Monthly Archives: August 2013

Shifting the Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle

Things Are Not Always as They Seem

Sparky's swollen lips: cancer

When Sparky’s lips started swelling on the left side of his face, his concerned owners thought he was probably stung by an insect.  Who wouldn’t?  Dogs will be dogs…  Both lips were getting bright red and puffy.  He was taken to their veterinarian, and Dr. WhiteCoat gave the most favored combination of drugs in any conventional practice:

Antibiotics and steroids. [Kill all bacteria!  Stop all inflammation!]  Sigh.

Sparky’s lips got better.

But then they swelled again.

More drugs, he was better.  The drugs stopped, and Sparky got worse again.  Damn.  This can’t go on, we’re getting nowhere.

Finally, a biopsy revealed something no one had guessed: this was cancer.

Whoa.  What’s going on here??

Come into My Lab-OR-atory, Bwahahaha haaa!

Sparky, like many of his cohorts in the animal kingdom who are owned by humans, had been part of a vast science experiment that has been going on for generations.  Finally, at 13 years of age, the consequences were coming home to roost, and they were serious.  Life threatening, in fact.

Homeopaths have associated runaway tissue growth with vaccinations since Jenner’s day, when cowpox was being injected into people in the hope of preventing smallpox.  We see it today most clearly in the cat, where it’s actually named Feline Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma, or VAS.  No scientist questions this: it is caused by the vaccines.  End of story.  It’s malignant and the cat dies from it.

This vast science experiment has been the overuse of vaccinations in animals for the last three decades, and Sparky is now a victim of this greed driven practice.  The immunologists have made it clear for over twenty years that repeatedly vaccinating animals is both unnecessary and doesn’t work.

We are seeing animals coming down with chronic, “old animal diseases” at a younger age than ever before, as this experiment continues year on year.  Examples I’ve seen in over 30 years of practice include arthritis, hypothyroidism, and even cancer.

Human health is seeing a similar decline, as children are now being seen in larger numbers with usually adult diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and joint pain.  Their experiment is only somewhat different from the animal version, in that societal advertising and standards of nutrition have slid precipitously closer to junk food being the most affordable and desirable food on the planet.

Well, maybe kids and dogs are not so different.  Sparky was being fed Science Diet, aka “expensive junk food” (do some label detective work if you have any doubts about that).

Our Hero Enters, Stage Left

Enter a knight in shining armor: the precautionary principle.  In simple terms, we’ve used this principle for years, in the form of “be careful out there,” and “look before you leap.”  In medicine, it’s “First, Do No Harm.

It was elegantly stated in a world wide conference that took place in my hometown of Racine, Wisconsin in January of 1998.

In summary, the precautionary principle is this:

“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”

Just slip “or animal health” in there, and you’ve got a very sound principle to follow in your pursuit of achieving your vital animal, the one who avoids getting sick even in her latter years and shines with lustrous health and balanced energy till her time on the planet is up.

An elegant statement of one of the tenets of this principle is made by writer Peter Montague:

“The burden of proof of harmlessness of a new technology, process, activity, or chemical lies with the proponents, not with the general public.”

Vaccinators: Belly Up to the Precautionary Principal Bar

So, Dr. WhiteCoat, you want to continue these vaccinations in my animal beyond 6-12 months of age?  You want to do this annually?  Prove to me there’s efficacy and safety in that, and I’ll put my animal on the table.  No proof, you just cap that needle, give him his physical exam, and we’ll be on our way.

What an empowering stance!  Why should you, as an animal owner, bear the burden of disproving a health recommendation?  Your vet, doctor, neighborhood chemical manufacturing company, and nuclear waste dumper needs to be the one to prove that the activity benefits and does not harm your dog, cat, neighborhood, or planet.

Easy Words of Precaution

If you feel too shy to take Dr. WhiteCoat to task on this, here’s a simple phrase you can use, and one I’d practice regularly before going in for any veterinary visit:

  • “I’m going to think about this, but not act on it today.  I’ll get back to you if I decide I want this done.”

This will always be an acceptable exit strategy for any routine procedure, in a non-life threatening situation like an annual exam.

If you’re braver, you might add,

  • “Please outline for me the risks vs benefits of this procedure, and why you feel it’s in my animal’s best interests.”

Don’t Wait: Prevent the Damage That Conventional “Prevention” Can Cause!

Sparky is under my homeopathic care now, and is getting high doses of transfer factor.  We’ve got our fingers crossed that we can “wake up his reactionary forces” to fight this cancer.

Over on Facebook, a reader saw the effects of a vaccination causing runaway allergic itching:

“I must thank you for another fact I learned through this.  My English Setter has awful allergies and does take allergy shots and has been doing great.  All of a sudden her allergies went crazy and I was trying to pinpoint what happened, now I know, she had her yearly shots.  I discovered this while reading your material and I have my answer.”

I replied, “What was the timing between vaccinations and crazy allergies?  I often see it in 3-4 weeks…”

Linda’s reply, “She had shots end of April, by end of May,  I was seeing the signs of problems and has not gotten better only worse.  I have been frantic trying to figure out what had happened…  The yearly shots are the only thing that has happened.  I kept thinking, she was fine when I took her for her checkup.”


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Happy Tails! – TRUDY

“Look at what I look like now, and my heart worms are gone, too!

I’m a real good girl for my mom.”

Hi Mary and everybody who works there.  We love our little girl — she is such a sweetie!  She has learned a lot of things in a very short time, and every kid on our street loves her.   🙂


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Happy Tails! – MAGGIE (pka Bandit)


We adopted Bandit in May.  We renamed her Maggie.  She’s an absolute sweetheart!   She is best friends with her sister, Sassy.  They are  inseparable.  The kids adore her and she is a perfect addition to our family!

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Happy Tails! – OLIVER (pka Doolittle)

Doolittle is now Oliver.  He is doing awesome!
We feed our dogs raw meat, so I believe he’s gained about 8 to 10 pounds.  He looks full now.
He is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had.  We took him with us to the Frio River, but he was scared of the water.  Our other dogs are finally getting more adapted to Oliver.  I think he is very happy.
He gets in bed with us until he falls to sleep, and then we put him in his little bed next to the other dogs in our bedroom.
We are a happy family! 🙂

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Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus (parvo) is a highly contagious viral disease that is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs under 6 months of age.  It first appeared in the late 1970s, and is one of the most frequent serious dog disease problems encountered in animal shelters.  It is reported in coyotes, foxes and wolves and probably affects most, if not all, members of the canine family.  Puppies are the most susceptible, and their clinical signs are worsened by concurrent infections with roundworms, other internal intestinal parasites, protozoa (such as Coccidia), viruses or bacteria.  Adult dogs can also be affected.

Click here for information on Diagnosing and Treating Parvovirus in the Shelter.
Click here for Tips for Preventing and Managing Parvovirus in the Shelter.
Download our Canine Parvovirus Sample Protocol PDF

In general, if aggressive therapy is initiated early in the course of the disease, the prognosis for puppies to recover can be excellent, although fatalities do occur.  However, the mortality rate for puppies in shelters can be much higher because many shelters cannot diagnose, isolate or treat the cases.  As for adult dogs, many become infected but never actually show clinical signs of disease.  Rottweilers, Dobermans, pit bulls, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers seem to be at higher risk for the disease.

What Causes Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is very stable in the environment and very resistant to most disinfectants.  It can persist in organic material in the environment for over one year.  Another member of this virus family is responsible for causing panleukopenia, more commonly known as distemper, in cats.  (This feline parvovirus was present before the strain that affects dogs appeared.  In fact, the first vaccination efforts to control canine parvo were made using feline panleukopenia vaccines.)

Different strains of parvovirus have evolved over the years since it was first discovered in dogs in 1978.  The current strains infecting dogs in the United States are CPV-2b and CPV-2c, which also can cause illness and have been isolated from cats.  In the shelter it is essential to separate dogs from cats, as cats can not only develop illness but also act as a reservoir causing further disease in dogs.

How Parvovirus Is Transmitted

Parvo disease is spread from dog to dog mainly through exposure to contaminated feces.  It is also spread through contact with fomites (contaminated objects).  Common fomites include hands, instruments, clothing, food and water dishes, toys and bedding.  Insects and rodents can also provide a means for disease spread.  The virus can remain on a dog’s hair coat and serve as a means of transmission long after recovery from clinical disease.  The incubation period, or period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms, is usually 4-6 days.  Because the disease may be difficult for the shelter to detect during the incubation period, apparently healthy animals with parvo may be adopted out only to become ill a few days later in their new home, causing heartache for the shelter staff and the new owners.

It is very important to know the shedding pattern of parvovirus in order to design an effective management, diagnostic and prevention strategy.  Parvovirus can be shed in the feces 3-4 days after infection with the virus, which is generally before clinical signs of illness appear.  The virus will also be shed in the feces for approximately 10-14 days post-recovery from clinical signs of infection.

Clinical Signs of Parvovirus

Parvovirus affects the digestive system and the heart.  The signs can vary widely:

  • There can be sub-clinical infection with no signs or mild signs of lethargy and appetite loss lasting for only one or two days
  • The most common clinical symptoms shelters see are varying degrees of vomiting, foul-smelling diarrhea that can be very bloody, loss of appetite, fever, weakness, depression and dehydration
  • Affected puppies are also very leukopenic, meaning they have too few white blood cells
  • The heart symptoms are rarely seen today and usually occur in puppies infected in utero or during the neonatal period, but they can cause sudden death without other signs, sudden death weeks to months after apparent recovery from other parvo signs, or sudden onset of symptoms of congestive heart failure in puppies under 6 months of age

– Lila Miller, DVM, is Vice President of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach

View Our Interactive Parvo Timeline

Click the image below to launch the interactive timeline

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A Promise of Love to the End

Kendra Roberson Maroney's photo.

Even though my patience runs thin some days, I have to remember I made a promise to him 15.5 years ago.  I promised to love him his whole life; till the very end even if that means Kerry and I feel like we have a newborn baby to take care of all night.  I love him even when he pees puddles in my kitchen because he doesn’t realize he’s not outside.  I love him when he poops on the way to the back door because he can’t hold it.  

Love is when I hold the water bowl for him because his body won’t let him reach down to drink without falling over.  Love is forever; till the last minute.  You don’t get to break your promise when you have a baby or when you move houses.  It’s not when they get big and aren’t a cute puppy anymore.  It’s not when they chew up your shoes or dig holes in your backyard.  It’s not when they aren’t potty trained as quickly as you like.  Or when they jump all over people because you haven’t trained them.  It’s not when they get to be 10 years old and you’re tired of them or when they get sick and you don’t want to pay the vet.  Or when you aren’t a responsible owner and they get heart worms and you don’t want to pay for the treatments.  Or because they weren’t spayed you don’t want to deal with a litter of puppies.

 I know the list can go on and on (especially those who work at the HS and City of Animal Services).  I’m sure they’ve heard every excuse out there.  Just remember when you get that puppy or kitten, you’ve made a promise.  You promise to love them their whole life because they will love you completely till the end.

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Our disposable, instant gratification society – what is the toll on dogs?

In the not so distant past, people worked for the things that they bought.  They saved, purchased what they needed and then held onto that item for a considerable length of time.

Today, our society has evolved into an instant gratification, everything is disposable, group of individuals.  To what cost?  So many people seem to feel that they deserve to have something if they want it.

And if they get something, many do not see the value in that “something” …. if it breaks, throw it away.  If it goes out of fashion, throw it away.  If it becomes a hassle or boring…throw it away.

Sadly, it seems as if pets have fallen victim to this sad way of thinking.  Individuals want a pet (dog or cat), so rather than thinking of the full implications of owning that pet (time, money, owning for the duration of that pet’s life), they just get that pet that they think they deserve.

For some people, dogs have become fashion symbols… there are many that consider the purse or “pocket” dogs to be chic and hip.  But when the fad passes, too many dogs are dumped.

Then there are the individuals who have decided that a pair of unaltered pets equates to quick cash – hit Craigslist every few months with “puppies for sale” and someone pockets easy cash…. quick, easy money with no thought to the true cost.

No consideration for the thousands of dogs dying in shelters – “I deserve this money, it’s easy, I’m going to do it” seems to prevail instead of compassion and common sense.

Many individuals have dogs that get hurt or sick – it’s easier and cheaper to dump them at the shelter than to pay a veterinarian to “fix” them. Disposable society.  Broken?   Throw it away…..

This instant gratification, disposable society is taking a toll.  Everyday I see the urgent postings.  I see the pleas to save lives.  Everyday I see a rescue begging for foster homes because there are dogs that NEED to come into the safety of a foster home.

Every day I see a posting on Facebook – a face of a senior dog, or of an infant puppy with a rescue volunteer’s sad comment “How could they? How could their owner dump them here?”

Every week I get an email from a volunteer – the email has a long list of dogs and it is “urgent” that they be pulled because they are on the dreaded kill list.  The volunteer goes on to state that the “shelter is slammed with 50+ incoming dogs a day”.

Think about that number… FIFTY DOGS A DAY?!   At ONE shelter.

Years ago, there were shelters that picked up strays and took in the occasional dog from an ill or deceased owner.  Today they are taking in the cast-offs from breeders that have dogs past the age of producing.  They take in the puppies that didn’t sell on Craigslist.  They take in the hundreds of dogs that people don’t want to take the time to work with.

Dogs are surrendered for the simplest (silliest) of reasons. “Got too big”, “Sheds too much”, “I don’t have enough time”, “Moving”… the list goes on and on.  Can you imagine what would happen if parents could dump their children when they were too difficult??

Think about that statement.  Consider if those same excuses were applied to children.  Takes too much time… too expensive to raise, unruly, too loud, harder to raise than I thought it would be (my kids have satisfied all of these…where’s

Can you imagine if there were state agencies to take in the cast-offs in the same way that animals are allowed to be turned over?  If people were allowed to be non-committed to this extreme to their human children?

Society would be in chaos.

Somehow, someway, society needs to realize that owning a dog is a privilege, not a right.  Just because you want a dog, does not mean that you are fit to own a dog.  Just because Fifi looks cute in your hot pink purse does not mean that you MUST have Fifi.

Not sure if you are ready and capable of owning a dog?  Foster for a rescue first.  You’ll help a dog in need AND you will see what dog ownership entails.  You’ll see firsthand what it’s like to have dog hair in the house.  What it takes to keep a dog happy and healthy.  It may be short-term, but fostering offers valuable insight.

And society needs to realize that if they made that commitment to own a dog, an actual commitment must be made.  If that dog gets hurt or sick, take care of that injury or sickness.  If it’s a struggle to handle the needs of your dog as the years go by, deal with it.  Figure it out.

Just as parenting can be a struggle, so can dog ownership.  You make accomodations in your life to make the things of value work.

Everyone needs to work together to help educate our society’s youth.  Teach the children that dogs are living creatures with feelings.  Teach the children that dogs are to be valued and respected. Educate children about the importance of altering family pets.

The changes have to start somewhere….

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It’s free and anonymous.  Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing this article with others. – Penny Eims

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