World Veterinary Day 2013

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World Veterinary Day is celebrated annually on the last Saturday of April.

Did you know that this Saturday is World Veterinary Day? Established in 2000 by the World Veterinary Association, this day is celebrated annually on the last Saturday of April. The idea behind the day is to celebrate the veterinary profession and highlight the global accomplishments of veterinarians. Each year a different theme is selected, with this year’s topic being “Vaccination to prevent and protect.” The goal is to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinations for disease prevention. World Veterinary Day is an international day, and the theme of vaccinations focuses on protecting both companion animals and livestock, which also helps protect people from zoonotic diseases. Veterinarians are crucial to the success of vaccination programs around the world.

While some countries are working to raise awareness of the need for pet vaccinations, here in the United States there is ready access to pet vaccinations and education about the importance of  proper vaccinations for our pets. In fact, now there are growing discussions about the possible risks associated with vaccinations and optimal frequency of vaccinations. The position of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) regarding vaccinations is:

The vaccination needs of dogs and cats should be assessed at least yearly and, if appropriate, vaccination schedules should be modified on the basis of changes in the patient’s age, health status, home and travel environment, and lifestyle. Vaccinations should be considered just one component of an individualized, comprehensive preventive health-care plan based on the age, breed, health status, environment (potential exposure to harmful agents), lifestyle (contact with other animals), and travel habits of the dog or cat.

We recommend you work closely with your veterinarian and discuss your pet’s vaccination needs to establish a plan that’s optimal for your own dog or cat.

Vaccination Reactions in Pets

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Both acute and long-term vaccine reactions are fairly common in pets

Vaccination reactions in pets are much more common than most animal guardians think. Most pet owners and veterinarians are familiar with acute vaccination reactions that occur within minutes to hours of vaccination. These may include soreness and swelling at the site of the vaccination, as well as the occasional development of hives, acute vomiting and diarrhea. Neurological reactions, including seizures, also occasionally occur, as well as the development of potential blood disorders.

While most veterinarians are familiar with acute vaccination reactions, most fail to recognize some of the more chronic delayed immune reactions that have been documented to occur. These may include increased susceptibility to infections and skin/ear allergies, as well as the development of thyroid and/or adrenal disease in the future. In my experience as a holistic veterinarian, I have also seen occasional liver and kidney disease, as well as even diabetes occur as potential chronic immune reactions to vaccination. Behavioral changes, including increased aggression and/or anxiety have also been seen in my experience.

Most veterinarians are familiar with chronic vaccination reaction lumps in dogs and cats, as well as the rare development of malignant cancers known as fibrosarcomas in cats that can occur months or even years after vaccination. The best prevention against vaccination reactions include not over-vaccinating adult and/or senior pets, as well as avoiding giving multiple vaccinations at one time. Vaccinating at the time of surgical or other stresses should also be avoided, as well as avoiding vaccinating female pets in heat. I also try not to vaccinate the same day heartworm and/or other pesticide interventions are used.

In case a pet experiences an especially acute vaccination reaction, it is best to return to the veterinarian as soon as possible and/or go to the nearest emergency room. For more chronic vaccination reactions I mention above, I find it best to consult with a more holistic veterinarian such as myself.  For a more detailed discussion on this topic, see my website

Does My Dog Need a Flu Shot?

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There is a question whether flu vaccines for dogs are effective or necessary.

In recent years more and more kennels are requiring a flu shot for dogs, in addition to other vaccinations for boarding.  In addition, more and more vets are also including the flu vaccination as part of the core vaccinations in their practice.  In my opinion the flu vaccination is not only ineffective (as it is in people), but its long term safety is also a concern, given the metal content such as mercury present in most of these vaccinations.

The flu vaccination was developed many years ago after a group of greyhounds developed flu-like symptoms after being housed near racehorses with similar symptoms.  In the coming years, sporadic cases of flu outbreaks were also seen in kennels across the country.  In most cases, symptoms included mild upper respiratory symptoms with eye and nasal discharge, in addition to mild coughing.  Some cases had no symptoms at all, while rarely other cases had more serious respiratory symptoms.  Stress and poor hygiene appear to play the biggest roles in whether pets develop more serious symptoms, and vaccination has had little effect on the severity or incidence of this disease in my opinion.

Vaccination Site Sarcomas in Pets

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Vaccination Site Sarcomas are more common in cats than dogs.

One of the hottest and most researched topics in veterinary medicine over the past few decades has been the development of malignant cancers at the sites of previous vaccinations in cats, and to a lesser extent, dogs.  This has especially been a problem with rabies and feline leukemia virus vaccinations.  While there has been much research in this area, no single vaccine manufacturer has been incriminated.

Incidence of this disease is estimated to be between one out of 5,000 pets vaccinated.  It is suspected that the adjuvants (chemicals used for preservatives, and vaccine cultures) in the vaccination may lead to chronic skin inflammation and the development of a malignant sarcoma months to years later.  These cancers may be very difficult to treat, and often require potentially multiple surgeries and/or radiation therapy to try and control.

With the increasing awareness of over-vaccination and its risk to companion animals, it is highly recommended that each pet be looked at as an individual with respect to which, if any, vaccinations are used.  Vaccinations should not be given more frequently than needed, and given only as required by law with respect to rabies vaccination.  Given the innate resistance of adult cats to feline leukemia virus, I don’t recommend using this vaccination in strictly indoor adult cats that are not exposed to other cats.

Any new cats introduced into the household should receive a feline leukemia virus blood test, in lieu of vaccinating for this virus, as the chief method of controlling potential exposure to feline leukemia.  If rabies and feline leukemia virus vaccinations are given, they should be given on separate dates (separated by at least 3 weeks), and as low down on the legs as possible, so that if tumor development occurs, limb amputation may be curative.  Although less common in dogs, vaccination or injection site sarcomas rarely do occur, and treatment with wide surgical resection and biopsy is also recommended.

Age Guidelines for Adopting Puppies and Kittens

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Many times we are asked, “What is the best age to adopt a dog or cat?” The best age would be at approximately age 8 weeks. I recommend kittens and puppies stay with their mother until age 6-8 weeks to facilitate their transition from nursing to kitten/puppy foods, and to allow them the opportunity to socially interact with their litter-mates and develop physically and emotionally.

When animal guardians adopt pets at this age, puppies and kittens tend to be healthier. They can then direct their health care in a positive manner,

Picking the best age to adopt a new puppy or kitten.

by feeding great natural diets such as Halo or Nature’s Variety, as well as get them started on multivitamin supplements like Vitachews and Omega 3 fatty acids like pet Omega 3 Fatty Acids by Nordic Naturals.

I recommend vaccinations no earlier than 6-8 weeks.  A vaccine schedule should be discussed with the animal guardian that won’t lead to over-vaccination or vaccinosis, which I see many times when older pets are adopted, who have been over-vaccinated.  I do recommend, however, that animal guardians consider adopting older pets as well.  It is truly a wonderful contribution to adopt older pets, who have had either difficult prior homes or prior health issues, and who may face euthanasia if they are not adopted soon.

Could Your Cat Have Feline Distemper?

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Feline distemper is a viral disease mostly occurring in unvaccinated kittens under the age of one. Older cats are less likely to contract this viral disease because of long term vaccine or natural immunity. Typical symptoms of feline distemper may include:

- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting
- Foul often bloody diarrhea
- Dehydration
- Lethargy

Unvaccinated kittens are at an increased risk of contracting distemper

The virus is actually more accurately classified as a parvo virus, and does not typically cause any changes in temperament in the cat as the name suggests. Most of the time feline distemper is contracted in unvaccinated kittens from contact of contaminated stools , or dirty, crowded stressful environments.

Diagnosis is usually based on clinical history of unvaccinated kittens with these signs and a stool test can also be done for the virus. There is no specific treatment for feline distemper virus, and is supportive consisting of IV fluids and antibiotics in the veterinary hospital environment for several days, and then slowly introducing bland diets and supplements such as probiotics like Fast Balance. While a certain percentage of kittens can be successfully treated, others can potentially die. Usually vaccination offers long term immunity to cats 14 weeks of age or older that is lifelong in most cases, making booster shots un-necessary in adult or senior cats.

Leptospirosis in Dogs and Cats: Symptoms and Vaccinations

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One of the most controversial topics in veterinary medicine is the questionable emergence of the infectious disease leptospirosis, as well as the development of supposedly newer and safer vaccinations. The concerns about this disease involve not only its supposed risk in dogs and cats, but also the potential transmission to people. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection involving very small bacteria known as spirochete that are usually transmitted through infected urine of wild life and/or through contaminated bodies of water. In pets, this disease is believed to increase risk of chronic liver and kidney disease and fatality. Pets rarely get sick from leptospirosis, and it is believed vaccinations may actually make pets more susceptible to infection

Recently there have been reports in the conventional veterinary literature of this disease supposedly increasing and spreading in numbers. Symptoms in dogs and cats can vary and range from nonspecific signs of:

• Lethargy
• Vomiting
• Stiffness
• Fever to more serious organ failure involving the liver and/or kidneys

While there has been much hype about the risks of this disease, as well as the importance of vaccination, it is my opinion, as well as many of my holistic veterinary colleagues, that this fear is unfounded and that this disease remains uncommon. Most pets that are exposed to leptospirosis never get sick, and it seems that suppression of the immune system by stress and/or other drugs or vaccinations may actually make pets more susceptible to infection.

The newer and (supposed) safer vaccinations do not protect against many of the bacterial variants or serovars out there, and we have seen many pets develop both severe acute and chronic immune mediated reactions to the new and improved vaccination. In short, if your veterinarian offers to vaccinate your pet against leptospirosis, I would advise pet owners to say no to avoid the risks of the fear tactics and unnecessary vaccination.

How Often Should Dogs and Cats Be Vaccinated?

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Every day across the country, puppies and kittens, as well as adult dogs are massively vaccinated with multiple viral and bacterial antigens with the hope of enhancing their health and preventing potential future infectious disease.  While vaccinations can certainly be an important component of a comprehensive preventative medical program, this “one shot fits all” approach has been taken way too far in quite a nonscientific fashion. Vaccinating pets has become a controversial topic for many pet owners and vets as research suggests over vaccinating can cause health problems

According to Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy, a text taught in many veterinary schools, yearly vaccination was a practice that was started many years ago that was not based on evidence or science, but on a standard of practice to bring pets in for physical exams.  And while in the past we used to feel that boosting vaccinations could only enhance health, in recent years there has been increasing evidence that over vaccination may be involved with an epidemic of chronic diseases in our pets from chronic skin allergies, hormonal disorders, digestive tract diseases, behavioral disorders, neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, as well as potentially certain cancers.

It is for these reasons that I strongly urge that pet owners specifically request and demand from their veterinarians whether a particular vaccination is absolutely necessary in their pets, and/or whether the option of measuring vaccination titers is a viable alternative to the routine jabbing of our pets with multiple vaccinations.

Vaccination titers are blood tests that can document protective immunity in most pets, and we are now finding that viral immunity to most core viruses like parvo and distemper in dogs, as well as panleukopenia in cats can last for many years to the life of the pet. Rabies vaccination should not be given more frequently than needed either, usually every three years to most adult pets in most states. Vaccination has certainly helped prevent many infectious diseases in our pets, however, the overuse and misuse of vaccinations has become a major problem for our pets today, and this is an issue I feel pet owners need to become fully aware of to make informed decisions regarding your pet’s health.

PetMeds® Rabies Vaccinations for Pets

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As a pet owner you’re probably familiar with the dangers of rabies, which can also be contracted by humans. Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal via bite, scratch or through open wounds on the skin. Symptoms are varied and can include:

- Changes in behavior from the classic furious aggressive form to loss of fear
- Depression and/or partial paralysis
- Drooling and/or abnormal swallowing

Prevention is the key in protecting your pets from contracting rabies

While it can occur in most mammalian wild life, the main reservoirs of this disease seem to be bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons. Since there is no known cure for rabies in animals, and because of the potential spread to humans, rabies prevention is the key with this disease.

All pets and domestic live stock for which a licensed vaccination exists should be vaccinated. This includes not only dogs and cats, but ferrets, horses, sheep, cattle. In most states the initial booster is good for one year, after which vaccination is usually required every three years in most states.

It is also best to not approach or handle unfamiliar or wild animals, including educating everyone in the family and especially small children about this. Any wound caused by an animal should be washed and cleaned with soap and water and medical attention should be immediately sought.

To prevent unwanted wildlife encounters, all pets should be neutered and/or spayed to prevent wandering and territorial behavior that could increase contact with potentially infected wildlife. All outdoor pets should be kept in well gaited areas.

If any wildlife is seen wandering out in the open during the daylight hours, local animal control should be contacted immediately. It is important for animal guardians to know that healthy pets do not carry rabies in their mouths, and if there is no known history of a recent bite or potential exposure to wildlife, than rabies transmission is highly unlikely from pet bites. However, each state will vary in its laws about handling currently vaccinated animals that bite people, in terms of quarantine, and/or reinocculation requirements.

PetMeds® Flu Season and Pet Vaccinations

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With the winter and flu season once upon us, and the advertisements and recommendations of vaccinating all human adults and children occur, animal guardians will undoubtedly be bombarded as well both from the media and from many veterinarians on considering vaccinating their pets for canine influenza.  In a prior blog I outlined the origins of canine influenza, as well as the minimal risks in my opinion and experience to most healthy dogs.

Over vaccinating pets can be a controversial topic between many veterinarians and pet owners

However, as with many vaccinations, once a vaccination is available there is both pressure from drug companies and many veterinarians to push such a vaccination on their clients. As with influenza vaccination of other species, I remain concerned about not only the efficacy of this vaccination in dogs, but also long term safety concerns as well. These group of viruses have a high likelihood of mutating and/or crossing species lines, and I therefore do not like the idea of mass vaccinating our canine populations for in most cases is a self limiting or mild disease in most pets. As my opinion on other non-core vaccinations, I am more concerned about long term health issues, and potential toxicity from the heavy metals such as aluminum or mercury present in many of these vaccinations.