Thursday, December 18, 2008

Response to Good Questions

Metronidazole (Flagyl) is an antibiotic that has its place in a veterinary arsenal, but it has been shown to be carcinogenic in mice and rats. Although rare, it can have neurological side effects and a puppy from my A Litter had those scary side effects associated with this drug and spent a couple of days in ICU as a result.

My concern arose because new owners were running to the vet at the first sight of diarrhea and this was the drug they were getting. As I said, it has its place but it is a Big Gun and should be used only as needed.

I have tried to do two things differently with recent litters. First, I try and determine if a potential home is what I call a “vet groupie” – someone who runs to the vet with every small concern. I have my Utah vet’s cell phone number and her husband’s as well – I am not saying that vets are not important. But people who fret about every little thing wind up with puppies and dogs who are over treated – and that makes me crazy because it is bad for the dog.

So I try and assess for high anxiety owners, and rule them right out of contention for a puppy. And I also started being more clear about the need to be mindful of the impact of things like vaccinations and veterinary treatments.

Puppy diarrhea in an otherwise normal puppy? Well, we can put her on a medication that is a carcinogen and has some potentially nasty side effects or we can try some dietary changes – I am obviously a fan of the more moderate approach. I think it is strange to be so concerned about stools, quite frankly, and really do not pay much attention to such things when a puppy is otherwise normal. I think it is amazing that they ever have normal stools given all the junk a puppy eats!

So when our Glitterati started with the diarrhea I watched them carefully and checked weights but did not race off to the vet since their only symptom was diarrhea. When it did not get better I talked to my Utah vet and we added a probiotic. When that did not work I was willing to give them an antibiotic – she wanted to use Flagyl but knows my feelings on that and so we went with amoxicillin (and the probiotic), which seems to be clearing things up very nicely.

My goal is to find balance, rather than throwing medication at my dogs at the first sign of an issue. Again, I love my vet – and especially because she shares a more conservative approach to things. But over treating can be just as bad as under treating, and I think managing our own anxiety (and some pumpkin) is sometimes all the treatment that is needed!

Vaccinations – again, I am aiming for balance. There are some nasty, bad diseases out there that kill puppies and I am sorry but feeding fairy dust or whatever is not going to protect a puppy from parvo. On the other hand, over vaccination is not good and so once again, I am striving to find the middle road.

The maternal antibodies prevent a vaccination from being effective but the problem is that we do not know when those antibodies wear off – it is somewhere between 6 and 14 weeks. Vaccines given before the maternal antibodies wear off are not effective but if we wait too long then we risk having an unprotected puppy. The reason for multiple vaccinations is because we do not know which one will be effective, and we are trying to keep the puppy protected during that time.

I do not think it is smart to vaccinate for things that are not a real threat, and so based on my assessment of risk and the advice of my veterinarian, we vaccinate only for parvo and distemper (and rabies, as required by law). Due to the problems owners have in getting these single dose vaccines, I am going to order the parvo/distemper only combination recommended by Dr. Jean Dodds and send them home with the puppies to anyone whose vet does not stock this or the individual vaccinations. I do not recommend owners give the vaccinations themselves! The puppies need to be checked out and so the vets ought to be giving these injections.

The puppies will get their first vaccination a day or two before they leave us, and then at 3 – 4 week intervals. I delay rabies a long time – that is a tough vaccine for a puppy. After the initial puppy series, I am okay with either not doing the one-year booster (for parvo/distemper) or giving it at about 16 – 17 months; my own puppies do not get it. In fact, I do not vaccinate my adult dogs for anything except for rabies so once the puppy series is done they are not vaccinated. That said, my former Montana vet gave Cadi a parvo vaccination without my consent after her titer came back on the low side -- not cool. I also do not use heartworm medication because I live in a place where the risk is so low, but I do test them annually.

So that is the long answer to the question about the medication and vaccinations. I have learned that we are all happier if I am up front about my expectations and that way people whose own anxiety sends them to the vet on a regular basis can look elsewhere for a puppy. I do not want the puppies in homes where voodoo and hickory bark are the veterinary treatments of choice, but rather I am looking for sensible people who are willing to be more conservative and thoughtful in their approach to veterinary care.

I hope that addresses the questions -- thanks for asking.

1 comment:

  1. Mary-Ann

    Thanks for answering my questions. I have had several friends whose dogs had overdose problems with Flagyl. I use it very infrequently at my house and only one of my dogs has ever been on it.

    I agree with your vaccination ideas. My vet asks and I answer truthfully about what I feel is appropriate. My vet knows that my Greta who is almost 11 will never have another shot again - I made that decision 2-3 years ago... not even rabies. My Sheltie had an allergic reaction to his first rabies vaccine so I will for sure delay this with my next puppy.

    What do you do to deter fleas and ticks? How do you feel about the contraversial Lyme vaccine? I live in an area that has an extremely high rate of Lyme disease and a huge tick population: my husband has had it and my Greta had it to the point where she had to be carried to the vet. Because of the risks I am torn about this one and would love to hear other thoughts.


    Cindy M