Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.


I recently read about an owner whose middle-aged dog had never been vaccinated, given antibiotics or heartworm preventatives, received a flea or tick treatment, neutered, or microchipped. He eats a species-appropriate diet (based on raw meat and bones, prey-model). He’s pure! So pure, in fact, that he allegedly has never received chlorinated or fluoridated water. His owner is apparently under the impression these things will help the dog live forever.


Oh, where to start?

By all accounts, he’s a very nice dog, and that’s important, because if he bites anyone in an incident that gets reported, he’s dead. There isn’t a city or county animal control official anywhere who would fool around with quarantining a completely unvaccinated dog with a bite record. More likely, the dog would be seized by law enforcement, euthanized, and his brain sent for rabies testing. (Dogs with records of past rabies vaccinations, even outdated ones, would most likely be revaccinated and quarantined.)

If he’s been taken out in the world much, he has probably been exposed to kennel cough, and built up some immunity. Not a big deal if he gets kennel cough at his age. But it could be a very big deal if he happens to visit a park or neighborhood where some puppy with parvovirus or distemper had diarrhea on the sidewalk . . .

And what about injuries? I’ve had dogs cut their feet on glass, get punctured by sticks running in the woods, torn by discarded barbed wire – and of course, attacked by other dogs and punctured, necessitating drains and antibiotics. While herbal rinses and natural antibacterial dressings (like coconut oil, of which I’m a very big fan) are terrific, if an infection sets in, antibiotics are life-savers. Of course, they are over-prescribed sometimes. But I can’t imagine lumping them in with poisons.

And speaking of poisons, have I used, and will I use again, toxic topical flea- and tick-control products? Yes. Ticks are a big deal where I live, and I’ve already treated Otto once (with some of those horrid antibiotics) for a tick-borne disease (anaplasmosis). I comb Otto carefully after every walk in the woods, but even so, some of those damn ticks evade my efforts at detection and attach themselves. Generally, I find and remove them before they have been there long enough to transmit the pathogenic organisms that can cause Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, erlichiosis, and more – but obviously, not every time, given that Otto’s already been infected at least once.

And apparently the dog’s never been anywhere heartworm is an issue? In my county, not giving heartworm preventatives in mosquito season dooms a dog to a short life and a very unpleasant end, coughing, gagging, and out-of-breath. I know that some people feel they can build their dogs’ immune systems to the point that the dogs can destroy any developing heartworm larvae . . . but I’ve yet to see an arthritic, grey-muzzled fox or coyote on a similar raw diet and heartworm preventative-free protocol.

On the other hand, maybe this dog lives indoors! And never, ever gets exposed to anything that might possibly be injurious. But if that’s the case, I feel sorry for him.

Folks, this is going too far. I strongly advocate for home-prepared, biologically appropriate raw diets; I even think filtered water is a great idea for particularly vulnerable dogs. I think using vaccines, flea and tick pesticides, heartworm preventatives, antibiotics, etc. in a very limited way is smart. But going without? Extremist and irresponsible.