term is a term used by alternative vets to describe the cluster of side effects from vaccinations.

Like most issues in medicine, those surrounding vaccinations are not black and white.  People who strongly believe that vaccines are evil and do not vaccinate their dogs at all should come watch the horror of a death due to parvovirus.  Believe me, you will reconsider.

However, vaccination needs to be revisited in veterinary medicine in a big way.  There are many reasons. One reason is that there is some evidence that, at least on a cellular level, vaccines may alter immunity in a direction that could favor cancer cell proliferation.   For example, a study came out in November, 2008 that showed an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was seen in people who had received an influenza vaccine.  The increase was by a pretty large margin (53%) too.  In all fairness though, negative associations were seen as well, with other vaccine types.

I was recently doing some investigation about a new chemotherapy protocol, and called a highly regarded oncology center.  I was sent the protocols, and on the bottom of the lymphosacoma protocol was the phrase, “No vaccinations ever again!”  Hm.  That caught my interest.  Here was an allopathic center making sweeping recommendations to avoid vaccinations in dogs with lymphoma.

Another piece to the puzzle is that there is currently intense research to create vaccines that actually help the body fight cancer.   For example, the canine melanoma vaccine was shown to increase median survival time in dogs with malignant melanoma by about three fold.  That’s a large margin!  (The canine melanoma vaccine is available only through oncologists.)

Routine vaccinations to boost immunity against common diseases such as parvovirus and distemper virus are, in my opinion, administered excessively.  The main way in veterinary medicine to measure protection against an infectious disease is by doing a blood test called a titer test.  If you do blood titer tests for the core  infections in most dogs who have received regular vaccinations, even if given every 3 years after the first year, you find that almost all have protection later in life.  This would imply the vaccine is not needed.

Putting all these pieces together, it makes a lot of sense to avoid vaccinating dogs with cancer for the common infections.  It also makes a lot of sense to do blood titer tests for these dogs routinely, and adult healthy dogs at annual visits.  If a treatment or other intervention is not needed, why do it?

All my best

Dr D

Leave a Comment

  1. Christy Jaramillo on August 9, 2020 at 7:10 am

    I have a 6 year old pit that has had 2 low grade dermal MCT’s removed over the last 4 years. She’s due for all her vaccines and I keep hearing contradicting recommendations on whether or not I should vaccinate her. I have not done titers yet but plan to do so in the near future. I’m just reaching out for a little more guidance. Thank you

Scroll To Top