How to keep your dog healthy without vaccines

Written by By Anthony Victor

Anthony Victor is a veterinary technician

The number of healthcare providers in the U.S. is steadily increasing as demand for more care increases. The rising demand is driven by several factors such as aging populations and the rise of pet ownership.

When asked why our healthcare system hasn’t yet developed a treatment or vaccination for the approximately 350 million U.S. pets, Dr. Andrew Inge’s response comes as a surprise:

“Probably because they all share the same genes.”

Dr. Andrew Inge was speaking to me via Skype on the subject of pet immunization, a necessary public health check-up for healthy animals that helps keep them safe and healthy, but is often overlooked as a primary focus of healthcare.

More and more people are considering vaccinating their pets and this is all a good thing: against diseases like rabies and canine distemper and for prevention against other ailments. But many doctors, including Dr. Inge, have little experience when it comes to making diagnoses and treatments specifically for the pets they will treat.

The lack of adequate evidence exists in the medical literature and in clinical practice regarding the practice of veterinary immunization. Based on these findings, experts and people have come up with a critical recommendation: Veterinarians must become better trained in diagnosing and treating common problems, or they risk jeopardizing the public’s health.

So what can be done to improve the clinical knowledge base in veterinary immunization? A federally funded four-year study of more than 200 practice veterinarians across the U.S. was recently launched to answer this question.

When we help animals, we can’t fail

The studies will monitor veterinary practice and approach, developing evidence-based care plans that address dog health problems and associated diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination.

Over the next few years, the study will follow the many conditions that are common to healthy dogs and then compare the clinical outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated dogs for those conditions.

Results from this clinical study are expected in about four years. In the meantime, Dr. Inge has adopted a new approach to recommending vaccine for his patients, which he dubs the Pet-Manage-Your-Pets model:

“We are trying to build the medical community to help educate physicians to treat dogs by educating veterinary technicians. … I find that in my practice with the exact same dogs. Almost 99% of them are vaccinated because they have told me they are. I tell the vet tech I’m vaccinated too.”

If veterinarians are not educating their veterinary technicians, then the next step is to put vets on the spot. Dr. Inge advocates vaccinating all dogs whenever we can, and only vaccinating those dogs for contagious diseases when it’s critical to help keep our animal family member healthy.

It takes a team of professionals

To support practice veterinarians, nonprofit organizations like The Puppy and Cat Clinic Foundation are providing veterinary technicians with an “Animal I.D. Vest” for diagnosis and treatment of common and routine diseases. The organization enables technicians to perform free veterinary services and prevent unnecessary treatments with a serious downturn in preventive care.

In this way, care is provided by the people who are best suited to treat our pets — the veterinarians themselves. And if a veterinarian’s attention is stretched too thin, then when it comes to vaccinations, how can a technician jump into a vaccinate your pet the next day with any confidence?

Many people have tried their own solution by working at pet groomers, day care centers or even homeopathic veterinarians. But while these services are often useful, they can still result in routine preventative care that should not be ignored.

Pet owners who have successful veterinarian relationships will be thankful for any open-ended suggestion or service that can fill gaps between the veterinarian and pet.

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