This is a long post. I have spent many hours attempting to distill my views (and their reasons) on the relationship between vaccinations and allergies which drives both the way I now raise my dogs and puppies and helps to inform the ingredients we put in our raw food.
I hesitate to use the term over-vaccination (though this is what it is) because these days it is easy to be wrongly labeled as an anti-vaxxer which I most definitely am not! I am, however, concerned primarily with maintaining the good health of my dogs and I have learned to treat with caution vets demands for regular vaccinations, the combining of several vaccines together and vaccines for different diseases which seem inappropriate and unnecessary (e.g. Lyme disease and Leptospirosis). In short my philosophy with vaccinations as with our food is to only put something in my dogs body which provides a real and proven benefit.
A little history
15 years ago, not long after moving to the USA from Scotland, I had the absolute privilege of attending a seminar at the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown NY that featured Dr Shultz, one of America's leading veterinary immunologists. Listening to this man that day confirmed everything I had always understood about vaccines. From my biology classes in school, to the lectures I listened to during my nurse training decades ago, I had learned that the process was in essence that we introduce a foreign pathogen, the immune system mounts a response and we are protected, most probably for life, against that pathogen, whatever it may be.
Dr Schultz is the only veterinarian (that I am aware of) to have conducted studies to show duration of immunity. The trials received funding for seven years and he was able to show that vaccinated dogs maintained immunity for at least seven years and, he believed, most probably for a lifetime. This is what we expect from our own childhood vaccinations, that they will last a lifetime.
The last part of the seminar was a question-and-answer session and Dr Schultz was asked what protocol he followed for his own dogs. His response was “I vaccinate as a puppy and that is it"
I have never forgotten his answer, and this is what I do with my own dogs.
All holistic veterinarians agree that the best age to administer a once only vaccine for the core diseases such as Parvo and Distemper is between 12-14 weeks of age. We have always known that when that first vaccine is delivered, the puppies’ passive immunity, inherited from their mother, starts to diminish quickly because of the way in which the vaccine works. It seems crazy that we breeders do this at an incredibly stressful time for our puppies anyway, they are leaving the nest, the comfort of their siblings and of course their mother.
In the past, If I was keeping a puppy from one of my litters, I held off on the first vaccine and administered it myself when the puppy turned 12 weeks old.
Listening to Dr Will Falconers Podcast recently, which I highly recommend, persuaded me that I have to change my practice as a breeder and do this for all of my puppies moving forward. Here is a link to his Podcast.
Vaccines and Allergies
I am not quite sure how we have arrived at the point we find ourselves in today, where we are encouraged to vaccinate regularly (some vets recommending yearly vaccinations for the lifetime of our pet) as there is no scientific evidence anywhere to suggest this is necessary. We do not do this to ourselves, so why should we do this to our pets?
Fast forward 14 years and we have a wealth of information at our fingertips with access to the voices of a growing number of veterinarians who realise the harm we are inflicting on our animals by over vaccination and the application of harmful chemicals that masquerade as medications.
As a breeder, there is nothing more upsetting to me than receiving a ‘phone call from one of my puppy owners telling me their puppy/young dog has allergies, itching, or ear infections, the most common reason for going to the vets in America today. My heart goes out to them and their dogs. The first question I ask is what has your puppy received with regard to vaccines, topical applications and ingestables in the last few months. It is always the same. Too many unnecessary vaccines, monthly chemicals to control fleas and ticks and, sometimes, something to swallow that kills everything inside and out. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the link here.
Owning a raw pet food business and breeding my Rhodesian Ridgebacks for as long as I have (nearly 20 years) has made me acutely aware of how serious and how widespread these conditions have become. When I was a little girl, our local vet was open a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours early evening. The vet spent his daytime hours visiting larger animals and farm animals. Our dogs were healthy!! I have no memory of yearly vaccines and fearful anecdotes of the dangers of heartworm etc. We didn't feed our dogs kibble either and the term "complete and fully balanced" was unheard of.
To me there is a direct causal link between the new approaches to vaccinations, the claims made of the necessity of so called balanced kibble based foods and the proliferation of cancers, allergies and other “new” illnesses sweeping our pets.
So, the question is, what do we need to do to raise a healthy, vibrant, long lived pet?
1) Do your own research.
Educate yourself. Do not allow your dog or cat to be over vaccinated.
Find out what the efficacy of the more obscure vaccines are. The Lyme vaccine, for example, has a poor efficacy rate, It is why we do not have one for humans, so why give it to our dogs? Find out if Lyme is a serious condition for our dogs?. There is emerging evidence it is not and that is certainly my experience with our dogs.
I own dogs who, when they have their blood taken before a procedure such as spay, show antibody titer. I clap my hands as I understand my dogs have been exposed and their immune systems have mounted a defence. Yay, isn't that we want?
2) Feed a natural, species appropriate diet. Do not get hung up on terms such as "complete and fully balanced” especially when applied to kibble. Understand that balance is achieved over time. We do not chant this mantra when we feed ourselves and our children, so why should we do this for our pets and our local Coyotes are not thinking "complete and fully balanced" when they hunt in very close proximity to us most nights.
Knowing that variety and the right amount of organ, bone and muscle meat is the key to success. Take a look at the ingredient list on a bag of kibble and ask yourself if it is species appropriate? All that corn? pulp? meal? Understand nearly all recalls and deaths in our dogs come from processed food, not fresh food.
3) Nurture the young immune system. Please do not inundate it with harm. Do this and you are setting your pet up for life. It is what we do with all of our animals and we reap the rewards.
Our cat Athena will be 15 in a couple of months and she is amazing. She has never been to the vets.
She was adopted from our local shelter as a kitten and has not received a single vaccine since.
These days she stays indoors but for many years, during the warmer months, she lived outside and would appear at the door at night to be fed.
4) Understand the difference between thriving and existing. This is so important.
For those of you who live in Connecticut, you are so fortunate to have Dr Robb close by. Please take a look at this link and read the articles.
Next time I will take on the one vaccine that gives me nightmares and that is the Rabies vaccine.