Vaccine labeling – do you know what your pet is getting?


Do you know what is really in the vaccines that are given to your pet?  Vaccines are used to build immunity against certain diseases and will contain a modified or killed form of the organism.  Vaccines also contain other ingredients that may cause adverse reactions in your pet.  All vaccines will have preservatives of some sort.  These are typically either antibiotics and/or thimerosal, which is a mercury based preservative.  Vaccine companies and the FDA will consider these substances safe if present in certain low percentages.  The problem is that you never know how a certain individual is going to react to even a small amount of a chemical or antibiotic.

I recommend that you ask what is in the vaccine that is being given your pet.  I have also found that package inserts are not complete.  In an effort to investigate the ingredients in a certain rabies vaccine that we have in our clinic, I found that the package insert only listed gentamycin as a preservative.  When I contacted the company asking about any other ingredients, I was sent the MSDS (material safety and data sheet ) that report the presence of neomycin(another antibiotic) and thimerosal.  You can ask to see the MSDS sheets or find them your self online if you know the brand of vaccine that is to be used on your pet.

Remember – vaccines are not benign and may contain other substances with the potential to cause reactions in your pet.  You have the right to be informed and deserve full disclosure of what your pet is receiving.

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 and valerian.  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 direct application in either the oral or topical form to cats, and aromatherapy should only be used intermittently.

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 decreased use of toxins in the body.  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 about vaccine reactions for more information about vaccine side effects.  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 .

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 

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!