Let’s be clear: In most cases, vaccines are miraculous, life-saving agents. The diseases they (usually) prevent in our dogs range from always fatal (such as rabies) to serious and sometimes fatal (such as distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis) to the rarely fatal (such as bordetella and coronavirus). And even diseases that are not fatal can cause all sorts of grief for both the dog in question and his owner (and the owner’s pocketbook). Dog lovers the world over are eternally grateful for the gifts that modern vaccines have conferred upon our canine companions.
Holistic veterinarians have long decried the annual vaccination schedule recommended by many conventionally trained veterinarians for all dogs. Many holistic veterinarians suspect that many of the complex ailments that plague our modern dogs – from allergies to digestive problems to aggressive behavior and so on – have their roots in immune system problems brought on by excessive and unnecessary vaccination. However, many of us are convinced by our veterinarians that our dogs won’t be safe unless they receive these boosters every year. Fortunately, a recent study indicates that most dogs retain humoral antibody protection from past vaccinations for longer than previously thought.
For decades, the standard in the veterinary profession was to spay female dogs and cats at the age of six months, and neuter males at nine months. This standard has contributed significantly to the tragedy of pet overpopulation, since most cats and many dogs have reached physiological sexual maturity by that time. Fortunately, the standard is changing. Female dogs can come in season (and get pregnant) prior to age six months. A dog's estrus cycle can be messy, leaving spots of blood on carpets and furniture, and a dog in heat can be a real nuisance. Every unsterilized male dog for miles around will make supercanine efforts to reach her.
Whole Dog Journal unabashedly supports the positive efforts of animal protection workers around the country to reduce the euthanasia of unwanted animal companions, including the proactive approach of shelters to spay and neuter dogs at a relatively early age, before they have had a chance to make more puppies. However, many holistic veterinary practitioners regard prepubescent spay/neuter surgery as potentially harmful to young pups. We'll describe their concerns but we'll also offer some holistic remedies that can counter the potentially deleterious effects of surgery.
Obesity has been defined as a body weight 10 to 20 percent above the ideal weight for that individual dog. The rule of thumb offered by most sources is that if you sweep your fingers lightly over your dog’s ribs and shoulders you should be able to feel the outline of the bones. If you must use pressure to find the ribs, your dog is overweight. Viewed from above, your dog should have a noticeable waist. If Bowser fails either of these two tests, it’s time for doggy dieting. Veterinarians today consider obesity to be the leading health problem among our dogs and cats. According to the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Book of Dogs, this manifestation of malnutrition affects an estimated 25-44 percent of our canine companions.
I have two rescue Danes and I also assist with Great Dane rescue. Recently, I fostered a black, 2 1/2-year-old, neutered Dane. He had no biting history and is friendly with kids, people, and other dogs. The previous owner was honest and told me that the dog did not like the vet’s office, baths, or his feet to be handled. I took the dog to a veterinary hospital and he did very well in the waiting room with the other dogs. I praised him and treated him for all his calm behavior. I explained to the veterinarian’s technician that the dog did not do well at the vet’s and that I had a soft muzzle that I would put on the dog.
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Canine immune system disorders range from very common (such as seasonal allergies), to extremely rare disorders that afflict certain breeds (and even, in some cases, certain branches of individual breeds). Someday, the Canine Genome Project may well bring life-saving illumination to the process by which specific genes trigger specific diseases. At present, however, the inheritance of effective immunity continues to be a mysterious, if not star-crossed, commodity. Some dogs, like some people, are unlucky. However, the immunity that any individual dog is born with can often be improved with enlightened canine husbandry practices, traditional medical care, and complementary care from holistic health modalities.
Every week, I get at least one call from a reader who has had an unfortunate experience with one of the health problems we have discussed in a recent issue. Often, these readers are anguished and upset with themselves for failing to find and take a treatment path similar to the ones our article discussed because they worried that conventional care led to the demise of their dog. I can sympathize with them. My Border Collie, Rupert, is 10, and has been afflicted with a number of small but troubling ailments throughout his life. He’s always been itchy, prone to painful ear infections, and a magnet for ticks and fleas.
Ask the average dog owner about fasting her dog and you may see her blanche at the very idea of making Skippy miss a meal. In a culture that is obsessed with food, it is easy to understand a conscientious dog owner’s reluctance to deliberately withhold sustenance. Yet many dog owners routinely do just that. We interviewed a number of dog owners who utilize fasting protocols in their feeding regimens. Some had more than 10 years of experience with periodic fasts, and some had started recently fasting their dogs only recently. Often, the fasting was used in conjunction with a natural diet.
First, I need to make it clear that there are many types of rear end lamenesses that may end up being diagnosed as hip dysplasia, but you really can't accept the diagnosis of hip dysplasia without hip x-rays. Hip dysplasia is a radiographic diagnosis, not a clinical diagnosis. That may be splitting hairs, but I see many dogs with conditions such as ruptured and improperly healed cruciate ligaments or lower back arthritis that have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Only radiographs can determine whether or not a dog has hip dysplasia.
All dogs instinctively know how to stretch and do so with great enjoyment. Dogs stretch without fail upon awakening and whenever the mood strikes during the rest of the day. Who hasn’t watched a dog inch his front paws out in front of him as far as possible leaning into the stretch until it literally ripples along the length of his trunk? When the stretch finally reaches the hips, the hind legs are extended far behind the body in what appears to be total ecstasy. The dog completes the routine by dropping to his elbows and stretching the back in a doggy bow that temporarily elevates the rump. Then, the hindquarters flop to the floor in a grand finale to the stretch.