Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Live long and prosper, the first installment

It seems that I have been seeing so many sick pets in the office lately. OK, not so much serious illness, although there has been our share of that, but sort of chronic, debilitating things, mostly things that could have been prevented if a little care had been taken. So, rather than rant and rave as we all know I can, I decided to take a more constructive course and write a series of articles on things that you can do for your pets to help them live to their normal life span with a good quality of life. Some of these things will involve your veterinarian, some of them will be lifestyle changes for you at home. I figure on five articles and only have topics for the first two lined up. So this is your chance to leave me some suggestions for future posts.

New pets are a new chance at a healthy pet so let's start with your new puppy or kitten. I think the the most important thing you can do is get them vaccinated. Now, before you get into an uproar about the evils of over vaccinating our pets and how vaccines are responsible for everything from allergies and autoimmune disease to global warming and vampires, I think you need to sit back down and continue reading.

I'm not talking about vaccinating with every vaccine on the market whether it is effective or not. I'm not talking about vaccinating every pet for diseases that they have no risk of ever being exposed to. You need to have a rational discussion with your veterinarian about your pet's anticipated lifestyle and the risk factors associated with this life style. It should be obvious (although I know it always isn't) that a dog that lives on the 53rd floor of a Manhattan high rise and never goes out, even to pee, does not need the same vaccines as the Field Trial Labrador that summers on Shelter Island and competes upstate on a regular basis. (for those of you not in New York you can substitute your own low risk and high risk locations). I'm not neglecting cats either, indoor cats do not need the same vaccines as those that go out. (shame on you if you let your cats go out)

I have worked in areas where vaccination was not emphasized. I have seen cats die of Feline Leukemia or Calici Virus infections. I have seen dogs die of Parvo and Distemper. These diseases are all preventable with adequate vaccinations.

I hate when I see a new puppy or kitten and it has been vaccinated every week from the time it was 4 weeks old. This sort of over vaccination may well cause damage to the immune system and all sorts of problems for the pet in the future. We start our dogs and cats at around 6 weeks of age with core vaccines and vaccinate every 3 - 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Other vaccines are added through the vaccine period according to each pet's risk factors. Do not vaccinate your pet according to some generic vaccine program. At our practice we tailor an individual program for each pet and your vet should do the same. Don't add a vaccine just because it is only a couple of bucks more and you think you are getting a good deal. Save that for the supermarket.

Adult dogs are vaccinated periodically. Some vaccines need to be boosted yearly, some every three years. Some owners prefer to have antibody levels measured to see if pets need boosters at all and this blood test can be done for some of the vaccines on an annual basis.

Vaccines are not always benign. The purpose of vaccination is to stimulate the immune system to fight disease. There can be adverse reactions ranging from tenderness at the injection site, to fever, to severe anaphylactic reactions. There is some evidence that some vaccines can cause tumors in cats in rare instances. Your veterinarian should be prepared to help you balance the risk versus the benefit for each vaccine that he or she is recommending.

Once we have done all that we can to prevent possible fatal or seriously debilitating infectious diseases with a customized vaccination schedule we will move on to discuss things that you can do as your pet matures.

I'm still open to suggestions so leave a comment and let me know what you think. Those of you who don't agree with what I said in this post shouldn't be shy either, let me know what you think.

The links in this post go to my web page, an excellent source for information written by board certified veterinarians. The search function is on the library page and is open to anyone to use as a source. Oh, it's free. Oh, I won't try to sell you anything. No ads, it is an informational web site. There is a particularly good photo of me on the staff page. (If I do say so myself).

A special shout out to a friend on twitter that recommended this topic. You should follow by clicking on this link to the twitter page.

You should also become a fan of ours on Face Book. Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital. Here, I'll make it easy, just click on this link. We have started a weekly give away and we post it on our website. This week's goes until Thursday (tomorrow) so check it out asap and stop by to pick up your prize if you are in the area.

Keith Niesenbaum

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