The Canine Immune System
Barbara J. Andrews, TheDogPlace Publisher
A Vet student launched a vehement attack on my column about the vaccination debate, thereby proving how little they are taught about canine health and the immune system.
The soon-to-be-released vet student raised some interesting points although I doubt they are what she intended. Apart from being “appalled and very disturbed”, she felt “the entire article is utter nonsense, with no facts to back up any of BJ’s 'old fashioned common sense.'”
Because I fear that she speaks for a growing number of practicing vets, I decided to elaborate
on some things she pompously derides. Should she go into private practice, she might note what time of year her waiting room fills with itching,
scratching, sparsely coated pets that self-mutilate. "Old fashioned common sense" suggests the seasonal increase in dermatitis coincides
with spring cleaning chemicals, fertilizing and yard spraying, and starting dogs back on heart worm prevention.
Just this week a veterinarian described unethical changes in many veterinary practices since the introduction of pet insurance. He said it enables vets to push formerly unaffordable, medically unnecessary treatments. Anesthesia is hard on the patient. He gave as an example; subjecting a dog to anesthesia risk in order to clean teeth instead of recommending raw beef bones appropriate to the dog's size or advising the owner to regularly brush a toy dog's teeth.
Why do drug companies say that the older a dog is, the more its immune system is wearing out and therefore, it should be vaccinated more frequently than younger dogs??!!!? To the veterinary college student I say that is exactly the kind of deadly policy that “appalls and disturbs” knowledgeable dog owners!
Back to my comment about host and parasite. What is broadly termed “flea allergy” is in fact a warning that the pet’s immune system is under attack. When people inhale irritants, they sneeze. Dogs sneeze too but are more likely to itch when exposed to inhaled allergens. So let's look at selling drugs and chemicals to prevent or treat "flea allergies."
Dermatitis can signify a wide range of environmental antagonists, anything from food additives to chemicals absorbed through the pads or foot-licking, which by the way, can also signify a classic reaction to heartworm "meds." Incredibly, the most common treatment is to further depress the dog’s immune system with cortisone injections, chemical flea baths, and if not already on it, heartworm prevention. Steroid shots may bring temporary relief but any vet who only treats symptoms instead of identifying and preventing further exposure to the causative agent should be sued and disbarred. Many have been. It is quite simply profit-motivated cruelty to animals.
Using topical treatments instead of bombarding the entire dog with a prescription for front office profitability, a good vet could boost the dog’s immune system with those dratted “alternative” methods and supplements. Y’know, the ones that work but can’t be patented and are therefore of “no value” to drug companies. Vitamins E, C and zinc, plus fish oil supplements will help restore a healthy epidermis and bring itch relief. Yes, dogs do respond to therapeutic use of vitamin C and no, they no longer synthesize their own "C" due to the modern diet.
The vet student states “heartworm is 100% preventable with the use of safe, effective monthly tablets” and goes on to blame owners for trying to “de-worm their dogs at home using large animal products.” Such parroted statements are a frightening example of why robotic medication dispensers (ignorant vets) are so harmful to dogs. In the hands of unscrupulous vets, prescribed whole-body (systemic) poison is a lot more dangerous than home or herbal wormers. See link below (1) for in-depth, novice-friendly information on intestinal parasites and wormers.
Promotion of a treatment which can be worse than the disease is unforgivable. The professionals in whose hands we trustingly place our best friends have a moral obligation to expand their education with a big dash of common sense. Apparently vet school textbooks omit the reams of published information regarding potential side-effects of some medications. For example, Dr. Jean Dodds, prominent veterinary lecturer mentions antibiotics such as tribrissen and heart worm preventatives can adversely affect (link 2) thyroid function (whoops, that can mean dermatitis) and can cause reproductive problems. Vets need to know all the factors before simply prescribing a highly profitable product based on the manufacturer’s sales and promotional materials.
Another example. I wanted to know about mosquitoes since they are the delivery boys for heartworm disease. So I bit the bullet and did that research-stuff. Having done so, I weighed the odds of an infected mosquito flying it’s maximum three hundred yard range in order to feast on my double coated dogs when a.) there are no loose dogs in my horsey-set, country club neighborhood, and b.) my dogs are sold to people in upper class neighborhoods where there is no medically deprived dog population. I have never, ever given heartworm preventative and never, in half a century of breeding dogs, had a single dog affected with heartworm. The odds are with me. If you live next to the city dump, I advise you to use heartworm prevention.
Taking the veterinarian's side, they protect the average pet owned by the average person who has no motivation, time, or desire to employ safer but often, more complex ways of caring for it. Additionally, most such dogs have been surgically sterilized so there’s no concern about reproductive ability. I get it. Still, they are supposed to protect health...
Therefore the best thing I can say about heartworm "medication" and booster vaccinations is that they motivate owners to bring their dogs in to the vet regularly. It provides the conscientious vet an opportunity to catch any developing problems that the owner may have overlooked. And for what it’s worth, a heartworm-positive diagnosis is not uncommon in dogs that were maintained on monthly heartworm medications. Do not trust your own or your handler’s memory about dosing or the effectiveness of heartworm prevention. Blood test your dogs regularly. Vets will love me for saying that but a blood draw is cheaper than monthly prescriptions and a lot easier on your pet.
I’m sure many readers react to my columns just as the vet student did. I make no apology. As a professional journalist, I have a responsibility to be factual, verify the source, and when possible, weigh information based on personal knowledge.
ShowSight Magazine knows that I know that some of their best advertisers are also physicians, vets, and dog food companies. I believe that those advertisers are deeply committed to healthy dogs. I think of all ShowSight readers as post-graduates in the school of canine management so I need not footnote or reference every statement. Furthermore, egotistical though it may be, I am my own reference and hundreds of you are my source! Let's get real! Decades of clinical experience and proven success in maintaining optimum canine health surely counts for as much as a neophyte research scientist working in a lab where the only animals he touches are in stainless steel cages. He/she works for or receives sizable grants from companies whose primary motivation is to develop profitable new products. I work for the dogs. I thought everyone knew that!
I don’t recommend herbs to stop a bleeding artery. My dogs go to the vet. I go to the doctor. Significantly, my sources differ from those of the angry vet student. I have many friends in the medical arts. They have impressive degrees in veterinary medicine, medical sciences, homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, and herbology. Our readers also share with me a lifetime of genetic success and healthy dogs. These are real world credentials that I hope the confused vet student comes to understand.
If you missed what initiated the vet student's outrage, go to Vaccine Debate