Saturday, February 1, 2014

On Vaccinations

Going to a vaccine clinic is a simple activity.  For some people.  For me and Molly, not so much.  Not only is it a new thing for me to get my dog vaccinated for rabies at a clinic (more on that later), but walking into a cramped pet store that is standing room only crowded with the general public and their dogs is not something that you would be catching me doing with Molly, of all my dogs.  I have had Molly for about four and a half years.  Molly and I have worked on her reactivity, frustration tolerance issues and general manners since that day.  It has been an uphill battle, with many backslides (see: our agility trial three weeks ago.)

I have been fortunate above fortunate with Molly, she is not dog aggressive.  She is not even dog intolerant.  She is simply a very very rude greeter, and does not hesitate to scream, bark and gurgle when she does not get what she wants right now.  And while she is simply venting her frustration in a very embarrassing way, the image that she is displaying is probably more than a little heart stopping for somebody that doesn't know her.

Molly meets her "mini me", Jack!

I loaded up on treats and string cheese and we went inside to the registration desk.  We had arrived half an hour early and we were already Customer Number #20.  We waited over an hour inside of that pet store with people and dogs bumping against us, dogs sniffing Molly in her face, neck and side (and once or twice, the butt.  This is Molly's 100% no-tolerance zone.)  Molly tolerated all sniffing well, and simply pivoted her rear end away from the dogs who sniffed it.  When we first got there she was a little vocal, but it was very controlled and it was not her usual lurching scream fest.  All she did was stand still and do her "donkey howl" until some poor soul standing in line felt bad for her and came over to pet her.

No, Molly's transformation has not happened overnight.  And it's not like Molly hasn't been in close quarters with other dogs at training classes and agility trials.  We have gone to pet stores through the years.  But we were at the store for so long and Molly was absolutely bomb proof and I am so so proud of her.  But sometimes you just have those, "Wow.  This dog." moments and today was one of them.
Molly was still Molly.  She whipped her head around if she heard a dog squabble break out, or a package of treats crinkled.  She tried to shop lift a pig ear.  (I bought it for her.)  But it seems like just yesterday I was in the basement of a different pet store with a teenage dog that I couldn't control.  A dog who was barking and screaming at her classmates and sometimes literally pulling me right off of my feet.  And I had a trainer telling me to teach her the word "Focus", and that meant that Molly would stop what she was doing and look at me.  And I thought that this was laughable.  It was insane.  My dog can't even hear me let alone forget what she is barking at and look at me.  Until one day, I am here at this pet store.  This day my dog is still naughty, but this day I say "Focus" to her and she stops staring at that muzzled german shepherd who just growled at somebody and she whips her head to me and sits down.  You called?  And then you type this and you have tears of respect and love in your eyes for this dog, who has taught you so much and who tries so hard for you.

Whew.  Self control is exhausting!
I chose to have a rabies vaccine only.  Good for three years.  I also had Molly's microchip scanned, so that we can apply for a life time dog license (instead of buying one every year.  That's annoying.)  Molly's chip has migrated into her left shoulder.  The tech who scanned her told me that she has seen one that migrated into a dog's lip!

I have always taken my dogs to be vaccinated at my vet.  I have always had them loaded up with whatever the little postcard that came to my mailbox instructed me to.  But I have been reading a lot about vaccinations and I don't like what I am reading.  (And when I say that I have been reading about this, I mean on the internet.  My favorite information source is this blog post from the Angry Vets.)  

None of my dogs has ever, not even once, had a reaction to a vaccination.  However, I have never been in a car accident either.  That doesn't mean that either thing couldn't happen.  Just that it hasn't happened yet.  I have always refused the flu shot for the dogs.  I have gotten the leptospirosis and lyme vaccines because of how much time we spend in the woods.  The bordatella because they are around other dogs.  But from what I am reading, these vaccines provide spotty immunity at best (after all, Perri got Lyme disease after she was vaccinated.)  And it makes me uncomfortable to continue vaccinating my dogs and risking reactions when the vaccines are in reality not helping them that much anyway.   Rabies is required by law and is terrifying, so of course the dogs will still get that shot.  That leaves vaccinating against parvo/adenovirus/distemper.  The thing is, once a dog finishes her puppy shots, she is immune for life.  Revaccinating is unnecessary since the dog is already immune.  It really troubles me that vets continue to require this vaccination being done throughout the course of a dog's life.

This was a big step for me, but I feel very strongly that it is the Right Step.  It was a hard step to make.  People who don't vaccinate are Irresponsible Pet Owners.  But...are they?  Is it responsible to load a dog down with vaccinations and chemicals that may not even afford any benefit to him at all?  Is it responsible to continue vaccinating a dog for a disease that she is already immune to?  In human medicine the famous phrase is "Do No Harm."  We do not vaccinate children into their late childhood and teenage years.  We do not vaccinate ourselves yearly as adults. (except for the flu - and I have Very Strong Feelings about the flu shot.)
It is a lot to think about.  It means that I may never be able to adopt an animal from a rescue again.  It means that I may need to find a new vet who is willing to admit that certain life long vaccines are unnecessary.  A vet that would still be willing to perform a tooth cleaning or surgery on one of my animals even though she has not received a flu shot.  But the most important thing to me is that it means my dogs are a whole lot less at risk of a terrifying reaction to a vaccine, it means they are safer.  Isn't that the whole point anyway?

1 comment:

  1. I'm leaning toward titers for my guys in the future. With fosters coming and going constantly, I really do want to make sure they're protected against the deadlies (parvo, rabies, and distemper); if they're not, then I'll decide what to do then.

    But yeah I'm ditching the annual vaccine schedule here too, and although I've vaccinated against lepto and Lyme in the past for similar reasons, I decided a couple of years ago that I wasn't going to be doing that anymore either.

    I still feel Very Strongly that it's important to get the basic vaccinations in place -- I've seen way too many puppies die horrible, easily preventable deaths from stuff their owners could/should have avoided with a $5 shot -- but I also feel like the pendulum's swung too far in the other direction for a lot of pets in our area.