Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Mystery of Dog Vaccinations

When I think about dog vaccinations I experience a combination of emotions about them ranging from aggravation to worry and everything in between.

Every year since I owned my first dog (starting in late 1995) I have vaccinated my dogs.

They (Duff & Robbie) have always received annual rabies vaccinations along with either the 5-way or 7-way annual vaccination of all of the fun stuff the pharmaceutical companies put into a vaccine.

It was not until broadening my horizons in the agility community where I was exposed to more dog owners who I would probably categorize as more progressive.  These dog owners would send their dogs to chiropractors and acupuncturists.  They would regularly check on their health via homeopathic vets who seemed more in tune to different nuances of pet health.

The subject also came up about vaccinations and how people handle them differently.

When the subject first came up, I listened but not with an open mind. I heard people discuss the auto-immune disorders and other issues that can happen to their dogs. I pretty much dismissed it and chalked it up to them owning a more common breed, like a Golden Retriever.  I owned Border Terriers.  They are, in general, a very healthy breed and have not had the misfortune of being overly bred.

I stuck with my regular vaccinations that following year but the seed had been planted.

I kept hearing about people giving 3-year rabies vaccines to their dogs and that it was the same thing as the 1-year vaccine. That did not make sense, is that true?

I followed up with my dogs' regular vet (hereafter referred to as "Dr. Dowdy") and learned that they are not the same.  The 1-year is the "killed" virus and the 3-year is the "live" virus. I will address that distinction further in this post but for now, note that Dr. Dowdy says they are different.

I really did not want to put a live virus in my guys but started to think that once every 3 years might be better for them than once every year.

The vet that I saw regarding acupuncture (their "sports medicine" vet ;-)) also advised me about possibly giving my guys a "titer" test to check for the antibodies of the diseases commonly found in the annual vaccines.  Chances are my dogs, then aged 11 and 8, had enough vaccines that they would probably be resistant to the diseases.  The selling point for me was that if the titers came back as "unprotected" I could always vaccinate them.

I talked to Dr. Dowdy about this and her concern was that the titers only give you a gauge of "protected" or "not protected" but it does not give you the degree that they are protected or what happens if they are exposed to the disease what would happen.  She simply stated that the use of titers was still in its early stages and she did not think it was worth the risk.

Fair enough, I thought, and asked if Dr. Dowdy would perform the blood tests to send in for titers.  I was not interested in taking business away from her, just changing the nature of it.  Apparently, 11 years of working with me and seeing me quite a bit was not enough. The answer was "no".  I would have to go somewhere else if I wanted blood drawn for a titer test.

The first cold chill runs up my spine and I start to ask myself why their vet's response makes me angry.

The long and the short of this is, the last vaccinations for Duff & Robbie for distemper, lepto, etc. were in 2006.  I lost Duff in 2009 but his titers were all "protected" during that time frame.

Robbie, who gets vaccinated in November, showed a "protected" titer now for four years.  I was astounded by this. Suddenly I felt a little outrage over the fact that annual vaccinations are being pushed on me with the excuse, given to my friends, being that Dr. Dowdy would never see a patient if they did not have to be vaccinated.  People only come in for the vaccinations.  I would agree, for the general public, but I am not the average dog owner.

I would come in for annual titers instead. Think out of the box and work with your trusted clients.

Ghilley is going to follow Dr. Dodds' vaccination schedule.  She did receive a Duramune (5-way) vaccination in 2009 as I was unable to locate a distemper/parvo only vaccination.  She also, by law, could only receive the 1-year rabies vaccination.

Ghilley's annual vaccinations are approaching. Per Dr. Dodds' schedule, she is due for distemper/parvo combination only plus 3-year rabies (killed virus).

The trouble is, Dr. Dowdy only has the 5-way or 7-way and her 3-year rabies vaccination is the modified live virus.

So, I need to find an alternative. I spent an extensive time searching online for various spots that sell vaccines.  I could find parvo by itself but not distemper or just a D/P combination unless I wanted to fork over triple digits to buy a whole tray of them.

I called the clinic (in Northbrook) where Robbie sometimes goes to get acupuncture. Great thing! They had the D/P vaccination. Bad news, learned later, is that it was long expired.

So, more searching and found a vet in Chicago who we are scheduled to visit in later November. They have it! So, instead of Ghilley going for just a visit, she's going to get her D/P shot then too.

Now to tackle the rabies vaccination.  I like to segregate it from the other shots which is something her regular vet is in favor of or supports too.  However, I wanted to see about finding out more about the killed virus.

Well, it turns out that Robbie's "sports medicine" vet talked to the Northbrook clinic to schedule a 3-year rabies vaccine to administer when I brought Robbie in.

I asked her if the difference between the 1-year and 3-year was killed vs. live and she said "no".  The difference comes from which laboratory produces the vaccine and that is the source of it for the veterinary clinic ordering it.  Some labs test their killed vaccine to see if it is effective over a 3-year period of time and then it can pass as effective. Another wallop of news that astounded me.

I will be honest, I feel that I have been duped over the years to just blindly follow orders like some little foot soldier.

While I do realize the risks I take, as with everything I do, I am well aware of my dogs and their health. I keep in tuned to them as much as I do to myself (except they're in GOOD shape).

I find it frustrating to know that a vet I have known for 15 years now does not really want to work with me, even knowing how in tune I am with my dogs. Instead she would rather keep her head in the sand following the old traditional ways that may help the general populace but is not good for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Battle of the pharmaceuticals (in my head)


Since I was 10 years old, I have suffered from migraine headaches.  I even had an EEG (Electroencephalogram) that showed a migraine pattern.

Typically, through the years since then the migraines crop up seasonally.  The past 10 years they followed a more frequent pattern and I found Imitrex (now with a generic) to combat it.

The headaches are a nuisance, but manageable.

When I hit my late 20s, I found myself suffering from seasonal allergies.  I found it astounding as I was never really affected by them as a kid.  Regardless, my doctor prescribed Allegra as the new alternative to Clariton then.  I took it with no issues typically during allergy seasons.

Over the past several years, mainly due to either mild winters or maybe even my dogs, I found the need to take it year-round.  My doctor indicated that it would be alright to do that.

Well, all seems okay until I start to experience dizziness that is not quite vertigo but feels more vascular or sinus-related.  I had some bad episodes with it in the spring of 2009.  My internist tried to sell me on this Benign Displacement Vertigo or some other hogwash like that.  It certainly let me know that is a problem doctors come up with when they don't know.

The ENT guy I went to indicated that if it feels like the dizziness I get with migraines, take Imitrex even if I do not have a headache.

I think that makes sense.  My only concern is that the 100mg tablets I take of the stuff is like gold.  You get 9 tablets a month.  It is easy to run through if you are having a bad run of headaches (or maybe dizziness).

I got through the spring okay.  But I would notice more frequent headaches the likes of which only Imitrex could fix.

I also noticed that, somehow, Allegra seemed less effective.  When fall and spring would come and go, I would sneeze and suffer with allergies as if I was not on an antihistamine.

The past few months have been pretty unbearable with headaches.  Finally, on October 11th I decided to experiment.  My experiment was to stop taking Allegra and see how things go.

Guess what?  So far (by Thursday), I have no headaches and that occasional dizziness that has almost become second nature to me is gone as well.

I am not going to immediately conclude that Allegra was the cause, but four days right now with weather front changes (can trigger headaches) is a positive sign.