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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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How do thriving puppies and kittens become unhealthy dogs and cats in their adult and senior years? To further explore this topic, I created a list — Top Ten Topics Veterinarians Wish Pets Owners Better Understood. Last week I gave you the first five. Let’s move on to the last five today with Part 2.

6. Reduce Reliance on Medications that Have the Potential for Serious Side Effects

Many veterinary prescribed medications are used to treat animal diseases. Although these drugs fight infection, reduce inflammation, minimize pain, and kill cancer cells, there exists potential for associated mild to severe side effects. Therefore, it’s vital that pet owners reduce their furry companions’ reliance on these medications to maintain or improve quality of life.

My holistic veterinary practice specializes in pain management, so my patients need medication to manage the discomforts associated with arthritis, degenerative joint disease (DJD, the sequelae of arthritis), trauma, surgery, and cancer. I recommend the appropriate use of medications, but their need can be reduced through:

  • Environmental modifications (making your home "pet-safer," etc.)
  • Nutraceuticals (omega fatty acids, joint support products, antioxidants, etc.)
  • Healthy weight management (dietary modification, exercise, etc.)
  • Physical Rehabilitation (massage, stretching, range of motion, etc.)
  • Acupuncture treatment (laser, moxibustion, electrostimulation, etc.)

If the healthiest possible state is maintained despite age, trauma, or disease, a pet’s medication requirements can be minimized.

7. Only Healthy Pets Should Be Vaccinated

I am not anti-vaccine, but I advocate the judicious use of vaccinations according to the UC Davis Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines.

Life threatening health consequences may be associated with vaccination administration. Even a single vaccine can elicit a hypersensitivity ("allergic") reaction, emergence of immune system diseases (including cancer), worsening of inflammatory conditions, organ system failure, seizure activity, and death.

Pets should be vaccinated only when they are in the best state of health; illnesses should be resolved to the utmost extent before a vaccination is given.

8. Vaccinate Individually

Regarding the administration of multiple vaccinations, pet owners must be less motivated by convenience and more concerned with the maintenance or improvement in their pet’s health. If more than one vaccine has been administered and a post-vaccination reaction occurs, determining which agents are at fault is impossible. Common post-vaccination adverse events include lethargy, anorexia (decreased appetite), hyperthermia (high body temperature), or a more serious reaction, like vomiting, diarrhea, shock, or death.

Receiving more than one vaccination in a single veterinary appointment will not make your pet healthier; it only saves an additional trip to the veterinary hospital. A three to four week interval between vaccinations is ideal. Health and safety should always trump convenience.

9. Alternatives to Vaccinations

If your pet has previously been vaccinated, adequate antibody levels may still exist in the blood. According to AVMA Vaccination Principles:

While there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year, revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.

Pending the pet’s the overall health status and the likelihood of exposure to a particular infectious organism, owners should ask their veterinarians to perform titers (antibody levels) before a subsequent vaccine administration occurs. Distemper, parvovirus, and rabies vaccinations produce antibodies that can be detected through a simple blood test. If the titer is adequate and the likelihood a dog will be exposed to these organisms is low, then the decision to hold off on the vaccination can be made under the guidance of the veterinarian providing care. If the titer is low, then the vaccine can be appropriately given.

As immunity is a complex process, merely having a sufficient titer does not guarantee resistance to infection by a particular organism. This is why an individualized, case-based approach is important.

My own pooch, Cardiff, has endured three bouts of Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) in his seven years of life. A vaccination will induce Cardiff’s immune system to mount an inflammatory response to the administered antigens and put his own red blood cells at risk for destruction. The triggers for Cardiff’s IMHA are unclear, so I do my best to prevent him from suffering from another hemolytic episode by avoiding known immunostimulants (vaccination, hypersensitivity from insect invenomation, bacteria from ticks and fleas, etc.).

I do yearly antibody titers on Cardiff and his levels have been normal despite his last vaccination having been before his first IMHA episode.

A step in the right direction regarding the legality of rabies vaccination recently occurred when AB258 (AKA Molly’s Bill) was passed in California. The bill states:

This bill would exempt from the vaccination requirement a dog whose life would be endangered due to disease or other considerations that a veterinarian can verify and document if the dog received the vaccine, as determined by a licensed veterinarian on an annual basis.

Molly’s Bill will help veterinarians and pet owners pursue the best route of health maintenance, while abiding by state regulations aimed at minimizing zoonotic diseases affecting both people and pets.

10. Obtain Medical Information from Credible Sources

We live in a modern age where owners can easily seek advice about their pets’ illnesses or wellness. Therefore, veterinarians must be equipped to advise clients on the best web-based resources for medical information.

My preferred references for pet owners to seek reliable information include:

petMD and Pet360

Veterinary Partner

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Pet Poison Helpline

Veterinary News Network

Truth About Pet Food

Dog Food Advisor

As technology and information sharing are fully integrated into our society, I encourage my clients to research on-line and to share their findings with me so I can offer the best advisement on potential treatments for my patients.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Are you SURE we aren't going to the vet by Mary Louise Eklund / via Flickr

Comments  8

Leave Comment
  • Thank you.
    06/05/2012 04:21pm

    Thank you so much, Dr. Mahaney, for this 10-point list.

    It has been a real eye-opener. I will forward these two links widely to my dog and cat friends and egroups.

    Really a fantastic topic.

  • 06/08/2012 10:00pm

    3Dogs1Cat,
    Thank you for your comments.
    My perspective on veterinary medicine from the slant of holism (i.e. holistic) are occasionally unusual based on the norm of conventional Western medicine.
    Yet, really, all medicine should be holistic so that the entire organism is evaluate instead of just one particular body part (s).
    I hope to see you back again on my petMD The Daily Vet page.
    Dr PM
    www.PatrickMahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney

  • Because It's On The Web..
    06/05/2012 06:57pm

    doesn't make it so!

    You hit the nail on the head with #10. If people would get their information from credible sources instead of miscellaneous chat rooms and next door neighbors*, our critters would be in much better shape.

    *Not that good information can't be found in those places, it just needs to be verified!

    Although I know things about certain topics - and I'm always willing to learn - it's frustrating when people ask me what's wrong with their critter and what should they do about it. Most likely my answer is, "Call your vet" or "Get a second opinion."

  • 06/08/2012 10:02pm

    Thank you for your comments.
    Yes, it is important that pet owners reference reliable sources for information.
    I am sure that you have a wealth of information to guide pet owners as to the better options to get information. Yes, seeing their vet about their pet's health (or getting a second opinion from another vet or a specialist) is the best way to go.
    Education of pet owners is key! Let's send them to the right place (like my petMD The Daily Vet page).
    Dr PM

  • 06/09/2012 07:40am

    "reference reliable sources"..... and PAY ATTENTION!

    Although I know it happens, it's beyond my comprehension how some humans just want the doctor to give Fluffy or Fido a pill/injection/whatever and magically fix it. Some people even want to drop Fluffy/Fido off at the clinic and not even be there for the appointment.

    How doubly frightening that must be for the critter.

    If they stay with Fluffy/Fido,you can see people's eyes glaze over when the doctor explains the problem and what needs to happen medically. They don't want to know; they just want it fixed.

    Dr. Mahaney, do you see that situation with any of your in-home clients or do you feel they are more involved with their critters?

  • 06/11/2012 12:12pm

    Thank you for brining up this valuable insight.
    Yes, when I work with my clients on a house call basis, I feel as though they are very attuned to their pets needs, have a strong perspective as to the way that they want their pet treated (holistically and not just treating from one angle), and truly want to understand what is happing in the treatment process.
    This is why I practice the way that I do. I want my clients to invest the energy and time into understanding what really keeps us and our pets healthy (or sick) are the foods we eat, the activities in which we partake (or don't partake), the development of chronic inflammation (and trying to reduce it), and exposure (or lack thereof) to infection and trauma.
    Dr PM

  • 8. Vaccinate Individually
    06/06/2012 08:01pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am a Great Dane owner and have been for years. Leaders in this breed pushed for studies on the impact of multiple vaccines given at the same time. What was discouraging was so many vets did not advise on separating the vaccinations and too many pooh-poohed the idea if asked to give individual vaccinations.

    I hope this word gets to more pet owners AND to vets.

  • 06/08/2012 10:07pm

    Thank you for your comments.
    Yes, it is vital that veterinarians (regardless if they are holistic/Eastern or Western) truly consider our patient's overall state of health/wellness of illness before a vaccination is administered.
    There are plenty of occasions when pets are administered multiple vaccinations and show now adverse side effects. Yet, when more than one vaccination is given, there is no way to know the causative agent that precipitated the reaction.
    I hope to see you again on my petMD The Daily Vet page.
    Dr PM
    www.PatrickMahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney
    Facebook: Patrick Mahaney: Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets

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