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Equine Vaccines

Last week I wrote about essential vaccines for small animals. What about horses?
There are loads of vaccines to choose from. Here are the ones I consider important for the “pasture ornament” and occasional trail horse: Rabies, Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, Tetanus, and West Nile Virus.
Rabies is important. As you and I both know, a horse is eager to investigate wandering creatures. A horse recently died of rabies in VA. Mosquito borne diseases like encephalitis and West Nile virus are a danger where there are lots of mosquitos. Try sleeping outdoors one hot summer night and see what your population is like. This is what your horse is exposed to every night! These are fatal diseases so vaccination is recommended. Tetanus is a danger to horses and it can be fatal. The tetanus vaccine is a toxoid which contains no live agents and is therefore safer than live vaccines. It is best to booster in the spring for mosquito borne diseases. I would recommend splitting up the vaccines and doing EWT and WNV in the spring and Rabies in the fall.
For show horses and those that travel, vaccination depends on what the horse may be exposed to and weighing the risk of vaccination vs. the risk of infection from a disease. Vaccines available are Flu (Influenza), Potomac Horse Fever, Rhino pneumonitis (herpes virus), and Strep Equi (Strangles). Some of these diseases are highly contagious. Keep in mind that diseases can spread from the traveling horse to other horses in the barn which do not travel. All of these can spread from contaminated premises and do not require direct contact. Equine Herpes virus has been in the news lately, and unfortunately the dangerous neurologic form is not prevented with vaccines. The bottom line is, if you are overnighting where other horses have been; consider expanding your vaccination program.
Many horse owners and vets like to use multiple vaccines all rolled into one shot. This is for convenience and economics only. For the horse’s benefit, I prefer to give fewer vaccines at one visit rather asking the immune system to do so much at once. I really do not like to see anaphylactic reactions, sore necks, and fevers post vaccination. If you have ever seen a horse die from an anaphylactic reaction, you will believe me when I say vaccines should be taken seriously.
Again ask these 4 questions:
1) Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2) Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3) Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4) Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?
Talk with your vet about your individual circumstances and needs. And consider splitting the vaccines into two rounds if your horse requires multiple vaccines. Remember that an EWTFLU contains antigens for four diseases, not just one! And after vaccinating, observe your horse for any adverse reactions for at least 30 minutes. Contact your vet for emergency help if you notice heavy breathing, bumps appearing on the skin, or signs of distress. Keep epinephrine in your barn if you administer your own vaccines and know how to use it. Happy Trails!


January 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Essential Vaccines

I have coined the term “essential vaccines” to make reference to the fact that not all vaccines are essential. More is not better in all cases! For a while it seemed there was a new vaccine for something every month! Many of these products were later found to be inefficacious, and some were harmful. When I started practice, the wiser practice owner never wanted to jump right on a new product, but to take a wait and see approach. I, the new associate, wanted to use every new thing I could get my hands on. Soon, I came to appreciate the wisdom of waiting.
Vaccinosis is a term referring to adverse events following vaccination which are apart from anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic reactions appear within minutes to hours post vaccination. These can be acute emergencies and are the “reactions” recognized by the general medical community. Vaccinosis reactions can encompass a wide range of immune mediated disorders days to months to years post vaccination. One of these reactions recognized by the American Association of Feline Practitioners is vaccine associated sarcomas. Many holistic veterinarians recognize other problems associated with over vaccination such as autoimmune disease, allergies, and behavior problems. The holistic community tries to vaccinate on a case by case basis, rather than a blanket recommendation. Admittedly, there is well documented protection against serious animal diseases by vaccination but some are safer that others.
Now, what about your pets? My professional judgment is that rabies is the only essential vaccine for many animals. Initial puppy and kitten vaccines are good insurance against some very bad “childhood” diseases. Vaccinated parents pass on protective immunity to the offspring. Feral and stray animals are at greater risk for viral diseases as are some breeds. After your 1 year boosters, it has been shown that most animals maintain a good protective titer to viruses for many years. To be safe, I recommend titer testing or boosters every 3 years. Holistic vets have been preaching this for at least a decade. Now conventional vets are agreeing, thanks to all our titer testing and well documented research by Dr. Ron Schultz, Dr. Jean Dodds, and others.

 Here are the questions you should ask before vaccinating:

1. Is my animal healthy enough to receive and mount a good immune response to a vaccination?
2. Is the vaccine safe and efficacious?
3. Is this a common disease my animal may be exposed to?
4. Is the disease treatable should I choose not to vaccinate?

By far, question one is the most important. If your animal has an immune system disorder you should not vaccinate it. Some of these include degenerative myelopathy, allergies, thyroid disease, and cancer. If your animal is a female in heat the vaccines should wait until she is out of heat. If your animal is sick, it is not wise to ask the immune system to do more by responding to a vaccine, often containing multiple antigens. And let me just ask, if you were going into the hospital for surgery, would you like to get a flu shot and a hepatitis shot while you’re there?
If your boarding facility requires vaccines, find out if they will accept titers or a letter from your veterinarian explaining why you need an exemption. If your pet is not vaccinated, you are accepting the risk of exposure to disease and you are stating that you are confident that your animal is protected or that the risk of an adverse reaction to vaccines is greater than the risk of catching Parvovirus or Distemper at a boarding facility. Your less vaccinated healthy pet is not a risk to others in the facility!
In my town, anyone can buy dog and horse vaccines at the feed store. What about these? Honestly, if it is a good brand name and the vaccine has been handled properly, many are the same as the ones I use. The problem with do-it-yourself vaccination is that you can not receive advice from the store owner about the procedure. Which brand is safe? Which one to pick? Do you have epinephrine on hand should your animal experience anaphylaxis? Have the vaccines been kept at the right temperature during shipping? An example I recall is at an animal shelter where I worked, the volunteers unpacked the rabies vaccines which had gotten warm during shipment and put them in the fridge for use. Luckily one employee noticed and we sent the vaccines back! Most vets are extremely concerned with adverse events associated with vaccination and will recheck your animal at no charge. However, If you have administered them yourself, you will most certainly receive an emergency fee and a lecture!
Vaccines are nothing to take lightly. They can save a life or take a life. I hope that medical decisions are made carefully for your pets, yourself, and your children. Stay tuned next week for Equine Vaccination Decisions!

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer, Part 2 – Treatment

Let’s get practical, now. How can some dogs be fed old cheap kibble and live a long and happy life? I see this over and over! All I can say is, some have great genetic protective DNA, otherwise known as hybrid vigor. In contrast, a purebred dog who definitely has a predisposition for cancers and other degenerative diseases cannot be starved for nutrients by poor feeding practices. We want to do all we can to help this dog’s system to work well on the cellular level. Even so, there is no guarantee that the defective DNA is not going to be expressed as cancer. Until some better genetic testing becomes available, we and all our dogs must live to optimize good health. We don’t know which gene pool we are in! Regardless of our genetic map, starvation of our cells for nutrients they need to do their regulatory jobs will catch up sooner (if “Bad” genetics) or later( if “good” genetics).

But if the cancer stage is set early on, how can we treat the disease once it becomes clinical? In my opinion, surgery and radiation fall into the same category. These methods destroy tumors and cells. The positives are, they may buy some time, they may provide the patient a better comfort level (such as an amputation for painful osteosacrcoma). The negatives are that surgery can seed tumor cells for metastasis(once thought an “old wives tale”), and radiation destroys healthy tissues. Apart from biopsy to predict the behavior of a tumor, surgery should be subject to careful consideration. Radiation can be useful for areas that are difficult to reach. But, remember, these are first lines of defense and they do not cure the underlying disease process. Do we just go back to our old lifestyle after these efforts to buy time? Certainly not!

Chemotherapy covers a huge array of therapies from intravenous toxic drugs to very safe oral medications. Different combinations and drugs are constantly being developed. Newer safer choices work at the cellular level to disrupt enzyme systems or blood supply to rapidly dividing cells. Herbal combinations can easily be included in “Chemo” protocols because they do work similarly. There is less research on herbal combinations because they are regulated as nutritional supplements and not drugs. There is less money to be made by “Big Pharma” who gives financial support research and development. This said, there are a multitude of medical agents with plant origins. Remember the yew tree, the source of Taxol? Herbal plant combinations have been used clinically to slow tumor growth and importantly to support the immune system rather than destroying it. Plant medicines are gentler and will act slower that the “big guns”. Sometimes you have no time to work with and sometimes you do. Your biopsy results will indicate the likely behavior of your tumor. I have found the term “chemo” will trigger a gut reaction from pet owners that basically says,” I don’t want to subject my pet to that.” I hope that after reading this you will look into these options.

I believe that homeopathic medicines have the greatest potential to actually cure cancer because they work on an energetic level and the effects are so profound. Their effects seem to supersede and biological explanation I can come up with. There is much research to be done in these medications which use the energetic properties of natural substances imprinted on the amazing memory of water molecules to alter the body’s bioenergetics in a very specific way. This is my own definition and explanation of homeopathic medicines as contrasted with herbal medications discussed above. There are very few practitioners who are experienced in homeopathy but a naturopathic background is essential for their effective use.

One very basic principle of cancer therapy is to rebalance the immune system. One sure way to stress the immune system is to inject viruses and foreign adjuvants into the body for it to do something with. If you only take away one thing from this that should be to never vaccinate a cancer patient. I am speaking of veterinary patients. Most have plenty of immunity to infections diseases from previous vaccines or exposures. This can be documented with a titer test you can request if you must. I will ask you, “Would you love to get a flu shot, a rabies shot, and a tetanus vaccine while you’re here for your chemo treatment today?”

Nutrition is still the foundation of therapy and gives the body what it needs to fight. This includes the knowledge that cancer cells love carbs, so a low carbohydrate diet is essential. Nutrients like selenium, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, and DHA have been proven to slow cancer growth in the veterinary arena. Nutrition is the easiest thing we can alter, and though it seems to be closing the door after the horse got out, it is still the best thing we can do for our pets now. I have had owners say their pets think they are already in heaven from the change to home cooked foods! Healing foods create a bond that is really special during the last years of a pets life. It’s a giving back to them for all their unconditional love. Healing foods give us the ability to do something to help rather than experiencing the helplessness of a cancer diagnosis. And, the lessons we learn in doing so may save our own lives someday.

MLewter, DVM

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment