A healthier way to vaccinate

Are vaccines really the best way to keep your pet protected from disease?  Rather than just relying on vaccines, it is important to look at what causes disease in the first place, and the natural healing response of the body.

A healthy immune system is key to optimal health.   The majority of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract, so keeping the gut lining healthy and maintaining a balanced microbiome is essential to preventing disease.  Proper nutrition is the most important element here, so feeding fresh, whole food ingredients is a must.  Additional support in the form of herbs and supplements may also provide value here, but this will vary from pet to pet.

Puppies and kittens get their initial disease protection from their mother’s milk in the form of antibodies she has generated.  The standard of care in veterinary medicine has been to start vaccinating at 6-8 weeks of age to build longer-term protection against disease.

The problem with vaccines, however, is that they are not given through a natural route of exposure.  This causes the immune system to sometimes react inappropriately, and often excessively,  causing inflammatory disease such as itching and diarrhea.  When given repeatedly, vaccines can lead to more serious autoimmune diseases, seizures and cancer. Over vaccinating at a young age can actually weaken the immune system, making it less effective at fighting disease in general.  This is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

The best way to grow a strong immune system is through natural exposure to disease.  Since we do not want our pets to get sick, what is the best alternative? Here is an outline of the protocol that I follow.  Of course, there may be modifications based on individual circumstances:

  1. Determine your pet’s vaccination history
  2. Determine the current level of immunity by doing a titer test.
  3. Consider your pet’s risk of exposure to the diseases that vaccines potentially protect against.
  4. Evaluate the overall health of your pet.  Only completely healthy pets should receive vaccinations.  In Colorado, a Rabies exemption is an option for pets with any form of disease.
  5. Check for upcoming or past medical treatments or procedures. Pets should never receive vaccines within 14 days of any anesthetic procedure.
  6. We consider legal requirements from your county and state, plus requirements from facilities such as daycare, grooming, and boarding

Based on the above, we will determine if vaccines are indicated.  If so, we implement the following safeguards:

  1. Only use single component (monovalent) vaccines
  2. Only give one vaccine at a time
  3. Do not vaccinate prior to 10 weeks of age
  4. Use titers to determine if your pet has responded to the vaccine and to monitor lasting immunity.
  5. Use Rabies exemptions for sick pets
  6. Understand the rules and regulations in your area regarding Rabies.
  7. Use supportive measures such as homeopathics to minimize vaccine side effects
  8. Assure that your pet is on an appropriate diet and life style to establish an appropriate immune response.

I have seen puppies, vaccinated at 10-12 weeks of age using this protocol, and followed with titer testing maintain a healthy immunity into their adult years.  This is with only one set of vaccines.  In my opinion, this is a HUGE advance in disease prevention – we are benefiting from the immunity provided by the vaccine without causing additional side effects.

Vaccines are not benign medicine, and over vaccinating can, indeed, cause harm to your pet.  Consider your pet’s risk and use only those vaccines that are indicated.  Remember that a strong immune system will be able to fight disease on its own, without the help of vaccines.

Helping your dog through thunderstorm and firework season

It is that time of year that the skies begin to boom, much to the terror of many of our canine friends.  Many dogs have fears of loud noises , and thunderstorms and fireworks seem to top the list for most.  The good news is that there are some very effective natural ways to help calm your pet this time of year.

1. Flower essences – the best known essences are the Bach flower essences, of which there are 38. Every flower actually has its own energetic essence that can have therapeutic benefit.  The most effective remedy will vary with the individual constitution of your pet, so you may need to try a few to see which is most effective.  These essences can be given full strength in the mouth or put in the water dish for ongoing benefit.  Two of my favorites for fear and anxiety are Rock rose and Mimulus, or you can try the old standby Rescue remedy which is a combination of five of the essences.

2. Essential oils – these are also plant products, but are processed differently than the flower essences and use a variety of  parts from the plants.  Some suggestions on specific oils include lavender, valerian, and vetiver.  These oils can be applied topically, ingested in a capsule or used as aroma therapy.  It is very important to check for the purity of oils before used for ingestion, as some are diluted with potentially toxic substances.  Caution must be used when administering essential oils to cats as there is some evidence that they may not be able to process them properly which can lead to toxicity.  I do not recommend oral administration to cats.  Topical administration should be done intermittently and aromatherapy should be used in an area that the cat can leave if it has had enough of the therapy.

3. Body wraps – many of you have heard of Thunder shirts.  I have seen better success with a product called the Anxiety wrap, see more at anxiety wrap.  This product actually targets specific acupressure points that help with anxiety.

All of the above can be used alone or in combination.  Often times, the effect is enhanced when more than one modality is used.  In some cases, we still need to go the route of traditional sedatives such as Valium or Acepromazine, but I still recommend the use of the natural therapies as they will often decrease the amount of sedative that is needed.

Remember also to keep your pet confined in a place it cannot escape from or become injured while trying to escape.  A panicky pet will often exhibit unusual behavior such as jumping fences or chewing through enclosures.

If you are with your pet when it becomes frightened, try a distraction such as a toy or treat and reward any signs of calm behavior.  We sometimes re-enforce the fear by providing attention for the behavior in the form of comfort.

All pets are different and will respond differently to different therapies.  I recommend trying a variety of combinations until you find the best one for your friend.

Heartworm prevention, traditional and holistic alternatives

Heartworm disease is a very real risk for dogs.  For more information, see my post at Heartworm disease .  There are a number of effective ways to prevent heartworm disease, both holistic and traditional.

The most important preventative measure is to keep your dog’s immune system strong with an appropriate diet and decreasing the exposure to toxins.  Vaccinations and all traditional medications, including antibiotics and pain medications can cause toxic reactions in the body that will decrease the efficacy of the immune system.  See my post on minimizing vaccines in your pet.   There are many reports of this approach alone proving effective in preventing heartworm disease in dogs.

The traditional method of prevention consists of a medication given in a chewable treat once a month during the mosquito season.  These are effective, but come with a higher risk of side effects and adverse reaction.  There is also no guarantee that a dog on a traditional preventative will be protected from heartworms.

There is also a natural alternative called nosodes.  Nosodes are a homeopathic preventative made from the diseased tissue of an infected animal.    Get more info in my post on Nosodes.  Nosodes, in combination with the immune-building steps listed above can be very effective at preventing heartworm disease in your dog.

Heartworm testing should be performed yearly to be sure that your dog has not contracted the disease, regardless of the preventative option you are using.

Heartworm disease – what is your dog’s risk?

Heartworm disease can undoubtedly be devastating for dogs that contract it.  There are preventatives available, and the best program for your dog should be based on individual risk.   Your dog’s risk will be based on two key factors:

1. Exposure to mosquitoes

2. The environmental temperature where you live.

Mosquitoes thrive and breed in standing water.  If your dog is exposed to lakes, ponds, or other pools of water, there will likely be some mosquito exposure during the summer months.

The heartworm larvae must go through a life-stage cycle in the mosquito in order to be able to infect your dog, and this transition requires a temperature of 57 degrees or higher for 30 consecutive days. Here in Colorado, we have cool nights, so the risk of heartworm disease is much lower.   In warmer climates, the risk is much higher.

In Colorado, I recommend prevention only during the warm summer months of June, July, and August.  In my experience, finding a heartworm positive dog that lives in Colorado is extremely rare.  In other parts of the country, where mosquitoes are more prevalent and the temperatures are warmer, the risk will be much greater.  If you live in, or travel to other areas of the country, your dog should be on prevention for more of the year.

Keep your dog heartworm free by assessing risk based on the factors above.  Next:  see my post on heartworm preventatives, both traditional and holistic.

Vaccine alternatives

A great deal of veterinary care for pets has been based on the use of vaccinations to prevent disease.  Traditional vaccines, however, can cause a wide range of side effects, some of them life-threatening.  I believe very strongly that vaccines should be given on a case-by-case basis, and their use based on an animal’s risk of exposure to a certain disease.  Pumping pets full of vaccines each year is not only unnecessary, but can cause debilitating disease in some individuals.

There are alternatives to vaccines called nosodes.  Nosodes are homeopathic dilutions of discharge or bodily fluids from a diseased animal.  They are so dilute that there is not any actual biological substance remaining, only the energy of the substance.  This energy is so potent that it will help stimulate the animal’s own energy to help fight disease. Nosodes have been shown to be very effective in preventing disease, or treating a pet after an exposure to disease in order to prevent the development of symptoms.

Nosodes may not be accepted by kennels, day care facilities, or groomers and are not recognized as a substitute for the Rabies vaccination as dictated by state law.  Although they have limitations, nosodes are a viable alternative to traditional vaccines in many cases.  For more information about nosodes and your pet, visit http://belleviewanimalclinic.com/homeopathy/vaccine-alternatives .

Dental care for pets

All dogs and cats need routine dental care including: exams, professional cleaning, polishing and x-rays.  There are no exceptions to this, though the level of care needed will vary between individuals.  Size, species, breed, age and diet will all play a role in the type of dental care that will be best for your pet.  The cost of dental care will vary with the extent of dental care necessary and will be dramatically reduced by regular dental maintenance.

Dental disease can be very painful for your pet, and proper dental care can add precious years to your pet’s life.

Signs of dental disease in your pet may include:

1. Pawing or rubbing at the mouth

2. Drooling excessively or bleeding from the mouth

3. Reluctance to eat hard foods or treats

4. Facial swellings

5. Mouth odor

Dental care is approached differently by different practitioners.  As the field of veterinary dentistry progresses, the level of diagnostics and treatments will vary greatly from clinic to clinic.  Shopping only for the lowest price may be preventing your pet from receiving the quality dental care that it deserves.  You will get what you pay for in the form of expertise, monitoring, technical ability, pain management and safety.

For more information, please visit http://www.belleviewanimalclinic.com/services/dental-services 

Antibiotics – good and bad

When are antibiotics really necessary in your pet?  Antibiotics are chemicals that kill bacteria.  They are not effective in fighting viruses or other infectious organisms.  I do not believe that antibiotics should be used just because an animal is sick and the cause is unknown, ‘just to see if they help’.  Antibiotics are not benign.  If you need evidence of this, read the package insert of any antibiotic and you will likely be shocked by the number of potential side-effects, some of which can be quite serious and debilitating.  Antibiotics are killing agents, meant to target bacteria.  Whenever you use a killing agent, you also run the risk of adversely affecting the organism you are treating.

Bacterial infections usually appear as something with a drainage, such as an abscess or nasal infection.  It is also important to determine which antibiotic will be the most effective.  Different antibiotics treat different types of bacteria, and some are more effective in certain body systems than others. A culture is the most effective way to determine if there is a bacterial infection, which bacteria is causing it, and which would be the most effective antibiotic.

Are antibiotics are not the only way to fight bacterial infections?  No, absolutely not!  Antibiotics are killing agents, meant to target bacteria.  Whenever you use a killing agent, you also run the risk of adversely affecting the organism you are treating.  Another approach would be to build the natural immunity of the organism and support the healing process.  All animals have an amazing ability to heal, as long as we are not doing anything to break down that process.  Good nutrition, probiotics for immune and intestinal support and minimizing vaccinations are the most important tools for keeping the immune system strong.  Natural antibiotic alternatives such as honey, propolis, garlic, herbs and homeopathic remedies can also aid in fighting infections.

There is a very important and potentially devastating effect of over-using antibiotics. There are some very scary bacteria that are growing in our world today, and they are getting harder and harder to treat.  Why?  They are becoming resistant to the drugs that should be treating them.  Over time, bacteria will mutate to withstand the effects of antibiotics, requiring the use of stronger and stronger antibiotics to treat them.  Eventually, we run out of antibiotic options and these infections can become life-threatening in some individuals.  Bacteria do not become resistant to an effective immune system.

My approach is to try natural support first for simple infections.  For more serious or extensive infections, I may use antibiotics, but will start with a more basic antibiotic that has been around for a while, or use a culture so that I know exactly what I am treating.

A healthy foundation is the best way to treat infections of any kind.  Allowing the body to heal itself will only make it stronger and better able to fight future infections.  Traditional medications such as antibiotics should be used with caution and on a case by case basis.

Here’s to good health!