Monthly Archives: June 2015

Vaccines – One Size Fits All?

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I recently attended a veterinary vaccine program and was able to have many of my questions answered. For example, I have always wondered why 1 cc of vaccine was considered suitable for every dog, no matter what the size – from a ½ pound Chihuahua puppy to a 150 pound Great Dane. How is it possible that the same dose is appropriate?

Several years ago I had asked a vaccine company veterinarian this question. The response I got was that despite the difference in animal weight, their immune systems were the same size. I asked myself, “How is that even possible?” That was definitely a worthless answer.

My concern over dose of vaccine per pound of dog was heightened by a 2005 study. It found that vaccine adverse events increase as the weight of the dog decreases. In other words, small dogs (those receiving a higher dose of vaccine per pound) have more adverse events. All I can say is, “Duh!”

The Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) vaccine company program was very informative. I got to talk to the researchers who actually make vaccines and ask them the hard questions.

As to the dose of vaccine, the first point the speaker made was that the antigen portion of the vaccine makes up only 1/1013 of the total volume. That’s 0.0001 parts per billion – equivalent to 1 drop in the amount of water carried by 1,000 tanker trucks each carrying 80,000 gallons!

Apparently, a tiny amount of modified live antigen has a strong effect on the immune system. So when I’m talking about dose of vaccine, it may not be the antigen that’s important but rather all the other stuff (contaminants, preservatives, adjuvants, etc.) that’s in there.

The second point the speaker made was that there is a certain minimum volume of fluid needed to distribute the antigen into the subcutaneous tissue so the immune system reacts adequately. He knows this because BI has actually pioneered technology to filter out extraneous materials from their vaccines and have gotten the volume down to ½ cc per vaccine. In the process, they have made vaccines that cause 10 times fewer adverse events. (Of course we’re still giving the same amount to every sized dog).

I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to vaccines. Some are necessary but only those needed based on the animal’s lifestyle. Of course, I take all industry-sponsored “informational” programs with a grain of salt. But, I have to say that I feel good about switching to the BI vaccines.

More about vaccines next week.

Have any of your pets had problems with vaccines?

Low Vitamin D May be a Deadly Problem for Cats

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Vitamin D is just one more way your cat’s food may be killing her.

Recently Rachael Ray Nourish wet cat food was recalled over elevated Vitamin D levels. This coincided with a conversation I just had with a veterinary nutritionist about study regarding Vitamin D in cats.

A study published May 13, 2015 found that the level of Vitamin D in the blood of hospitalized cats predicted their likelihood to survive. In fact, in this case it was low Vitamin D levels that indicated a higher risk of death in these sick cats.

Food is the only source for Vitamin D in cats. They do not manufacture it in their skin with the help of sunlight like people do. This led me to ask the nutritionist about Vitamin D levels in cat food. Could low levels in cat food be responsible for poor disease recovery? Might it be causing fatal disease in the first place?

The study did not answer these questions, it simply noted the correlation. Low Vitamin D levels could just be a marker of some other unknown factor. And the food may not be the culprit. Maybe some cats can’t absorb or metabolize Vitamin D properly. Maybe it’s the absorption or metabolism problems that led to the poor recovery of these cats.

A previous study found that cats with tooth resorption (a painful disease of cats that causes their teeth to dissolve at the gum line) have significantly higher serum concentrations of Vitamin D than do cats without this condition. In a separate study, these researchers also found that 41% of canned cat foods have in excess of 30 times the vitamin D requirement of cats.

Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin. It acts as a hormone in the body and regulates calcium metabolism which is important in bone growth and maintenance. Vitamin D deficiency causes Rickets in the young and osteomalacia (softening of the bones) in adults. Vitamin D excess leads to too much calcium in the blood. This can cause calcification of body tissues and the formation of bladder stones. Either too much or too little Vitamin D in cat food is a serious problem.

It is truly the Wild West when it comes to Vitamin D for cats. The nutritionist I spoke to told me of her research into the Vitamin D contents of cat foods. She found that the Vitamin D in feline diets ranges from 98 – 1,305 IU/1,000 Kcal. The AAFCO guidelines allow for levels of 125 – 2,500 IU/1,000 Kcal.

Why such a wide range? Well for one thing, other components of the food affect Vitamin D metabolism. For example, dietary fiber decreases Vitamin D absorption. So you would expect a weight-loss diet that uses fiber to decrease calories to require a higher Vitamin D level.

But most of all, I think pet food companies are clueless about the appropriate level of Vitamin D for their foods. My suggestion; grind up a mouse, measure the nutrient levels, and mimic those. Mother Nature still knows best! I’ll let you know if anyone ever follows my advice (don’t hold your breath).

I suggest sticking with a cat food that is as close to the cat’s natural diet as possible (raw that is balanced using food-source nutrients not synthetic vitamins).

Do you trust your cat’s food? Why or why not?

Canine Flu – What Do We Do?? – 5 Tips

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The canine influenza virus has been making a run lately. It started in the Chicago area and has now spread to more than a dozen states. With the mobility of our society and our desire to bring our dogs along, vacation season means the canine flu will most likely continue to spread. Here are a couple of tips to keep your dog safe.

  1. DO NOT PANIC. This disease is not as deadly as the media makes it out to be. In Chicago over 1,000 cases were reported (many more went undiagnosed) and only 5 dogs actually died. Just like in people, the vast majority of those who get the flu are sick for a week and get better without treatment.
  2. DO NOT VACCINATE. The canine influenza vaccine protects against a different strain of the virus. There are some who say that there is some cross protection with the vaccine but experts disagree. Those pushing the vaccine have something to gain by its use. The exact strain of flu in the canine vaccine (developed in 2007) is not likely to ever resurface. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a useless vaccine. Here’s more on vaccines.
  3. DO STAY VIGILANT. Call your local vet and local shelters periodically and ask if they are seeing any cases. Listen closely to the local news.
  4. KEEP YOUR DOG HOME if cases of the flu turn up in your area. Dog parks, kennels, daycare, shelters, groomers, and summer dog events are great places for your dog to get exposed. If the flu is in town, hunker down.
  5. STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. It is always wise to keep your dog’s guard up. I have found that a balanced raw diet is a great defense against disease. Probiotics also keep the immune system healthy. I prefer Answers Raw Goat’s Milk. It’s a super-food for the immune system. Your local holistic vet may also have specific herbal supplements to protect the respiratory system.

Nobody wants to see their beloved dog get sick. Keeping your dog safe is not difficult. The steps above will help you help your pet.

Have there been any cases of canine flu in your area?