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The Pets Most Likely to Suffer from Vaccine Adverse Reactions

Story at-a-glance

  • In the second half of a two-part interview, Dr. Becker talks with Dr. Ronald Schultz of the Rabies Challenge Fund about a variety of vaccine-related topics, including the mysterious rattlesnake vaccine, how it actually works, and for what snake in particular.
  • Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz also discuss the Lyme disease vaccine, and under what circumstances it can prove beneficial, as well as the challenges of diagnosing leptospirosis and improvements in that vaccine in recent years.
  • Dr. Schultz also offers an excellent explanation of the various bordetella vaccines, what dogs really need them and how often, as well as what form of the vaccine he prefers. He and Dr. Becker also discuss the pros and cons of the canine influenza vaccine.
  • Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz agree that veterinarians should discuss vaccines with pet owners before they vaccinate. And Dr. Schultz offers his view on which pets are most likely to develop an adverse reaction to vaccines.
  • Lastly, Dr. Becker and Dr. Schultz discuss the important work the Rabies Challenge Fund is doing to determine the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines. The goal is to extend the length of time between rabies vaccines to five years, then, if possible to seven years. The project is in year six of a seven-year study and depends on grassroots funding to conduct the necessary clinical trials. This week only, Mercola Healthy Pets will match every $1 donated by readers with a $2 donation, up to $30,000, to help the Rabies Challenge Fund complete its invaluable work toward reducing the number of vaccines our pets must receive during their lifetime.

Video: Dr. Becker Interviews Dr. Schultz About Vaccines (Part 2) 

Dog and Cat Vaccines are Not Harmless Preventive Medicine

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with Dr. Ron Schultz for the second half of our vaccine discussion.  Dr. Schultz heads up the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He’s joining me today on behalf of an important project he’s been working on for several years – the Rabies Challenge Fund. The purpose of the fund is to determine the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines, with the goal of extending the required interval for rabies boosters to five and then to seven years.

If you missed the first part of our discussion on Wednesday, I encourage you to watch that video as well. Dr. Schultz talks about core and non-core vaccines, and the benefits of the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine and why he believes every kitten should receive it (I must politely disagree on this topic). We also discuss vaccines Dr. Schultz does not recommend, why the whole topic of titering is so confusing, and whether or not he believes cats should be titer tested.

Continuing our discussion of vaccines today, the first thing I asked Dr. Schultz to talk about – because I don’t know much about it myself and get many questions about it – is the rattlesnake vaccine.

How Does the Rattlesnake Vaccine Work, and Is It Effective?

Dr. Schultz explained that the rattlesnake vaccine is actually an aid to prevent death in the event an animal is bitten by a specific type of rattlesnake. He says it does have value in that it can keep an animal bitten by a Western diamondback rattlesnake alive. But he cautions that when the vaccine is used, it’s important for pet owners to know their dog must still be treated for snake bite for two reasons. One, the snake may not have been a Western diamondback rattlesnake, in which case the vaccine offers no protection. Two, the vaccine in most cases will not prevent the venom from causing disease. What the vaccine does is buy time to get the animal treated, and it seems to work well in that regard.

I asked Dr. Schultz if he has concerns about the adjuvant used in the rattlesnake vaccine causing a reaction. He replied that unfortunately, nobody knows very much about the vaccine and in his opinion, it hasn’t been adequately tested. Most of the tests were done with rabbits, mice and other species, but not dogs. It should be tested in dogs. There’s just not a lot of research on this particular vaccine.

Dr. Schultz’s View on Lyme Disease Vaccines

Next I asked Dr. Schultz to discuss his thoughts on Lyme disease vaccines. He explained that there are several of them. There are whole killed organism vaccines of Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. And there’s a recombinant vaccine that contains just the important outer surface protein A component.

Dr. Schultz’s recommendation regarding Lyme vaccines depends on where the animal lives. For example, in the Madison area of Wisconsin, there’s currently about a four percent infection rate. But if you travel just 70 miles to La Crosse, there’s about a 70 percent infection rate. And in parts of Long Island, New York, there is a 90 percent infection rate.

So depending on where you live or plan to visit, your dog may have a very high risk of being infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. In high risk cases, Dr. Schultz recommends not only a tick preventive, but also the vaccine. Most of the Lyme disease vaccines are around 60 to 75 percent effective at preventing the organism from causing disease.

I asked Dr. Schultz if he has concerns about reactions from Lyme disease vaccines, and he replied that yes, there are some potential concerns. The Lyme vaccines are bacterial vaccines, and bacterial vaccines always carry a greater risk of adverse reactions, especially reactions of an immediate nature. With both leptospirosis bacterin vaccines and Lyme bacterin vaccines, the nature of the bacteria can cause adverse reactions in some animals. According to Dr. Schultz, these vaccines have the ability to stimulate the IgE antibody in animals, which is responsible for immediate or type 1 hypersensitivity reactions. So bacterins are always more likely to cause an adverse reaction than a live viral vaccine, for example.

If he were to recommend a Lyme vaccine, Dr. Schultz likes the outer surface protein A product better than the whole killed product because the former takes some of the potentially reactogenic antigens out of the formula. But even with that, the vaccine can still cause adverse reactions in some animals.

What About Leptospirosis? Is It a Bigger Threat Today Than in Years Past?

Leptospirosis (and its vaccines) is another confusing subject. There are veterinarians in the Chicago area who are promoting lepto as some kind of new, trendy infectious disease. But lepto has been around forever. Dr. Schultz agrees – there’s nothing new about leptospirosis. And he believes it’s probably no more common today than it was 40 or 50 years ago, despite the hype, which is driven in part by the really poor diagnostics used to detect the disease.

Fortunately, according to Dr. Schultz, there are better detection techniques on the horizon. The current gold standard, he says, “… is about as poor a test as you’ll ever find.” It gives false readings – false positives. Dr. Schultz says he’s seen a high number of supposed lepto cases that are NOT lepto cases thanks to poor diagnostics. Poor diagnostics have added to the general confusion surrounding lepto, and are partly why veterinarians are recommending mass vaccination against the disease.

Dr. Schultz restated that in his view, lepto is no more prevalent today than it was 40 years ago. However, the vaccine has improved tremendously in recent years, because it now contains the 4 serovars that cause lepto in the U.S. In the past, all lepto vaccines contained only 2 serovars. With the old 2-serovar vaccines, Dr. Schultz says there were as many vaccinated dogs with lepto as there were non-vaccinated dogs.

He believes today, the lepto vaccine is probably 60 to 80 percent effective in preventing disease. I asked him if the animal can still transmit or shed the bacteria. He replied there is that potential, but even the shedding is reduced with the 4-serovar vaccine.

Of course, despite the improved effectiveness of the lepto vaccine, there are still concerns about adverse reactions with the first dose, or subsequent revaccinations. Dr. Schultz explains this is another of the bacterins that is more likely to cause an adverse reaction simply as a result of the nature of the organism.

Adverse Reactions to Vaccines Can be Immediate, or They Can Develop Weeks, Months or Even Years Post-Vaccination

So we’ve established that the majority of adverse events occur with bacterin-type vaccines. These vaccines can cause all types of hypersensitivity reactions in some animals. Type 1 adverse reactions typically occur immediately after vaccination and are obviously directly linked to the vaccine.

But as Dr. Schultz goes on to explain, when we have a reaction like the development of autoimmune hemolytic anemia or another autoimmune disease in a genetically predisposed animal, it usually occurs weeks, months or even years after vaccination. Often the offending vaccine in those cases is a live viral vaccine, and it isn’t blamed for causing the disease because there’s a span of time between vaccination and development of the autoimmune disorder.

Many veterinarians will say, in response to the suggestion that a vaccine caused an autoimmune disorder, something like, “What do you mean? There’s no correlation. It was last year when the dog received that vaccine.” And even worse, both Dr. Schultz and I have seen veterinarians tell pet owners their animal’s illness couldn’t be a vaccine reaction even when the two events happen within days of each other.

Dr. Schultz’s Bordetella Vaccine Recommendation

Next I asked Dr. Schultz to talk to us about bordetella vaccines. He explained that the vaccine is available now in a variety of forms. There’s an oral vaccine, which is a live, attenuated bordetella organism. There’s the intranasal form, which is also the live organism. And there’s the injectable form, which is a killed product. Dr. Schultz says he has been able to clearly demonstrate that the live product is the most effective, whether oral or intranasal.

But one of the problems with bordetella is that it is always accompanied by other agents in causing canine infectious respiratory disease complex, otherwise known as kennel cough. There are many infectious agents involved, but the most important one from a bacterial standpoint is bordetella. From a viral standpoint, an impressive number of infectious agents can play a role.

I personally can’t see a reason to use injectable bordetella when there are other safer, non-adjuvanted and attenuated vaccines available. Dr. Schultz points out that one of the reasons the injectable is popular is that it can be used with dogs that won’t cooperate with intranasal or oral administration of the vaccine. He does a lot of work with shelters, and there are many difficult dogs in that population that must receive the vaccine by injection. Some dogs can be muzzled and given the oral vaccine, but often it’s too dangerous for shelter staff to even try to muzzle certain dogs.

In my opinion, the bordetella vaccine should only be given when a dog must be boarded. If you don’t board your dog, or if you don’t plan to have your dog in contact with other dogs (such as at shows and training classes), then my recommendation is to opt out.

However, some kennels require dogs to receive a twice-yearly schedule of bordetella revaccinations. Dr. Schultz believes if you’re taking your pet to a boarding facility that requires bordetella vaccines every six months, you should change to another facility, because the one you’re using has a ventilation or hygiene problem and not an infectious disease problem. “Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you need to get bordetella vaccine every six months. If they do, don’t go there anymore,” says Dr. Schultz.

The Canine Influenza Vaccine – Is It Really Necessary?

I also asked Dr. Schultz about the canine influenza vaccine, which is another vaccine commonly required at boarding facilities and similar businesses. He answered that he’s not sure the vaccine should be required, because canine influenza isn’t a casually transmitted virus. It’s not something the average well cared-for dog will pick up at the local dog park.

Dr. Schultz does caution, however, that if the canine influenza vaccine is to be given, it can’t be administered at the last minute. Dogs that have never received the vaccine need at least three weeks to develop immunity after being vaccinated. And two doses must be given, with a minimum of two weeks separating them. If a dog is receiving annual boosters of the vaccine, it won’t take three weeks for immunity to develop after revaccination.
Dr. Schultz explains that bordetella (as well as other bacterial diseases such as streptococcal infections) and canine influenza together can create severe disease.

Dr. Schultz mentioned that many kennels do require the canine influenza vaccine, so I asked him if that is out of concern about spreading disease, or concern about covering their bases from a liability standpoint. Dr. Schultz thinks much of it comes from a concern that if there were to be an outbreak of canine influenza, the facilities would be found at fault because they didn’t require the vaccine. Fortunately, to date there have only been a few outbreaks of canine influenza in shelters and kennels.

I agree. I feel a lot of those requirements are simply a way to bounce liability away from the business owner. And it’s up to pet owners to determine the true motivation behind the requirement if they choose to board or have their dog groomed at a facility that demands certain vaccines. And as Dr. Schultz points out, if any of the vaccines required by these businesses cause an adverse reaction in a pet, the costs (both financial and emotional) associated with the adverse event are the owner’s responsibility even though the vaccines were required by a third party.

Are Pet Owners Informed About the Potential for Adverse Vaccine Reactions?

As it stands right now, veterinarians must obtain informed consent from a pet owner when we elect not to vaccinate an animal. I asked Dr. Schultz if he believes we should also obtain informed consent TO vaccinate an animal. He replied that he definitely agrees we should. In my opinion, many in the traditional veterinary community are casual vaccinators. They aren’t informing their clients of all the potential ramifications of administering vaccines.

Dr. Schultz agrees that pet owners need to be aware, even though the number of adverse reactions is relatively small. And something he wants to re-emphasize – something that people don’t realize or think about – is that adverse reactions are genetically controlled. When Dr. Schultz talks to breeders, he tells them that if they see adverse vaccine reactions in puppies from a specific combination of mother and father dogs, they should not mate those two dogs again, because the incidence of adverse reactions will increase with each litter and potentially with litters of those litters, and so on. By continuing to mate those two dogs to each other, they will perpetuate the genetic predisposition to adverse vaccine reactions.

Dr. Schultz says, as an example, we might see allergic neuritis or paralysis develop in about 1 in 10,000 vaccinates, yet in a litter of five puppies, three of the five may develop the condition. One of them dies, and two are paralyzed. So the incidence of adverse reactions is not rare in that litter of five, because genetics plays a key role in causing the vaccine adverse reaction.

What Pets Are Most Likely to Have an Adverse Reaction to Vaccines?

There are genetic predispositions among breeds of dogs. As a Boston Terrier owner, I have concerns not just about immediate adverse reactions, but about mast cell tumors, for example. No one is studying the correlation, but I personally believe there’s a strong correlation between vaccinations and mast cell tumors.

Dr. Schultz agrees and thinks that in dogs, we should look at mast cell tumors, histiocytomas and other similar responses at vaccine injection sites. We are aware of feline injection-site sarcomas, but really, any vaccine in a dog or cat that stimulates a proliferative response in cells should be looked at. Particular individuals with a genetic predisposition turn those cells neoplastic, and the animal doesn’t have the suppressor factors necessary to control the disease (tumor) at the cellular level. It’s going to turn into a tumor.

Recognition among veterinarians has been slow in coming, but it’s coming. As Dr. Schultz points out, until fairly recently the veterinary community never considered that a vaccine could cause a lethal tumor in a young, healthy animal. He says it was a great awakening in the mid-1980s for the veterinary profession to realize the potential for adverse events following vaccination, specifically at the time, injection-site sarcomas in cats. But Dr. Schultz believes it’s important to keep in mind that these events are rare, and many veterinarians have never seen one. Other practices see six or eight a year. The frequency isn’t based on the number of cats coming into a particular practice. Which brings us back to the matter of genetic predisposition to adverse events from vaccines.

Other factors that can play a role include an animal’s nutritional status, environmental status, the type of vaccine, the stress the animal feels – all those things and more play into an animal’s immunologic response.

In terms of genetics, one example Dr. Schultz points out is the small breed dog. He says it’s not every small breed, but there are small breeds out there that are genetically predisposed to react to many vaccines. Dr. Schultz says this is a critically important point when it comes to making decisions about giving vaccinations.

If you have a small breed dog that has proven to be hypersensitive to vaccines – or is related to other hypersensitive dogs — and that dog spends most of his time in the house on someone’s lap, what are the chances he’ll be exposed to leptospirosis? The chances are slim to none, so why would you even think about injecting that dog with a lepto vaccine? Dr. Schultz says vaccine manufacturers don’t want those animals vaccinated due to the risk of adverse reactions.

In terms of recognizing the potential dangers of certain vaccines for certain pets, breed-specific organizations seem to, and of course individual pet owners who’ve lived through horrific experiences do as well. But there are still a large number of veterinarians who seem unwilling to put the puzzle pieces together to protect potentially vulnerable patients.

Dr. Schultz replied that he’s still shocked by the number of practices that are still giving core vaccines annually. As he puts it, “If ever we could get away from this addiction to vaccination just for the sake of vaccination …”.

Dr. Schultz and the Rabies Challenge Fund

The last topic I want to discuss with Dr. Schultz today is one that is close to my heart, the Rabies Challenge Fund. I asked Dr. Schultz to describe the project and its purpose for people who aren’t familiar with it.

He responded that what he and his colleagues Dr. Jean Dodds and Kris Christine have been doing for over five years now is trying to answer the question, can be we get protection from rabies vaccines, and how long can that protection last? Right now there are rabies vaccines that carry either a 1-year or 3-year license. Many of those vaccines are actually the same product – they were just licensed differently. Dr. Schultz is looking beyond the 3-year license by conducting very difficult, very expensive studies to determine how long immunity from a rabies vaccine truly lasts.

This is the way a rabies vaccine is licensed: The USDA requires that a vaccinated group of animals be challenged with the rabies virus at three or five or seven years after the vaccine is given. There must also be a control group of dogs that are unvaccinated. When challenged, a certain percentage of that group must develop rabies to insure the challenge is viable. Of the vaccinated group, 88 percent or more must be protected in order for the USDA to license the vaccine for the number of years protection is provided.

At this time, the Rabies Challenge Fund is at five years with one of the vaccines they are testing, and at three years with the other. They are currently trying to determine whether or not the vaccines will be effective at five years. If those tests show that there should still be protection at five years post-vaccination, the next step will be to do the challenge itself.

Dr. Schultz has two years left on one of the vaccine products and four years left on the other product to determine length of immunity. The work he and his colleagues are doing with the rabies challenge is funded by dog owners. Dr. Schultz says no one is really interested in the work other than caring dog owners, which also includes a number of breed-specific clubs and organizations – basically people who want to give their dogs as few vaccines as necessary – law-abiding citizens who want their pets protected from disease, but don’t want to risk their pet’s health with unnecessary vaccinations.

How You Can Help

The Rabies Challenge Fund study is the first of its kind, and it takes a lot of money to do the work. It’s seven years of research, data collection, and publishing the results. That’s why Mercola Healthy Pets is partnering with the Rabies Challenge Fund to help raise the remainder of the money needed to not only complete the study, but to insure the research is published in a manner that will benefit the most pets.

And of course research is still ongoing. They are in year six, and have year seven still to go. The project depends on grassroots gifts for funding the costs of conducting the requisite vaccine trials. Contributions to date have come mostly from kennel clubs and private individuals. None of the money collected by the Rabies Challenge Fund goes to Dr. Schultz, Dr. Dodds, Kris Christine, or others working on their behalf. Salaries and other overhead costs are not involved, with the exception of expenses for care and testing of the study animals.

I want to extend my thanks to Dr. Schultz for talking with us today and for his work with the Rabies Challenge Fund. Extending the length of time between rabies and other vaccinations, thereby reducing the total number of vaccines animals receive during their lifetime, will be a huge benefit to the health and well being of pets.

Mercola Healthy Pets is proud to partner with the Rabies Challenge Fund to raise money to help improve the lives of animals. This week, for every $1 donated to the Rabies Challenge Fund by a Mercola Healthy Pets reader, we will donate $2, up to $30,000. I hope you’ll join us in helping RabiesChallengeFund.org fund the remaining research needed to complete their seven-year study.

Related:

Do Vaccinations Affect the Health of our Pets?

New Parasite Prevalence Maps Help Pet Owners Prepare

The dangers of vaccines are surfacing for children, people in general, and now pets: New Organization VaxTruth Fights Vaccine Damages

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Parasite Prevalence Maps Help Pet Owners Prepare

 Dr. Becker at Dr. Mercola.com

Story at-a-glance
  • The Companion Animal Parasite Council now provides online maps pet owners can use to see if the area they live in or plan to visit has parasite problems. The maps are a good tool to find general information about the presence of parasites in counties and states across the country. But they shouldn’t be used as a tool to scare pet owners into subjecting their animals to a barrage of potentially toxic chemicals.
  • The best way to protect pets from parasites is not to put them on monthly, year-round preventive drugs. Under certain circumstances, chemical preventives may be necessary, but they should not be used indiscriminately. They carry side effects like every drug, and their overuse is contributing to the problem of parasite resistance to these preventives.
  • No matter what parasite preventives you use, including chemical agents, your pet can still attract pests and parasites. In fact, even animals loaded with chemicals to the point of toxicosis can still acquire parasites.
  • Do all you can to avoid parasites, relying on natural preventives as much as possible, and then have your vet run a SNAP 4Dx test every six months to check for the presence of heartworm and tick borne diseases, as well as a stool sample to check for GI parasites.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has redesigned its website1 for pet owners and now features a set of maps you can check for information on parasite prevalence in a specific area.

If you’re only interested in heartworm disease, you can select your state from a drop-down menu on the right side of the home page to see the infection risk for your state. If you’d like more extensive information, you can view the entire U.S. map.

If you choose the second option, you can find out the risk for several different diseases for dogs and cats individually, by state. The maps include infection rates for:

  • Tick borne diseases (Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis)
  • Intestinal parasites (roundworm, hookworm and whipworm)
  • Heartworm

You can also click on a state and see infection rates for individual counties, then hover your mouse over a county to see its name.

According to Dr. Christopher Carpenter, executive director of CAPC, "Our unique parasite prevalence maps provide localized statistics about diseases that affect dogs and cats in consumers’ backyards, and we update them monthly."

Keep Your Pet Safe from Overuse of Parasite Preventives

I think these maps are useful for pet owners looking for general information about the prevalence of a certain disease in a certain location. The intent of the maps is to "… help drive clinic visits," according to Dr. Carpenter, because "People respond to and appreciate it when experts share pertinent information."

He goes on to say that CAPC hopes veterinarians leverage the maps "… to strengthen client relationships and consistently ‘tap consumers on the shoulder’ with facts that underscore the risk of parasitic disease that exists everywhere."

Since the Companion Animal Parasite Council is sponsored by a "Who’s Who" list of major veterinary drug manufacturers, I think it’s safe to assume the real intent of the maps is to get pet owners to buy into the belief that every dog and cat in the country should be on parasite preventives year-round.

And while I agree pet owners appreciate learning information pertinent to the health of their furry family members, I think it’s extremely irresponsible of veterinarians to encourage the overuse of parasite preventives. These drugs, like all drugs, have side effects.

Just because a drug is used as a preventive doesn’t automatically put it in the category of "better safe than sorry." This is a lesson the traditional veterinary community is slowly learning about vaccines. Every single thing we put into or onto an animal should be carefully assessed to insure its benefits outweigh its risks.

And keep in mind that even pets loaded down to the point of toxicosis with chemical preventives still frequently wind up with pests and parasites. There is no absolutely foolproof method for keeping every single pet protected from every single pest.

Around this time last year I saw my first dog patient with Lyme disease AND heartworm disease – conditions she acquired while taking a monthly, year-round heartworm preventive drug AND a spot-on flea/tick preventive prescribed by her regular vet. This is a good illustration of the ineffectiveness of some of these drugs, as well as the fact that parasites are growing resistant to them because they are being overused.

Preventing Tick Borne Diseases

  • In the spring, summer and fall, avoid tick-infested areas.
  • If you live where ticks are a significant problem, check your pet for the little blood suckers twice each day. Look over his entire body, including hidden crevices like those in the ear, underneath his collar, in the webs of his feet, and underneath his tail. If you find a tick, make sure to remove it safely.
  • Use a safe tick repellent like Natural Flea and Tick Defense. If you live in a Lyme endemic region of the U.S., your veterinarian will probably recommend you use a chemical repellent. Remember: it’s important to investigate the risks and benefits of any medication before you give it to your pet. Natural repellents are NOT the same as toxic preventives … they are not a guarantee your pet won’t be bitten by ticks….they only reduce the likelihood of infestation. So frequent tick checks are really important.
  • Create strong vitality and resilience in your dog or cat by feeding a species-appropriate diet. Parasites are attracted to weaker animals. By enhancing your pet’s vitality, you can help her avoid the ill effects of a tick borne disease.

Preventing Intestinal Parasites

  • Puppies and kittens can get intestinal parasites from an infected mother – either across the placenta or from their mother’s milk.
  • Beyond that, most pets acquire intestinal worms by eating infected poop. So the best way to prevent infection is to make sure your pet’s environment is clean and ‘feces-free.’ Pick up your pet’s poop and make sure she doesn’t have access to infective feces from wild or stray animals around your property or anywhere else outdoors.
  • Whipworm eggs in the environment are extremely resilient and resistant to most cleaning methods and freezing temperatures as well. They can be dried out with strong agents like agricultural lime, but the best way to decontaminate a whipworm-infested area is to replace the soil with new soil or another substrate.
  • Keep your pet’s GI tract in good shape and resistant to parasites by feeding a balanced, species-appropriate diet. I also recommend either periodic or regular probiotic supplementation to insure a good balance of healthy bacteria in your pet’s colon, as well as a good quality pet digestive enzyme.
  • Have your vet check a sample of your pet’s stool twice a year for GI parasites.

What You Need to Know About Heartworm Disease Prevention

According to heartworm preventive dosing maps, there are only a few areas of the U.S. where dosing your dog with 9 months to year-round heartworm medicine might be advisable. Those locations are in Texas and Florida, and a few other spots along the Gulf coast. The rest of the country runs high exposure risk at from 3 to 7 months. The majority of states are at 6 months or less.

Preventives don’t actually stop your dog from getting heartworms. What these chemicals do is kill off the worm larvae at the microfilaria stage. These products are insecticides designed to kill heartworm larvae inside your pet. As such, they have the potential for short and long-term side effects damaging to your canine companion’s health.

To reduce your pet’s risk of exposure to heartworms, control mosquitoes:

  • Use a non-toxic insect barrier in your yard and around the outside of your home.
  • Don’t take your pet around standing water. Eliminate as much standing water as possible around your home and yard by cleaning your rain gutters regularly and aerating ornamental ponds and decorative water gardens.
  • Stay out of wet marshes and thickly wooded areas.
  • Keep your pet indoors during early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are thickest.
  • Make liberal use of a safe, effective pet pest repellent like my Natural Flea and Tick Defense.

If You MUST Use a Chemical Heartworm Preventive …

If you live in an area of the U.S. where mosquitoes are common and you know your pet’s risk of exposure to heartworm disease is significant, here are my recommendations for protecting your precious furry family member:

  • With guidance from a holistic vet, try using natural preventives like heartworm nosodes rather than chemicals. Make sure to do heartworm testing every 3 to 4 months (not annually) as natural heartworm preventives can’t guarantee your pet will never acquire the disease.
  • If your dog’s kidneys and liver are healthy, try using a chemical preventive at the lowest effective dosage. This could mean having the drug compounded if necessary for dogs weighing in at the low end of dosing instructions. Give the treatment at 6-week intervals rather than at 4 weeks, for the minimum number of months required during mosquito season.
  • Remember, heartworms live in your pet’s bloodstream, so natural GI (gastrointestinal) dewormers, such as diatomaceous earth, and anti-parasitic herbs (such as wormwood and garlic) are not effective at killing larvae in your pet’s bloodstream.
  • Avoid all-in-one chemical products claiming to get rid of every possible GI worm and external parasites as well. As an example, many heartworm preventives also contain dewormers for intestinal parasites. Remember – less is more. The goal is to use the least amount of chemical necessary that prevents heartworm. Adding other chemicals to the mix adds to the toxic load your pets’s body must contend with. Also avoid giving your pet a chemical flea/tick preventive during the same week.
  • Follow up a course of heartworm preventive pills with natural liver detox agents like milk thistle and SAMe, in consultation with your holistic vet.
  • Always have your vet do a heartworm test before beginning any preventive treatment. A protocol I put in place in my clinic last year is to run a SNAP 4Dx blood test every 6 months on dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors during warmer weather. The 4Dx tests for heartworm and tick borne diseases. Because parasites are becoming resistant to overused chemical preventives, the sooner you can identify infection in your pet, the sooner a protocol can be instituted to safely treat the infection with fewer long-term side effects.

References:  1 Pets and Parasites

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Don’t Get Ticked Off By Lyme Disease

Summer is upon us and for many folks that means spending time outdoors,  hiking, camping, walking and exploring forests and wooded areas. It also means working and playing in your own backyard.Tick Warning

No matter where you live in the continental United States, you are at risk for the tick-borne illness known as Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks harbor these bacteria and spread it when feeding on animals and humans. People in the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest are at highest risk, but these ticks can be found in any grassy or heavily wooded area — even your own backyard!

Signs and Symptoms

Most cases of Lyme disease start with a rash that looks like a bump, and then grows into something like a bull’s eye, as illustrated below. lime

This rash is called erythema migrans, and can start where the tick bite occurred. It happens in 70-80% of Lyme disease cases. Flu-like symptoms can also occur, such as fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and headache. The symptoms and pattern of Lyme disease can vary from person to person because the illness can affect many different body systems.

If you develop a rash and flu-like symptoms and feel that you may have contracted Lyme disease, you should seek medical attention. At this point in time, treatment is easy and can prevent the serious and sometimes severe complications of Lyme disease. Your doctor can fully evaluate and examine you for the illness. There is a blood test that can check to see if you have Lyme disease, but this test does take a few weeks after exposure to show a positive result.

If your doctor feels you have the early stages of Lyme disease, he or she will probably offer you a 10-14 day course of oral antibiotics to kill the bacteria and prevent complications. As the blood test can take some time before it becomes positive, oral antibiotics are recommended as a preventative.

If Not Treated…

What are the complications? It is amazing that a tick-borne illness can produce such serious issues. If not treated, severe joint pain can develop associated with swelling and redness. The knees are the most common joints affected, but the pain and swelling can move from joint to joint, a condition known as migratory arthritis.

People with untreated Lyme disease also can develop neurological problems. These include meningitis, Bell’s palsy (facial nerve paralysis), and numbness and weakness in the arms and legs. These problems can persist for months, even years, in an untreated infection, and can be very debilitating. Some people also develop an irregular heartbeat, eye problems, hepatitis and very severe chronic fatigue.

Take Precautions

You may be bitten by a deer tick and not even know it because it doesn’t hurt or sting. The tick attaches to your skin and eventually the Lyme disease bacteria will get into your bloodstream. This usually takes 48 hours. Common sense precautions include wearing protective clothing when in wooded/grassy areas and using a tick repellant containing a strong concentration of DEET —10 to 30%. Oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be used as a preventive. Do not use these products on children under the age of 3.

Checking yourself for ticks after possible exposure and removing the tick greatly lessens your chance of getting Lyme disease. Just grasp the tick with tweezers and remove as much of it as possible. Lastly, maintaining your yard by keeping the grass mowed and brush trimmed will keep the tick population down.

Your pets are also at risk for deer tick bites, and they should be checked carefully for ticks and/or a rash after being outdoors. Also, there have been cases of Lyme disease where people weren’t in the woods or grassy areas, so be aware of your risk just spending time outdoors.

Using these precautions and preventive strategies, you greatly reduce your chance of getting a deer tick bite and developing Lyme disease. If you are bitten by a tick, you now know what the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are and can seek early medical attention to prevent the serious complications of the disease.

So, enjoy this summer and the great outdoors to the fullest…and protect yourself against Lyme disease!

By Lisa Forgione, MD

[Ed. Note: Lisa Forgione, MD, is an Emergency Medicine Physician, a Diplomate of ABFM and a Member of AAFP and NCAFP.  She has received several Physicians Recognition Awards for teaching from the AMA and AAFP.  Dr. Forgione was recently selected as one of the Top Family Doctors of 2009 by the Consumers’ Research Council of America.]

Source:  True Health Is True Wealth  

Posted: Just One More Pet

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tackling Ticks

Ticks aren’t just annoying little bugs. They can infect your dog with Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne diseases. 

So if your pooch loves the great outdoors — particularly if she wanders into wooded areas — make sure to check her coat thoroughly and often, especially around the ears and neck. If you spot the bloodsuckers, remove them as soon as possible!

A tick that has burrowed into your dog’s skin may be tricky to take out. Here’s how to do it:

1. Slip on a pair of gloves to avoid direct contact with the tick.
2. Use tweezers to grasp the tick by its head at the point where it’s attached to your pet’s body.
3. Gently pull the tick away from the skin, but do not twist. Make sure you remove the entire tick — anything left under the skin can cause an infection.
4. Clean the bite area with antiseptic, and wipe your tweezers with rubbing alcohol. You can kill the tick by placing it in a glass jar that contains at least several inches of the alcohol.

Contact your vet if the skin around the tick bite remains irritated. And to protect your pet during tick season (generally April through September), use a tick-preventive product that your vet recommends.

Source:  Dog Age

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment