NEWS

Redefining Success

Monday, October 5th, 2015

At a recent member forum we struggled to think of occasions where the AVA (Australian Veterinary Association) had been successful on an issue where there has been internal controversy.

Success often arises from compromise combined with choosing your battles wisely. Failure to do one or both of these things invariably results in conflict that may remain unresolved until we find a better way to communicate or understand each other.

Communication means having something in common which happens in communities and conversation can be a good way to start the ball rolling.

imagesThe AVA is our veterinary community.

Conversation begins with a shared experience or story says ideas man Mark Strom, the facilitator at the PanPacific Animal Welfare Forum at the AVA National Conference in May this year.

It will only continue through respectful listening and response and there will not always be agreement or accord. There will also be different views on what constitutes a good conversation depending on our individual personalities and style of relating.

Those who thrive on robust, vigorous debate and disagreement, for example, may choose to engage in politics and use their skills to flex their mental acumen, brow beat opponents or hammer opinions. I understand those who have these talents actually enjoy this way of relating to each other.  On the other hand, more sensitive individuals may prefer conciliatory approaches to disagreements and find rigorous heated debates traumatizing or unrewarding. These are two extremes and I suggest we all fit or fluctuate somewhere along this ego spectrum.

Similarly, as Veterinarians, albeit with a common profession and common concern for the welfare of animals, we have a spectrum of differences, which is what helps to make our organization strong.BN13150_1

This strength is potentially eroded when the really big ‘ambitious’ projects are up for discussion because we forget or cannot access our commonality, or find there may actually be no meeting point,  no willingness to compromise or simply no agreement to disagree. Occasionally it may be that we really seem to be talking completely different languages from each other, which makes communication very difficult if there are limits to comprehension. It is also true that issues will assume degrees of importance to different people and final outcomes of decisions on topics of universal relevance can often be disappointing.

I have learned that life is largely made up of compromises.Unknown-1

We have ideals and we make compromises.

Veterinarians do not compromise on animal welfare but our definition of what comprises animal welfare in the modern world  often requires exploring, discussing and contemplating from a wider global and cross cultural perspective.

Perhaps there cannot really be an ideal or attainable definition of a perfect scenario in any animal welfare issue we undertake but I suggest that we all know what comprises an unacceptable treatment of animals. This could be a starting point for building optimum welfare practices since it is a point of common agreement in Australian culture. In countries and cultures where safety and human rights are violated it is sadly beyond our control to expect our views to be upheld and now that we live in a global economy, we probably need to redefine the true scope of our influence or authority.

Already we can see why the live animal trade is fraught with peril.262849-110716-cattle

Many great minds and experts have been contemplating this national issue for a long time. Given that we cannot expect to be able to regulate the actions of all parties involved in live export we can do our best to uphold Australian standards of animal welfare, in my own opinion, simply by stopping live animal exports.

Recent events have proved that this is not actually ‘simple’ in any regard apart from  philosophical. There will need to be infrastructural support to help both the animals and the economy until this new culture of no live export is established. A whole other conversation may then ensue in which veterinarians will need to be content to have a smaller part as economists, engineers, corporations and politicians implement this ideal. But we will have done our part and we can be satisfied.

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Veterinarians do not have to save the world they just have to advocate for animal welfare and we have an expanding evidence base from which to make informed decisions in this regard.

Animal Activism has grown in communities across the globe in response to the expanded awareness that we as humans are developing for the spiritual nature of all living things. From a spiritual perspective animals do have rights but as pawns in human life they forfeit many of these and their lives to our own needs or desires, food, work, sport, companionship, clothing and the like. From a spiritual perspective animals also have a role in the service to mankind that is often not acknowledged or appreciated in activism. Similarly, not all advocates for animal rights are activists, so once again the terminology trips us up in our efforts to communicate adequately. We have another ‘spectrum’ to contend with from fundamentalism and activism to advocacy, depending once again on our personal attributes and way of being.

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Animals communicate with us through heart power and not mind power and when we harness this capacity in ourselves we may find that it is a most rewarding and effective means to avoid conflict. I felt that this was part of the message that Mark Strom was trying to impart in the PanPacific forum. He was trying to get us to recognize that we can operate from a higher intelligence or purpose. Wisdom is not an intellectual capacity. Wisdom, unlike truth, cannot be learned but is attained by aspiration and time. Once attained it helps our mind to make the right decisions and choices.

ChaleI became a vet because I wanted to serve animals, little realizing at the time that that would mean dealing largely with people. I never described myself as an animal lover but I certainly do love animals with an ever increasing awareness of what that really means. A large part of my life is now devoted to studying and practicing meditation and bringing this awareness openly into my veterinary practice so I can speak from experience about the spiritual aspects of animal welfare.

 

This may not solve the ambitious problems we encounter in the AVA but it helps me enormously to deal personally with issues in the AVA where there is internal conflict or controversy. The key for me has been to redefine success.

 

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Develop heart-power.
Why?
Because the power of the mind
Has now become obsolete.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 60, Agni Press, 1984

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The mind thinks it has
Tremendous wisdom.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 37, Agni Press, 2004

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I choose steady progress
Over speedy success.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 29, Agni Press, 2002

 

 

Preventing Suicide

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

 

The veterinary profession is concerned that veterinarians currently have the highest rate of suicide amongst professionals. It is a record that nobody wants to have.

It is a terrible statistic and talk must be aimed at preventing these situations from arising by identifying contributory factors and providing access to effective personal development tools. Suicide is a grisly subject which we often tend to avoid. Fortunately many of us have recently started publishing information that may prove helpful in identifying ways to reduce this alarming trend.

Suicide arises from an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mind and we are certainly people who think a lot and worry about things. Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) has been introduced to veterinary curriculum in Canada and this is a progressive initiative that should be encouraged here and elsewhere as a grassroots initiative for teaching vets how to calm their minds and control their emotions towards better mental health and happiness. Medical practitioners in Australia have been been using this program for some time so there will be a strong body of data developing to draw upon.

Dentists mostly stopped using mercury a while ago which, in my opinion, has largely contributed to lowering the suicide rate in their profession, so we need to consider what may be lacking or contributing to despair in our own profession.

images-2People generally like veterinarians, we like animals and we usually love our jobs. So far it appears that our workplace stresses play a significant role in destabilizing our mental health. Factors such as geographical and professional isolation, difficult cases or clients and long hours may contribute to making us feel overwhelmed or helpless. Our qualifications and training unfortunately can then readily provide the means to an end. There are bound to be personal issues or other health problems in those who take their own lives, so any effective solution will most certainly need to be holistic.

 

As a profession we really must open candid discussions as soon as possible focused on exploring ways to detect those most at risk, providing preventative measures like MBSR and meditation and finding ways to better support our colleagues.

 

Suicide must never be an option.

 

I personally know three men who have taken their own lives over the years. One was in my graduating class, one the year before and one the year before that.

Sadly they are but three of hundreds as we lose one vet every twelve weeks.

One of these guys introduced me to the Registrar of the Faculty and was instrumental in me getting accepted into vet school, one was a good friend at college and the other was a classmate. Two of these men were especially vivacious, outgoing and popular and had seemingly no difficulty in relating to others but they still became statistics that has left me feeling saddened that they did not find the help they needed at the time. I would not want to see this happen to anyone else, which is why I am trying now to offer my personal experience.

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There is one thing that can be said that can provide a solid foundation of protection if it is wholly embodied and totally believed. Plus we all have to hear it often and repeat it with conviction so that it becomes permanently ingrained in our culture.

 

Suicide is not ever an escape from anything.

 

Getting close to fully realising this takes time, guidance and practice combined with the opportunity to access reliable knowledge that can be very hard to find. I recommend starting immediately and early.

Like all parents, I worry about both of my young adult children. Apparently I have reason to be more concerned than others because statistically my son is in a high risk category. If not for my personal belief system and deep knowledge that has also been imparted to him in his formative years I would have more concern. Because I meditate and because he and I have great communication I feel grateful and as secure as possible that he knows that suicide is not an option and not ever an escape. He not only knows it, he firmly believes it so that when he is very low he seeks other diversions, incentives and assistance to overcome his treacherous mind and emotions.

 

I am not naive enough to believe that I can tell anybody about what goes on in their own heads or lives but there is a something I know that should be shared. That is that there is not ever really an escape, even in death and we must find the courage and strength to persist and persevere even in our darkest moments.

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In embracing a spiritual path I, like many others, have learned to access a deeper, calmer part of myself that I can draw upon during times of stress and difficulty. This provides a solid foundation and self affirmation that helps me weather the stormy days on the battlefield of life. This includes an increasing awareness that we exist for the purpose of fulfilling our soul’s potential. Our soul is birthless and deathless and we must continue to strive over and over again through multiple lifetimes to firstly become aware of this and then to embrace it as our only true purpose for existing.

 

Following this philosophy, which is also why I assist animals to a natural death and do not perform euthanasia, I am fully and totally aware that suicide is no escape. In fact, suicide sets you back much further than you can imagine after having worked so hard to attain your progress to that point. It is not only no escape but also a guarantee that next time around will be worse. This is the mantra that keeps people like my son and me forging ahead and bettering our lives. It totally prevents us considering that in this society of avoidance that life can be avoided. Sadly we now live in a culture of such avoidance and suppression that this is an increasingly difficult task without the help of meditation or yogic practice.

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People of faith may go so far as to say that we live in a Godless society. To some extent this is true as we have been moving away from organized religions and congregations for many years in western societies and churches are being turned into offices and bed and breakfasts. But religion and spirituality are not the same things. Religion provides a structured framework and community and spirituality is personal, individual and sacred. Some of us need both but all of us need a spiritual perspective sooner or later.

 

The lack of a spiritual perspective to life makes every little thing that bit harder to deal with.

 

I acknowledge that most Christian religions do not teach or validate reincarnation but my realization is that it exists as surely as evolution follows creation. We have become unnecessarily confused and disenchanted by refusing to listen to our deeper innate intelligence and it is taking a tragic toll.

This prevailing dearth of ignorance fuelled by overactive minds prevents us from feeling really good about ourselves most of the time until we rediscover our purpose. I suspect that my three friends did not know that their soul was in charge and I know that they certainly, sadly and tragically did not listen to it.

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Opening discussions or providing access to meditative practices could be a tool for saving some of these lives. The Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon has recognised this possibility and has been incorporating mindfulness into the veterinary curriculum for personal development of students as they prepare to enter the veterinary workforce. This teaches veterinary students and veterinarians, ways to better manage thoughts and emotions and quiet the mind. A quiet mind paves the way for a more peaceful life and helps us to better manage stressful situations.


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I do believe that it is a failure of our society to not acknowledge that we are spiritual beings having a human life and that however hard, lonely, depressing or desperate this life may seem at times, how we feel, think or behave is only a small part of who we truly are. In ending our life in suicide, true meditation teaches us that we are not escaping anything at all and that if we do take our own life that we will have relive it all over again from an even greater handicap.

Apart from the loss of my friends this is the main reason for my anger. I am angry that we don’t all know this and that it fails to keep us all safe from suicide. Understanding that anger is not a constructive emotion it gives way eventually to compassion. This is a better position from which we can then more effectively communicate and search for solutions.

I do not pretend to know what went wrong with my three colleagues and countless others who face what they perceived to be insurmountable despair.

Nor do I pretend to understand how this tragedy has affected those closest to them, but I do firmly believe that if we can tell people that suicide is not the answer and make them really believe it before they get to that point that some lives may be spared.

 

Each of us will have our own ideas and beliefs but I am fully convinced that if we can offer people the opportunity to study meditation and spirituality then they may come to understand and accept that suicide is not ever the answer to their overwhelming distress. Ultimately each of us is responsible for preserving our own life. We can understand ourselves better and love ourselves more if we meditate regularly.

 

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Even if you can’t believe or accept anything I’ve said here, if this approach saves only one person’s life, if it helps one person to find a way forward, the effort is worth all the criticism.

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God has His fixed Hour
For us to depart.
He does not provide us
With an emergency exit.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 33, Agni Press, 2003

Never Commit Suicide

Never commit suicide, never commit suicide.
No place in hell to hide, no place in hell to hide.

Sri Chinmoy, Enthusiasm, part 2

91 My Physical Death …

My physical death
Is not the end of my life —
I am an eternal journey.

Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 52, Agni Press, 2007

 

What about Worms?

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

What is the common sense truth about intestinal parasites in dogs and cats in Australia?

Ask yourselves, where do my animals get worms from and what are the effects of using chemicals on my pets and the environment.

Do I need to worry about these things?

This posting arises from queries I field on a daily basis from pet owners wanting to know whether they need to use monthly worming preparations in their cats and dogs.

The short answer is no.

Most products on the market are not going to worry most pets but increasingly I receive reports of animals that get stomach upsets, vomiting and diarrhoea on a periodical basis that coincides with giving monthly tablets or spot on products. There have been reports recently about the onset of aggression in dogs after using certain topical flea products that I feel have some validity and ought to be investigated. Fortunately most of these problems are often shortlived and self limiting but we also need to consider what repeated unnecessary dosing does to them, the environment and to us. Plus, more to the point and in my opinion, they don’t really need it.

Being unable to answer all calls I will outline here what most people want to know and what many vets may have forgotten about endoparasites in cats and dogs.

The key to understanding these issues is knowledge of the lifecycles of the parasites in question and an assessment of individual risk. There are many excellent online references that describe these parasites in detail but they don’t necessarily help you to assess the actual risk to your particular pet.

 

Roundworm

These are the worms you will most commonly see in puppies and kittens. Roundworms are large worms that can cause serious disease and even death in susceptible, juvenile animals. Eggs ingested from these worms can also cause disease in humans if proper sanitary habits such as hand washing after handling young animals are not observed. In humans these parasites can encyst in organs like the eye and do not mature to adult intestinal worms. These problems occur in unsanitary households and with shared dog/human feeding bowls and practices.images-4

Roundworms are parasites that are dormant in the mother animals’ tissues and cross the placenta before birth of the puppies and via milk in newborn kittens.

The larvae mature after migrating through liver and lungs into large worms inside the intestines and these can kill small animals if the burden is heavy. Fortunately this rarely happens to an alarming extent unless the animals are undernourished, neglected or otherwise compromised by serious environmental parasite contamination. These animals will be coughing, ill thrifty, pot bellied, sorry looking kittens and puppies.

It is very important therefore to guard against roundworm infestation in young animals by using piperazine or another chemical of choice to treat dams and progeny post whelping/queening and fortnightly for a few weeks for optimum results.

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It is good practice to continue this monthly to six months of age or beyond. Animals that are older than six months develop resistance to roundworm and it is very rarely a problem in adult animals for two reasons; low exposure risk, unless in a breeding establishment and resistance to the parasite.

Tapeworm

The next most common parasite in Victoria in cats and dogs and the most common endoparasite in adult animals is tapeworm.There are two main types of tapeworm in dogs and one in cats.

The most serious is hydatid tapeworm in dogs. The incidence of this disease in Australia is now, fortunately, very low owing to a nationwide education and eradication program in the eighties. This disease also only occurs in dogs that are ingesting raw organs from infested sheep or rabbits that themselves have eaten eggs in the environment from dog faeces. It is a dog/sheep cycle and rabbits and humans and other species (wildlife) can also develop severe cystic disease from ingesting infected dog faeces. This is a disease that anyone living with sheep and feeding sheep offal or fresh wild rabbits to dogs may need to worry about and the rest of us do not. Freezing rabbits or sheep offal before feeding them to dogs will address this problem.

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The other tapeworm is more common but less problematic and infests cats and dogs that ingest fleas. Good flea control minimizes this risk. The flea tapeworm is not usually harmful and is easy to see in the faeces of dogs and cats

Hookworm

This parasite occurs in tropical areas of north Australia and is acquired by ingestion of larvae from the environment, skin penetration or via colostrum in suckling puppies. It also has an organ migratory phase and causes anaemia. It can be quite a dangerous disease left untreated in puppies and kittens.images-6

It does not occur in the colder southern areas of Australia but is quite problematic in northern dog communities. The larvae that emerge from infested puppy or kitten faeces can also penetrate human skin and cause skin disease in people. It is easily controlled along with roundworm by adhering to strict hygiene, like picking up after young animals that defecate in the environment. Like many other worms, resistance develops in older animals.

Whipworm

This parasite has a simple soil to animal lifecycle and occurs by ingesting encapsulated eggs in soil. It occurs Australia wide but uncommonly causes severe disease as it is easily identified as a problem. In areas of heavy soil contamination this can be a serious disease owing to it’s persistence and difficulty of eradication.

It can be indicated by the mucousy, bloody or yellow frothy diarrhoea it produces. A faecal examination will reveal whipworm if present.

You will definitely know if your animal has whipworm as colitis symptoms will recur and you may need to use regular prevention if the property is contaminated.

Heartworm

This is a parasite that has successfully established itself if cooler climates of Australia after having been largely a tropical disease.

It is transmitted via bite from a mosquito  that has bitten an infested dog. It can only be transmitted in this manner and only a couple of mosquito species of the many hundreds are capable of transmission.

This reduces the risk of infestation quite considerably, coupled with the fact that it is a very slow disease to develop with many opportunities for the lifecycle to be arrested in robustly healthy dogs or diagnosed early and treated with the range of products now available.

You can check what the prevalence of heartworm is in your area of Australia by visiting disease watchdog

The incidence of heartworm is almost non existent in most regions these days largely because many animals have been taking preventatives for over twenty years and the reservoir of infestation has largely disappeared. Many areas of Australia have never even had a case of heartworm diagnosed.

Lungworm

This worm is a potential problem for cats that hunt and eat birds, rodents and snails that may carry this parasite if they themselves have picked up eggs from cat faeces. Coughing cats should be examined for possible lungworm infestation and moxidectin can treat this disease. It is not common and can be treated or prevented in susceptible cats. Your veterinarian can help determine if this is necessary.

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Parasitology was well taught to veterinary undergraduates at Melbourne University in my day and whilst the emphasis was on production animals there was thorough information given about all parasites affecting all domestic species in Australia.

I wonder what Drs Rickard and Arundel, amongst others, are thinking nowadays about the apparent lack of regard in general veterinary practice for the fact that dogs and cats should not ever need ongoing monthly worming treatments with ivermectins, selamectins, moxidectins and their various derivatives. There is an abundance of convenience products available these days that arose originally from the market for monthly heartworm preventatives twenty years ago.

The best thing about these new products is that they can act as treatments as well as preventatives and using them once or twice a year can be a good and practical alternative to using them every month.

We used to be quite concerned about anthelmintic resistance and how we could best preserve efficacy of intestinal worming treatments in food animals by rotating the chemicals to reduce the emergence of resistant strains. Whilst it is accepted that production animals will always have a low level of parasitism it is kept to a healthy minimum by these and other sensible, management practices. In contrast, our domestic pets, cats and dogs and to a lesser extent birds and exotics have always been considered to be most healthy with a zero parasite burden. Parasites occupy a niche in the natural world and arguably cannot be totally eliminated. A healthy balance is what is needed.

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In fact, most cats and dogs generally do have a near zero parasite burden depending on where they live and how they are fed and yet we are still encouraged to religiously administer the once a month chemical cocktails that we would never consider taking ourselves.

Convenience rules our world.

After nearly thirty years of feeding these monthly to our dogs, the heartworm and other parasite incidence has understandably declined but who really knows what the environmental impact on soil ecology, our households, our pets or other organisms may ultimately be.

It is no secret that animals that are fed raw meaty bones and evolutionary diets are more likely to have robust immune systems especially if these animals are not vaccinated every year nor subjected to repeated chemical products.

This innate repulsion of parasites is aided by the addition of things like garlic, tumeric, ginger and leafy greens to the diet. Pomegranate is also a vermifuge, as is pumpkin, amongst other foods.images-8

It must also be emphasized that veterinarians have always being trying to offer the best advice for the general population but the types of commercial products being offered to us now are more complicated and generic than before. There are no single animals that are prone to all of these parasites. A frustrating thing about being a veterinarian these days is that the single ingredient compounds that target specific parasites are almost impossible to find in favour of the ubiquitous, broad spectrum. This makes it more difficult to appropriately target single cases of risk and why many of us are choosing to use naturopathic medicines and sensible practices that are individualized.

 

Nevertheless, all veterinarians have had the training to understand the lifecycles and risk factors of animal parasites and your own individual circumstances. The best thing to do is to ask them whether they think that you need to give these monthly products to your animals every month and why.

 

Otitis……’ere what did you say?

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Dogs and cats have extremely sensitive ears both to noise and physical stimuli owing to the fact that their pinnae are so much larger by ratio to the human. This, combined with the fact that hearing in these animals is a primary sense next to that of smell, highlights the importance of maintaining optimal aural health in our companions.

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Hearing is a sense that has been valued and preserved in dogs since our co-evolution over thousands of years. Over recent years however, this attribute has been less highly regarded in dogs and generally underutilized. In contrast to days of old when dogs were rewarded for alerting humans to impending danger, they are now more often chastised for being noisy and persistent in their alarm attempts. Proper training and a sense of reward can assist dogs to adapt to the fact that we may need this service less than we used to long ago but it is still genetically encoded in most dogs.

 

Since dogs have been living in human families throughout our history and have been by our side during the rapid societal changes that we have all endured, the surviving breeds have adapted to modern life. Like children in verbally abusive environments they have also learned to not listen. This is directly against their genetic priming. Like children who develop otitis media as a response to the stress of not wanting to listen, it is possible that the canine ‘children’ adopt similar defence mechanisms.images-2

Using the human parallel again, it is well acknowledged that children suffer eustachan tube underdevelopment and catarrhal otitis media, necessitating the trend to gromit surgery in chidren of recent years….the ‘tonsilectomy’ of the 90’s. Looking at this holistically, it is also possible that brachycephalic dog breeds that are being selected for larger heads and shorter necks and snouts could suffer the same physiological pressure on their ear canals as do newborn humans. I have fewer behavioural problem barking cases in my practice relating to an underutilized guarding instinct in brachycephalics, for example, that I do in normocephalic working dog breeds. Brachy dogs may have adapted already to largely ‘switching off’ that canine acuteness of hearing.

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Apart from all of this is the dearth in recent times of otitis externa cases in dogs and much less in cats. Although this is a disease of the ear canal and pinna it is primarily a skin disease. Approaching this holistically, the skin is an outlet for all disease in the body. The changes that occur in the skin and coat of cats and dogs reflect the underlying health status of the animal. Irrespective of where the primary disease symptoms occur they are expressed in the skin unless they are suppressed or treated appropriately. This is a primary reason why holistic vets do not recommend suppressing the expression of disease through the skin but rather seek to support the animal to enhance its ability to cure itself through enhancing immune mechanisms amongst other things. All symptoms are an attempt to cure and when we suppress these, cure becomes much more difficult to attain.

Recently I have also noticed that dogs or cats with dental disease and underlying infection in the ear/nose/throat, will have persistent itchy ears and this is not surprising. It is likely that inflammation in the head from any cause will create a cascade or flow on effect to other organs in the vicinity so I advise that animals with persistent ear problems have their teeth thoroughly examined by a veterinary dentist especially if there is gingivitis or tartar buildup.

Understanding the reason for disease symptoms helps to address an appropriate treatment plan and unfortunately there have been some tendencies such as the ones to which I have already alluded, that predispose certain breeds to particular problems. Holistic vets have always been able to see deeper reasons for disease but until recently have had difficulty proving or demonstrating this past their own successful practice experiences. I am very excited about the latest trend towards the study and ensuing research in epigenetics in animals and the role that nutrition and environment play in activating genes in certain individuals. I am compiling a list of diseases that I see in practice and the epigenetic triggers I believe could be investigated in the future. In the meantime I am content to continue to further pursue and broaden my knowledge through private practice experience.

 

What is normal?

One of the difficulties in helping animals to cure is the perception of normality.

Wax is normal. Dirt in the wax is normal. Normal, healthy ears are largely self maintaining, do not require routine cleaning and only need washing when they are struggling to cope with an overload of discharge or debris as part of a treatment plan. Checking them routinely is a good practice but removing the wax on a regular basis predisposes to further problems.

Like humans, a normal baby animal smells sweet and beautiful even if you don’t especially like them or the smell. It is an inoffensive smell that changes with maturity and the cascade of hormonal and dietary and behavioural changes that inevitably occur throughout their lives.

They do not need bathing to attain or maintain this smell unless they are unwell and this can be the first sign they may exhibit of being so. People who don’t like how they smell normally may perhaps seriously question whether they should live with a dog. Brushing and grooming assists a natural balance of oils and stimulation to the skin to continue to preserve good health. Overbathing removes or alters this innate balance of skin pH, commensal (good protective) bacteria and oils rendering the skin susceptible to attack from irritants and allergens. In contrast to this, a person who is aware that a change of smell or excessive shedding of hair may indicate a problem (not necessarily a bath!) will have a better chance of addressing an imbalance before it becomes an entrenched or intractable disease pattern.

An animal’s diet also needs to be carefully and thoroughly reconsidered, especially if symptoms of skin disease arise as an early warning that the animal is under duress.

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To summarise this article;

 

Otitis externa is a skin disease

Suppressing symptoms will not cure the disease

Optimal treatment plans assist the body to heal itself with supportive care

Attempt to understand what is normal

Feeding an appropriate diet will minimize inflammation

Holistic (Integrative) Veterinary Medicine optimises treatment options.

 

 

A little EBM on the side.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

I have been finding it more difficult lately to continue to practice in an environment that creates conflict and confusion to the wonderful people who seek my advice as clients to my vet practice. Consultations can become counseling sessions due to the shift in understanding that occurs and the challenges that can arise in an already emotional situation with sick animals.

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The life of a holistic vet has always been difficult because we have needed to have the courage and resilience to face criticism from many corners for the perception that we are ‘troublemakers’. What we are, in fact, is a group of professional veterinarians looking for the best way we can to understand and treat disease in animals. If our discoveries and successes lead us to better understand concepts that are considered contrary to conventional thinking then we may find ourselves being somewhat tortured by difficulties of communication and comprehension.

We were all given the same opportunity to learn veterinary medicine and many of us branched into specializations. Holistic medicine is a specialization and the discoveries that we make are invaluable contributions to the future of medicine. Unfortunately we are not regarded as specialists in our field by our colleagues who still do not think to ask our advice about CAVM.  Animal owners themselves are seeking us out with increasing frequency as they search for answers to perplexing disease situations or are frustrated by escalating and chronic conditions afflicting their pets.

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Speaking personally, my veterinary training provided me with an invaluable opportunity and environment in which to learn to learn. Vet school provides a comprehensive foundation in animal anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and medicine. There were opportunities to learn and practice surgery and all of this was built upon a solid foundation of evidence based scientific practices such as physics and chemistry.

‘Evidence based medicine’ (EBM) itself, however, is a misleading term that was adopted by sceptics to discredit medicine, especially complementary and alternative medicine.

In actual fact evidence based medicine is not even taught at all to clinicians in the strictest sense because it is a term that was coined by epidemiologists and academics to distinguish their laboratory practices from clinical practices.

By it’s very definition and from it’s inception EBM is divisive and misleading.image0044

That does not mean that our veterinary training has no evidence base. Evidence is gleaned from years of experience and knowledge, training and research and all veterinarians practice medicine that has an evidence base. You may begin to see how this term has been misused, appropriated and has become somewhat meaningless despite the emphasis placed upon it by those striving to drive conflict using the firm assertion that there is a difference. There is not.

With the rise in interest in holistic complementary and natural medicine over recent times there has been too much conflict in and around this issue that has not served any of us well.images-11

This vet story however was not intended to be a discourse on EBM. I originally intended to introduce some of the reasons for why we are vilified for holistic practice apart from the confusion over terminology.

I will speak personally once again because I cannot assume that my colleagues agree with my assertions. I have decided to be blunt and forthright in these assertions because the messages are very important and simple.

The vast majority, if not all, diagnoses involving terms like “immune mediated”or idiopathic are the result of epigenetic fallout from years of vaccinations, bad diets and suppressive treatments.

Suppressive treatments include all products with the term ‘anti’. Anti means against. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, antacids, antiemetics all have a place in disease management but never in cure. We have now moved beyond the anti to the full blown immunosuppressive, past cortisone to deeper levels of suppression. Must we be against everything?

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From these short statements alone it is not difficult to see why I may be considered a ‘troublemaker’ but I am solely concerned with discovering the truth and providing the best treatments for animals. There are many other postings on this site pertaining to best practice such as the feeding of evolutionary diets since ‘we are all what we eat’. Nutrition has a fundamental role in optimal health and in preventing epigenetic triggers to disease.

Real and healthy food does not ever come in packets or tins.

I am certain that in the next few years there will be an increase in interest and research into epigenetics that will shed some light on and bring solutions for these problems but in the meantime holistic vets have real answers and treatments available for chronically ill animals.

As we progress towards unraveling the mysteries of the genome, after the discovery of the genetic code over sixty years ago, we perhaps ought to consider that there have always been those amongst us who have put their innate, genomic knowledge and wisdom to best use.

 

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The outer courage sees the right way.

The inner courage does the right thing.

 Sri Chinmoy

 

 

CAVM

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

 

Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) is a term used to denote veterinary medicine and techniques that are currently not taught in veterinary schools in Australia. CAVM is integrated into regular veterinary practice by Integrative Veterinarians or used as a stand alone discipline by veterinarians trained in acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy amongst others.

 

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I have begun writing posts about the importance of veterinary involvement in animal natural medicine because Veterinarians are the only animal health professionals who are trained adequately to diagnose and treat animals with disease. CAVM affords a wider base from which to draw these treatments under professional veterinary supervision and there is an increasing number of veterinarians taking an interest in studying these alternative medicines.Webcow

The majority of people seeking CAVM for their animals often have some experience or knowledge of these medicines themselves but it is also becoming a popular option for others who are running out of choices for the treatment of chronic animal disease.

Many new products and supplements have risen to popularity in recent times from the useof CAVM. Herbs have been a common adjunct to large animal feeds for many years as a result of understanding the benefits of such things as rosehip and milk thistle for health restoration. Small animals are similarly obtaining benefit from the addition of glucosamine, chondroitin or green lipped mussel products to commercial pet foods in recent times for joint disease. Fatty acids and essential oils like fish and flaxseed or sunflower have gained increasing popularity for skin disease management for example.

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Over time the benefits or side effects of these nutrients also becomes better known and an evidence base is accumulated through case studies in an industry that does not invest much in research. Recently, for example, I have started to wonder whether the addition of green lipped mussel or pernease to dog and cat foods may be implicated in some seizure activity or predisposition to muscle tremors and epilepsy since it contains high levels of copper, made higher by concentration in supplements. This is the kind of information that integrative vets use to evaluate the efficacy of natural medicines and ensure that people get the best available advice for pet health. Organisations of holistic vets from around the world collaborate their case studies and independent research so that all practitioners benefit from shared knowledge and experience in CAVM.

Integrative veterinarians utilise a holistic approach to thinking about each case of animal disease and many natural medicines feature in treatment programs. Appropriate diets are an absolutely essential part of optimum health maintenance.  and chewing is a major factor in strengthening immunity of cats and dogs. images

Most integrative vets who employ homeopathy and herbal medicine also employ physical therapies that help to reset the brain axis and homeostasis. Holistic vets assist animals to heal themselves by restoring mechanisms that are weakened by many factors including stress, grief and environmental influences.

These physical therapies include, but are not restricted to, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic/biomechanical medicine, Bowen, Orthobionomy, Myofascial and trigger point therapy and massage. None of these are taught in veterinary schools in Australia but can be invaluable healing tools in trained hands. It should also be noted that in untrained hands these techniques are not advised, as they can be harmful and used in isolation can also delay or prevent adequate diagnosis and proper treatment options.

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Holistic and Integrative Veterinarians can be located in most states of Australia and anyone seeking CAVM for their pets or animals should ask their regular veterinarian for referral or visit Integrative Veterinarians Australia website directory.

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Truth does not
Challenge anybody.

Sri Chinmoy

 Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 31

Holistic Animal Medicine

Friday, June 27th, 2014

This posting arises from the concerns that I have had for quite some time about people not being able to access the best service and advice about the health needs of their beloved pets and animals, with regard to complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM).

The Australian veterinary profession has been too slow to respond to the rapid rise in popularity of natural animal medicine and holistic animal medicine over many years. This has afforded many individuals the opportunity to fill a much needed gap in the provision of natural animal health services and has created a bit of a black hole for animal disease diagnosis and treatment.

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There are many, far too many, websites and companies providing  holistic animal medicines to the public without any veterinary knowledge or proper training in animal health. This also means without qualifications to diagnose and treat animal disease properly, ethically and legally. This does not mean however that animal naturopaths and homeopaths are not trained or experienced, just that they are not registered veterinarians with accountability to a regulatory body that ensures that the best interests of the public and the animals is upheld as a priority over sales.pig

As a concerned and often desperate animal owner, it is true that it can be hard to find the right advice and treatments. Often your regular veterinarian will not know about natural, holistic or alternative medicines but it is imperative that any supplements or medicines or natural health products that you choose to administer to your pets is safe, effective and appropriate. Website testimonials are not a safeguard against this issue.

For example, it is not ever advisable to give animals multiple medicines simultaneously and this includes medicines or remedies that are comprised of multiple ingredients. I am seriously alarmed by the types of medicines being sold to animal owners via internet sales that are not prescribed for the individual animal and contain numerous components when single ingredient homeopathy is best practice. It is also not necessary to continue medicating beyond clinical response and many people will continue to purchase and use medicines far beyond what is necessary for optimal health.

Homeopathy and holistic animal medicine is founded upon the premise that practitioners treat individuals.This means that medicines are prescribed for the individual and not just for the diagnosis or the disease.

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I used to spend a lot of my professional time detoxifying and re educating animals that have been overly medicated, albeit by very well meaning and loving owners who have purchased medicines over the internet without proper personalised veterinary advice. Fortunately more and more animal owners are aware that veterinary options exist to direct them towards safe and effective natural animal health practices.Sabrina There are many veterinarians who provide a range of CAVM including naturopathy, homeopathy and holistic animal medicine. In Australia these can be found through Integrative Veterinarians Australia.

The foundation of holistic animal medicine is individualised treatment programs. These are not ever provided sufficiently or exclusively through internet sales and marketing. Furthermore, anyone who is looking for the best natural medicine treatments for their beloved pets would want to visit a qualified veterinarian who can then refer them to a holistic vet for CAVM.

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Feline Cystitis or FLUTD

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

As we approach the shortest day of the year Downunder, I am reminded to elaborate on a common problem that recurs in susceptible cats at this time of the year, cystitis or feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

The majority of cystitis in cats is a behavioural disease that is triggered by the stress of increasing and decreasing daylight and the effect this has on the feline brain.

It is actually a disease that almost certainly would not occur in these cats if they were intact and sexually active since the problem is displaced or suppressed mating behaviour.

With no reproductive outlet for behaviour these cats manifest physical disease in the urinary tract secondarily to stimulus to the pineal gland in the cat’s brain. As the pineal registers and responds to changes in daylight hours, the mating reflex is triggered, irrespective of the absence of gonads. The brain is the largest sex organ in mammals and it causes many diseases by mixed messages and faulty feedback to other organs.

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Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) has been around for as long as I have been practicing veterinary medicine and there are other causes for this ubiquitous disease including such things as urinary tract infections, crystals in the urine and other behavioural stresses like moving the litter box or the presence of a new cat in the house or yard. It has been managed by numerous interventions that go in and out of fashion over many years and range from cage rest, severe dietary restrictions or medications up to the more drastic ‘sex change’ operation we used to perform in male cats to prevent blockage by inflammatory debris or crystals. Understanding that the majority of these cases are now termed idiopathic, meaning that there is no identifiable or proven causation, most of them are cured by adjusting behavioural stressors and giving them raw meaty bones to chew to reduce stress and strengthen their vitality. Cooked grain based commercial diets potentiate inflammation even though one of the only proven treatments for FLUTD in recent times has been shown to be a prescription commercial diet.

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I used to wonder why many cats consistently re-presented with this disease midsummer and midwinter until I discovered the link to breeding season through my studies in homeopathy. Whilst blood in the urine and crystals are present in a number of cases these are generally secondary findings in a cat that has been behaving strangely and urinating inappropriately from stress. It has been shown that women who insist on visiting the toilet to empty their bladders before every concert, play or theatre performance whether they need to go or not, are more prone to behaviourally induced cystitis for the same reason. The inflammation (cystitis) is secondarily induced by the behaviour and is not the cause or primary factor in disease or discomfort.

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Cats, being creatures of ritual and routine, will not tolerate having their toilet habits disrupted by interlopers visiting their territory during ‘crazy season’ or  any other time for that matter. The short and long day effect however will bring even the most placid and easy- going cat into a risk zone for these obsessive behaviours that predispose to urinary bladder inflammation. There are very few people who do not panic when they see their cats passing drops of blood and straining to urinate. If the cat is a male cat there is sometimes cause for concern as we must determine if the bladder is full or empty. A blocked urethra in a cat is potentially life threatening.

There is still controversy over the effect of prepubertal desexing, especially castration, as a predisposing factor to urethral blockage in male cats. I have come to the conclusion after many years observation that it is an advantage to grow cats to full maturity before desexing them and there is evidence emerging now to support this practice even though it is not always practical to keep animals intact past puberty. Immature animals and those desexed early will have infantile genitalia resulting in smaller diameter urethra and a theoretically higher predisposition to blockage should inflammation occur in these individuals. This has not yet been proven with studies but other disadvantages have been recently demonstrated  including poorer endocrine functioning in animals desexed at an early age.

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From a therapeutic basis, there are many first aid homeopathic medicines that can instantly relieve the distress most FLUTD cats exhibit. By far the most important treatment is to limit the cats’ range of territory for a day or two by restricting access to the whole house or yard. This is best termed ‘cage rest’ and if you have a crate or similar enclosure large enough for a litter tray, a bed and a food and water bowl they will be well served. Blocking off a portion of a small room and enforcing compulsory rest by restricting usual daily activity achieves the same result. This gives the cat a space to de-stress and contrary to expectation, is very well tolerated and welcomed by all afflicted individuals. The most effective homeopathic medicines to have on hand include cantharis, apis, arnica and rescue remedy or emergency essence. These can be administered directly to the mouth or put in the drinking water if they are alcohol spray based preparations. In chronic, refractory or advanced cases a constitutional approach is also beneficial and will require a consultation with a veterinary naturopath or homeopath.

Any cat that is male must be properly examined to determine that the urinary bladder is emptying adequately and any cat that is unresponsive to the basis first aid described will need veterinary attention as soon as possible and further investigation.

 

It is reassuring to have some understanding of these problems so that we can continue to help domesticus Felis catus remain fearless and domesticated.

 

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Cat, my cat,
You cry for constant affection.
I have affection plus compassion.
Therefore
Stop crying,
Start smiling.
I tell you a supreme secret:
“I treasure your dependence.”

Sri Chinmoy, Animal Kingdom

 

 

“If you have even a cat or a dog or anything that is innocent and younger than you in spirit, in soul, then naturally it is your duty to help it, guide it, mould it.”

Sri Chinmoy

The meditation-world

 

 

What is Animal Naturopathy?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

The numbers of websites and businesses centering on providing natural animal health solutions has exploded in the last decade. I think this is primarily due to an increased awareness occurring in general. People have been using these natural health options for themselves for over forty years or more and the trend is increasing owing largely to the wide range of products and services available in a modern global economy. This is inevitably expanding into the animal health market.

Natural medicines are currently recognised as those that are not scheduled, or non-prescription medicines and most often comprise homeopathic remedies, herbs, nutraceuticals and supplements. Animal naturopathy is the study and practice of medical disciplines that provide these services to animals.

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Naturopathy comes under the umbrella of complementary and alternative medicine and as such has not been taught in medical or veterinary undergraduate degrees in Australia. There are, however, veterinarians who have taken a particular interest in natural healing techniques and who have studied these subjects extensively to augment their practice of veterinary medicine.

Parallel to the rise in popularity of natural medicine there is a rising concern within the conventional medical establishment about these disciplines.  The public needs to have a reliable source of accurate and safe information that, on the one hand allows for a certain degree of skepticism and caution, whilst on the other is open to new and existing safe and effective practices that have proven merit. Quality control in both the manufacture and delivery of these products is also of paramount importance.images-5 Veterinary naturopaths understand how to access quality and safe products from a plethora of products on today’s market.

In conventional veterinary practice, chronic disease is increasingly accepted as manageable rather than curable.

DownloadedFile-1.jpegNatural medicine comes under fire largely for its holistic approach and the challenge it poses to this accepted premise. Naturopaths and Homeopaths believe and demonstrate that chronic disease can, in fact, be curable and strive for this outcome in conjunction with all the best that conventional medicine has to offer. This is the basis of Integrative Medicine, a new and emerging area of holistic health that takes the best to be gleaned from all approaches to healing.

Integrative Medicine is the medicine of the future.

In the earliest days of veterinary endeavour, all practitioners were, in effect, animal naturopaths because modern pharmaceuticals and technologies had not been developed. These veterinarians were forced to use their own skills in medical prescribing, remedy formulation and healing.

I borrow a quote here from a veterinary pioneer, William Haycock 1852 ,

”I know well that few men, comparatively speaking can be put to a task more disagreeable to them than to be forced to think, and I know of no system of medicine which requires the tithe of thought which homeopathy does”.

We once relied solely upon our five or more senses in examining and treating animals and thought about a wide range of concomitant factors and whilst nobody will deny the benefits of modern technology in diagnostics, there are human skills that are equally invaluable and perhaps currently underutilized.

Naturopathy reminds us that the greatest healing tool is our own ability to discern what it is that needs to be cured and how best to apply medicines to attain this goal. Medicines in this context may be foods, homeopathic remedies, herbs, supplements or pharmaceuticals.

There is a growing number of training organisations teaching people how to develop skills in these areas. There are many concerns, however, that potentially arise out of this trend. The most important issue is quality and extent of training. The Veterinary Surgeons Act in each state of Australia defines the practice of examining and treating animals for disease as an act of veterinary science. This is because a symptom needs to be understood in context of entirety so that diseases are not misdiagnosed and proper treatments are not overlooked. A good example here would be that a vomiting dog or cat may not actually or simply have a  stomach upset.

Veterinarians have a legal obligation and are regulated through a statutory body for conduct and professionalism in their dealings with the public and the animals. Currently this requirement does not exist for non veterinary animal naturopaths and there is no regulation or registration required to practice animal naturopathy. Since veterinarians are the vanguard against emerging exotic and infectious diseases and champions of animal welfare, any other animal naturopath, regardless of their level of education, will need to work collaboratively with a veterinarian in order to ensure that the animal’s interests and welfare are fully represented. At present this is often the missing link in animal welfare and urgently needs to be addressed from both avenues.

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The range of quality products being offered as adjuncts to animal natural health is quite impressive but there is concern over the amount of, what I consider to be, unacceptable offerings on the internet. Without the proper training and experience of the practitioner and without some education of the owner, these perils are multiplied. I spend a lot of my professional time educating animal owners, to the best of my ability, about how to discern and how to select the right supplements and foods and to avoid purchasing nonprescribed medicines online. There are risks associated with using any medicines, natural or otherwise, for extended periods of time without proper monitoring.

We must all learn to differentiate  so that the best is not lost whilst the worst is not supported. This is partly why professional medical and veterinary organisations have vested interests in supporting their own members with experience and qualifications in these natural health practices through such groups as Integrative Veterinarians Australia.

All animal health practitioners have a responsibility to uphold animal welfare, to constantly challenge their own perceptions, update their professional skills and to recognise the limitations of their own practice. If we make this pledge, the animals and the public can be best served.

 

“We can arrive at perfection’s gate
Only when we work together
Lovingly, untiringly and selflessly.”

 Sri Chinmoy  6198

 Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 62

What about Vaccination?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Once upon a time a milkmaid in England demonstrated that the harmless cowpox sore she contracted from an infected cows udder protected her from contracting the devastating scourge of smallpox.

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So began the story of vaccination as we know it today.

Given that the original concept of vaccination or inoculation/immunisation, arose from the homeopathic principle that ‘like cures like’, it is ironic that some of the staunchest advocates for vaccine development and use in modern times are often those most opposed to the practice of homeopathy.  C’est la vie.

Unfortunately both vaccination and homeopathy continue to be subjects that raise heated discussion or argument in many circles on a chronically recurring basis, both in the academic and public arena. Vaccination is far from a black and white issue despite often being portrayed as such for the sake of a good argument.

In fact, I would suggest that ever since the practice of vaccination was introduced widely to society over two hundred years ago, there have been concerns about the safety and the necessity of the practice of introducing disease to prevent disease. We also need to consider that the majority of recipients of vaccines do not volunteer to have them.

Those opposed to the practice of vaccination are not necessarily against it outright but recognise the need for transparency and accountability in vaccination programs.  Recipients of vaccines have a right to access accurate information regarding the principles underpinning vaccination and those administering vaccines have a responsibility to acquire and disseminate accurate or complete information.

Whenever vaccination is mentioned these days, many defences may be raised in anticipation of challenge, confusion and conflict. This may partly arise from a lack of transparency in the industries that promote and sell vaccines as much as the frustration arising from the ignorance in the regulatory sectors that blindly embrace and enforce the practice. In the human world, more often that not, it arises simply from fear, ignorance and ego. Vaccination has, since its inception, been held to be the gold standard of disease prevention and this culture warrants scrutiny in a world that has outgrown blind faith in its medical system.

The vaccination debate is the hung parliament of healthcare, the dynamo on the wheel of life that keeps the eternal lantern of conflict alight; the reason we all keep pedalling for democracy. We need to know, and have a right to know, the truth about who really wants to implement vaccination programs and for what real purpose.

Whilst this posting may have been prompted by the current situation in NSW concerning the eligibility of children to attend schools or receive funding, if their parents choose to not vaccinate them, it is not the subject of this posting.

My business is to advise on animal health and provide information to those seeking answers to pet related health issues even if the issues are, in essence, identical.

I am not an immunologist nor am I an expert in medical research and cell biology. My interest in the immune system however, predates my decision to be a homeopath and can be traced back to veterinary school when our lectures in immunology were amongst the most wondrous I recall.

The immune system is the hero of life, the warrior and guardian of the organism. It is also the most innately intelligent force a living organism has in its service; sleepless, vigilant and alert to any threat. My job as a veterinarian is to preserve the immune system function of animals, as it is a far better ally than any other you can have as a health provider. I am an immune system advocate and the tools in my veterinary practice are for supporting this system to perform optimally.

What does this mean?

Essentially and simply it amounts to good and appropriate nutrition, a safe environment and reduced stress. These are by far the most important life saving measures we can take or provide. We may also choose to employ vaccination. As a well recognised and reliable foundation for many preventative disease situations in animal populations, vaccination can be quite effective.

Vaccination tricks the immune system into believing it is being attacked.

Most holistic vets advocate at least one vaccination against core diseases once an animal is old enough for the immune system to respond appropriately. In dogs and cats this is ideally after 4 months of age but we can get results in dogs at 10-12 weeks of age and this is often necessary for practical reasons. More vaccine does not equate to more protection if the first vaccine has been effective in stimulating a response. Any positive level of antibody titre or measurement arising from natural infection or vaccination in an adult animal is deemed protective.  A vaccine is highly unlikely to be protective however, if administered to cats and dogs under 8 weeks of age as maternally derived antibodies prevent the vaccine from working properly in the same way these antibodies prevent natural disease. Arguably vaccinating young animals actually weakens their immunity by diminishing the reserve of these passively acquired antibodies.  As a result, we ought to be advocating change or investigation into this established practice of early vaccination in pups and kittens.

imagesSimilarly, repeated vaccination repeatedly deceives the immune system into behaving as though it is under attack. Moreover this attack usually bypasses the natural route of infection of these diseases. A notable exception is the intranasal kennel cough vaccine in dogs, which more closely mimics natural exposure

Nevertheless, is there a point of immune exhaustion?  Do we create immune  confusion by being  repeatedly ‘tricking’ with vaccine?

Why in the face of real and serious threat like cancer or AIDS, does the immune system not always trust the authenticity of such challenges? Cancer is not usually considered to be virally or bacterially induced but the immune system responds to all threats or breaches in a similar way. It is a multifaceted, versatile and adaptable system that has a life long memory recall to threats it has previously encountered unless these prove to be the wolves in sheep’s clothing. This is also one reason why some viruses keep mutating because they recognise the capacity of a fully competent immune system to protect an organism and have developed their own way of successfully tricking it by changing their ‘clothes’. It is also likely that cancer has a few disguises that hide it and protect it from the immune system.

We further exploit the intelligence of the immune system by producing vaccines to non fatal diseases like canine cough and those of non viral aetiology. We have come to trust vaccines so much that the answer to any new threat is to make a vaccine. It is not surprising therefore that, amongst others, we now have a malignant melanoma vaccine for dogs and a tapeworm vaccine for sheep.

So now the question has to be, does vaccination ultimately strengthen or weaken the immune system, or do neither? It takes a lot of energy to produce antibodies and there are consequences of mounting an immune response whether the disease is real or not. These consequences could be considered adverse vaccination reactions if we looked closely enough.

For a vaccine to be effective there needs to be a reaction so it becomes a matter of definition as to what constitutes an adverse reaction. Does this need to be life threatening to be considered adverse or to warrant recording/reporting?

Commonly acknowledged reactions are fever, skin eruption, increased discharges. Less common reactions include blood dyscrasia, autoimmune anaemia, inflammation, thyroiditis(hypothyroidism), seizure behaviour, behaviour change. What may an owner consider as adverse? Would an ensuing chronic sterile vaginitis or chronic otitis externa be recognised as an adverse vaccination reaction by most veterinarians and would any veterinarian consider that these may occur months after vaccination? Has the animals immune system been overly challenged and may it therefore be confused or exhausted?

Vaccination programs have arguably played an integral role in curbing disease outbreaks of highly contagious viral diseases in virgin populations. A judicious vaccination program was considered paramount in the eradication of Equine Influenza in Australia in 2007 by limiting the reservoir of natural infection in ‘at risk’ host populations.  The containment of disease through restrictions on the movement of horses at risk was also an essential factor in the success of eradicating this non fatal but highly commercially devastating disease. Herd immunity needs to approach or exceed 75% before a population is ‘protected’ from epidemic disease. This is the essential reason for veterinarians insisting that all animals be vaccinated. The current (2015) recommendation (WSAVA, small animals) is that every animal be vaccinated (cats and dogs) and that each individual animal be vaccinated less often. Titre testing is the preferred measure of protection and repeated unnecessary vaccination is fortunately diminishing.

 

Titre testing is a proven, evidence based means of assessing the immune status of vaccinated animals and prevents unnecessary re-vaccination.

 

Once a new disease surfaces as did the fatal parvovirus in dogs in Australia in the late 70’s, and Hendra virus in horses recently, a vaccine program is devised. Dogs having been already exposed to the parvovirus either died or recovered and those recovered held immunity. This immunity whether naturally or artificially acquired can be passed on to the next generation for a short duration in puppyhood. Our Australian canines had a significant lead upon the vaccine manufacturers as they valiantly stood at the front line of parvovirus and went down in droves. Those surviving became the stalwarts of herd immunity until the vaccine arrived on the market many months later to swoop in to claim the victory already underway.  Statistics and history in these events repeatedly demonstrate a decline in population infection and morbidity rates already mounted by immunologically stronger individuals prior to the arrival of reinforcements in glass vials.

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It is impossible and impractical to prime the immune system with every disease threat so we choose a few to vaccinate against, based upon the environmental need.  Unfortunately once a new one is added to the list it is usually added to the batch and we tend to end up overusing multivalent vaccines with the injection of up to five or six diseases per animal per procedure. Is it likely in nature that an animal would be exposed to six fatal or compromising diseases simultaneously?

There is a need for monovalent vaccine manufacture so that veterinarians can select specific single diseases to vaccinate against.  The fewer viral components per vaccine the better. The difficult questions still prevail around the need for repeated and blanket vaccination protocols. Is there a risk that repeated false warnings in the form of vaccination cause unnecessary stress and chronic fatigue to a highly sensitive and intelligent system or individual?  Could chronic disease actually be an immune mediated confusion or overload?

What is the most common preface or adjective to describe most medical diagnoses in modern times? Would it happen to be immune mediated……..something or other?

Would the treatment happen to require immunosuppressive medications or has the immune system already given up the good fight and resigned in total exhaustion?

Does vaccinosis exist?

Are many chronic diseases actually iatrogenic?

Who really knows? More importantly, all of us should probably endeavour to find out.

Discovery often involves thinking or looking outside of the box or challenging and  re-evaluating conventional practices so that better ones can be adopted.

so cute!