Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vaccine Controversy

Charlie had a visit to the vet last week for her annual check-up including a heartworm test, refills on her monthly heartworm preventive, Distemper/Lyme/Lepto vaccine and most importantly, a microchip.

I don't know why I didn't go ahead with the microchip when she had her spay surgery; it would have been less painful for her to have it at that time while she was under anesthetic. But it's been on my mind a lot lately and I'm glad I finally went ahead with it.

I'm scared to death that somebody will steal her, and while I know a microchip won't prevent this from happening, at least I know that she's connected to me somehow and could possibly be returned to me in the event that she was stolen.

I marvel at how Charlie's connection to me grows every day. She's attuned to my body language, the phrases I use and even my emotions. We're truly a team and I feel so much better knowing there is a microchip connecting us now.

It's strange that I questioned putting a microchip in my dog but never questioned the vaccines being put into my dog. I've always assumed that the vet knows what is best and was willing to do whatever they suggested.

I've been reading Dogs Naturally magazine over the past couple of months and am enjoying my subscription. I'm not a 100% believer in the holistic veterinary movement, but I'm starting to see the benefits of providing a biologically appropriate diet, including raw foods, and looking forward to trying other homeopathic remedies like essential oils and flower essences.

I'm also beginning to question vaccines.

Most of what they are vaccinating for can be easily treated with far fewer side effects than the vaccine itself. The likelihood that my dog will ever be exposed to the thing that I'm vaccinating for is pretty slim.

It's all about weighing the risk versus the reward when it comes to vaccines.

Charlie is exposed to ticks almost 9 months out of the year, but she's on a monthly flea/tick preventive (a pesticide application that worries me). I've also been vaccinating her against Lyme Disease for the past two years, but Lyme Disease in dogs is highly treatable, especially if you're aware of the symptoms (which I am). Therefore I don't see the need to continue with this vaccine.

Leptospirosis is typically contracted from drinking from water sources that have been contaminated with urine containing the Lepto virus. Because Charlie and I are frequently in the woods where deer could have contaminated a water source, I figured this was a good vaccine for her. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not very effective, especially when given with other vaccines in a "cocktail." The best way to prevent getting Lepto is limiting my dog's access to contaminated water, which shouldn't be that hard since she's on-leash while we're hiking and I always bring along water for both of us. We will no longer be getting this vaccine either.

Distemper vaccines have been shown to be effective for much longer than one year, so technically one vaccine should last the lifetime of my dog. This also will be eliminated from our vaccines.

Basically, Charlie will only be receiving the required Rabies vaccine and only the 3-year one; it has been shown that one Rabies vaccine could last the lifetime of a dog but we are required by law for our municipality to have a Rabies certificate for annual registration. Visit to learn more about the efficacy of the Rabies vaccine.

You might be asking yourself why I had Charlie vaccinated last week if I question the necessity of those vaccines. Well, this was a new vet for us. I had just transferred Charlie's records from our previous vet to a new one that I hoped would offer a more personal approach. Upon receiving Charlie's records from the previous vet, they prepared a "cocktail" of her previous annual vaccines. While we were in the examination room, they took a blood sample from Charlie's front let to test for heartworm and before I knew it, they were administering the "cocktail" vaccine to one of her back legs. I sat there dumbfounded, not sure what to do. They quickly moved onto the microchip which was inserted in her mid-back and then sent us into the waiting room. There was no follow-up sheet provided to watch for any side-effects of the vaccine and no care sheet for the wound in her back from the microchip. I paid the bill and left.
When we got out to the car, Charlie's back leg was too sore to hop in the car so I lifted her in. I immediately noticed blood on the front of my coat. That's when I saw how much blood was oozing out of the wound from her microchip. I blotted up as much as possible with napkins and cleaned her up a little better when we got home. Unfortunately, her back leg got progressively more sore as the night wore on and she had a noticeable limp. I had to carry her upstairs when it was time for bed because she couldn't take the stairs.
Her leg got better through the next day and she's fine now, but I wish the vet would have communicated with me more about what to expect; I have never seen a vaccine given in the leg before.

Nevertheless, I'm going to be looking for a new vet again as this one didn't meet my expectations. I'm hoping I can find a vet who is trained in traditional medicine but also open to some holistic options as well as being interested in getting to know us and our history before just shooting Charlie up with stuff. I am also going to stand up for Charlie in the future and prevent unnecessary vaccines or treatments, while continuing to educate myself on best practices.

If you're interested in a holistic approach to your dog's health, I recommend checking out Dogs Naturally magazine.

Your dog can't speak for themselves, it's up to you to learn what's best and seek out the best care possible for them. Be your dog's voice.