Part 2: Unethical Breeders, Total Control by the State, and Vets Who Only Care About the Money
Reprinted by permission.
Names and locations have been changed to protect the author from prosecution and his/her pets from execution by the state.
After "Johnnie's" death, part of my grieving process involved searching for another breed of dog to fill that void that only a dog can fill, for me, at least. I had thought I would always have "this breed of dog" in my life, but after the experience with "Johnnie", I vowed I would never again own a dog that even had a hint of "that breed" in him, rather than take this heart-shredding risk again.
My "spouse", however, began searching for out-of-state breeders who would "guarantee" that their dogs did not have epilepsy. Guess what? He couldn't find one. Some admitted outright that their line contained the fatal gene. Others said that epilepsy was just one of those risks you had to assume. And these were for very expensive dogs. I would ask these breeders the same question I asked "Johnnie's" breeder when I found out that his mother and all his littermates had epilepsy, and that his uncle had been put down at a similar age under identical circumstances: Why the hell are you continuing to breed these dogs, knowing that they carry this gene? What is wrong with you? Have you no sense of ethics, no concept of right or wrong? No moral conscience? Do you love dogs, or do you just love the AKC Winner's Circle?
"A Certain Breed" caught my attention. Companions and sentinels, gentle with other creatures, non-aggressive, intelligent, independent-thinkers. Again, thank God for Google. And what was their fatal flaw? Renal dysplasia. Kidney failure. Calls to the two breeders listed by AKC in the area resulted in the same experience as calls to the other breeders. Well, one admitted it might possibly be in her line, just have to pay your money and take your chance. She said I was the first person to ever ask about renal dysplasia. The other never returned my call. I was beginning to despair of ever finding a truly responsible breeder. I know they're out there. Maybe dog genetics were so messed up by now that I would be better off to just take my chances with a mixed breed from the shelter.
But I finally came across a remarkable website, comprehensive in every way regarding "this certain breed" with particular attention to the issue of renal dysplasia. And her breeding program was also remarkable, in that she had cast aside the old paradigm of line breeding for a more zoological approach which mixed up the gene pool in a more naturally healthy way, instead of the incestuous approach that has been the model for decades, producing generations of increasingly unhealthy animals. And she was going to the trouble and expense of testing her dogs, and, imagine this! Not breeding the ones with that particular genetic anomaly. Long story short, I am now the owner/guardian of two beautiful, healthy "dogs of a certain breed" that I expect to be my special companions for many years. This woman and her partners are a true blessing to the whole canine kingdom. I pray God that more will follow her lead. That is, if they, and she, can afford to.
There is that dangling sword hanging over all our heads. Maybe more like a multi-pronged pitchfork. One of these is the extreme penalties that states and localities are enacting to enforce their extreme animal control measures, like those in my state. Using the stick, and not the carrot, approach to ensure compliance is showing the effect of unintended consequences in some areas. Honest, caring local breeders are quitting the business of breeding sound, healthy dogs because of the expense of complying with all these new animal regulations apparently designed to make dog ownership rare and expensive. I read recently that in California, where they have enacted laws requiring spay/neuter by four months of age and other (expensive to breeders) requirements designed to reduce the kill rate in the shelters, that they are seeing more and more pitiful puppy mill dogs bearing serious diseases being smuggled in from Mexico. Smugglers and puppy millers don't pay the huge breeder's fees and comply with the strict regulations imposed by the State. They just stuff 'em in a box and drive across the border. Unsuspecting dog lovers who fall in love and don't ask questions get taken every time, first by the puppy mill smugglers, then by expensive veterinary care. And Municipalities still have to deal with a never-ending influx of sick dogs that still fill the shelters to capacity. Everyone loses.
The other serious issue facing all dog owners is the increasing expense of Vet care. The Veterinary Profession has, from my point of view, abandoned the idea of being healers of animals and taken up the Clarion call of the HMO and Big Pharma, following the lead of the MD's who are supposed to be advocates for and healers of humankind. One vet that had originally seen "my dog who suffered AIHA" , and had dared to suggest to me that her problem was indeed caused by the vaccinations she had received, that dogs were probably being over-vaccinated, and advised that she never receive any more injections, moved from a private practice to a VCA Animal Care facility. The next time I saw him, his tune had changed completely and he was singing the party line of "drugs for everything, and everything treated with drugs, tests and more drugs." And Science Diet, of course. He writes a column for the local newspaper, which has become a no-holds barred advertisement for the VCA. In this morning's newspaper, a woman asked his advice about her 14-year-old cat, who had been coughing daily, but now was coughing numerous times a day. His recommendation to her was that she had a very serious problem on her hands, and if she didn't act fast, her precious boy would be dead. His answer was full of guilt directed at her, if she didn't do the following: "Your cat needs an exam, lab profile, stool evaluation, EKG, and chest X-rays. A heartworm test is essential-many feline cases get overlooked. If nothing conclusive is found, an endoscopic procedure can rule out diseases of the gastrointestinal tract; medications are likely to help, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or cough suppressants; Aerocat inhaler. You need to get him help soon."
Poor lady. She loves her cat. I hope she has good credit or a big bank account.
This pretty much paralleled my "spouses" and my experience with our own
ex-Family Practice doc. He'd had a small private practice here in our very small, but growing town. Everyone went to him, trusted him, and he was quick to utilize less expensive remedies and "home cures" for most common maladies.
Then he moved into the City and joined an HMO practice. Had to, he said, couldn't afford the private malpractice insurance. Maybe so. But the next time we saw him, all he seemed to be concerned about were our cholesterol levels. Insisted that we be tested. Mumbled something about being "pushed" to prescribe a certain cholesterol-lowering drug de jour. Well, ended up we didn't need the drug and he seemed disappointed. That's the last of our hard-earned dollars he's getting, I can assure you of that. ( Since I've been "on my own" with my health care decisions, I've learned to be a wise consumer and ask how much something cost, and is it really necessary. And I'm still very much alive and kickin', folks, and I've dealt with some pretty serious health issues in the past few years. I'm learning to do the same with my pets.)
And that's how I feel about all these Vets I've encountered in the last couple of years. They all work for the State, the VCA, Big Pharma and maybe Purina. They certainly don't work for me and my dogs anymore. Where have all the healers gone?
Of the ten pages of listings for Veterinarians in my local yellow pages, for a city of two million, there are only three listings that suggest a different approach apart from allopathic care. One of these Vets who lists her practice as a western/eastern approach treated and ultimately euthanized "Johnnie". But we came to a parting of the ways over the issue of vaccinations.
When I adopted my new puppy, I had every intention of getting him his puppy shots and neutering him. Maybe even getting him micro-chipped. I just didn't intend on continuing his vaccinations after the first year, having been convicted that booster shots were not only NOT necessary, but more than likely very harmful in many ways. I'm not convinced that vaccinations do what they are supposed to do, anyway, but, just in case, I was willing to go that far. Until she suggested, no, demanded, that I have him tested for endocrine levels, since he was a purebred dog, and they tend to have "more imbalances". Then, she would start him (a twelve week old healthy puppy!) on a series of cortisone shots to bring him up to a level that she then felt we could safely start his vaccinations. What was all this going to cost? Well, the initial tests were $300.00. We'd need to repeat them several times, probably, and of course, there were the cortisone shots, and, finally, the vaccinations themselves. An afterthought in the financial scheme of things in this scenario. When I questioned her on the need for this, and for vaccinations in general, she became very testy and we ended the conversation by her telling me that a rabid bat could very well fly down my chimney and bite my dog as reason enough to vaccinate him at least every three years. Talk about reasoned risk assessment!
I spent the next week online and on the phone, trying to find another vet.
Google led me to a very compelling article by Dr. Dee Blanco, DVM, called "Vaccines - Are They Safe for Your Dog?" among many others that I copied and bookmarked for future reference. I called her and she agreed to a phone consultation; I paid her fee and told her my story.
After hearing that we didn't intend to show him, travel with him by air, take him to dog parks, doggie day-care or other events where he was legally required to be vaccinated, her advice was to not vaccinate him for anything, ever.
That's right. She told me to write it down in big, capital letters: ESPECIALLY NO RABIES VACCINATION, EVER! She said I'd have to be a "momma bear" about it, if necessary. She explained that a dog is most susceptible to distemper and parvo in their early months, and if I could keep him healthy until he was at least six months old, and his adult immune system had a chance to fully develop, and I continued on with the excellent raw food diet I was feeding him, that he'd probably be fine, healthy and long-lived. Keep him away from exposure to sick dogs, i.e. vet clinics, especially. Dog parks, too, she said, were potential hazard zones for active viruses. Once he passes the one year mark, you've probably got it whipped. If he does get exposed to distemper or parvo as an adult with a fully functioning healthy immune system, he'll probably be able to fight it off just fine.
Her own dogs were unvaccinated and went everywhere with her.
OK, I said to her, and to myself. Oh, boy, here we go.
Read this article and you'll probably never get a dog vaccinated again: http://www.dogsadversereactions.com/scienceVaccineDamage.html
I was still losing sleep over this, but my heart and my gut felt like it was the right thing to do. I called another of the three vets I found in the yellow pages. I paid for another phone consultation. She gave me pretty much exactly the same advice as Dee Blanco did. I asked her if she wanted to see him, to check him out, make sure he's healthy.
She asked me a series of questions about him, and I answered "No" to each. She then said, "Why do I need to see him, then? People bring sick dogs to my office every day. There's no reason for a perfectly healthy puppy to come here and be exposed to pathogens." I liked her right away! She also told me that she was on her third generation of unvaccinated animals in her household, and they had all been exposed to who knows what, considering that she was a vet. She told me to keep on feeding him a natural, raw diet as an excellent first line of defense. Don't do anything stupid, but get him socialized as best you can. Call me right away if he exhibits any symptoms of ill health. Otherwise, I hope I never have to see you. Wow. Imagine that. A vet who doesn't send out yearly reminder cards! How does she make a living? On all those sick dogs who do get vaccinated every year!
I discussed with her the problem of getting him neutered, since I would have to take him to an allopathic veterinary facility to do so. But both she and Dr. Blanco kept saying, "IF you get him neutered". Well, I thought that neutering a male dog was good for the dog. Turns out, maybe not so much. Turns out "the number of health problems associated with spaying/neutering may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases." Read this notated article if you want the whole story: http://www2.dcn.org/orgs/ddtc/sfiles/LongTermHealthEffectsOfSpayNeuterInDogs.pdf
(Or just put the title of the article into Google: The Long Term Health Effects of Spay/Neuter in Dogs by Laura J. Sanborn).
On to micro-chipping. Neither holistic vet I consulted with recommended micro-chipping, and pointed me to a series of articles on line suggesting that implanted micro-chips can cause cancer in animals. The most compelling of these was Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer available online at http://www.louisville-pets.com/microship_cancer_study.html
So, here I am with an unvaccinated, intact, un-chipped little dog that eats a totally raw diet and is the picture of canine health. Re-reading these articles, writing this one and watching him at play has done much to alleviate if not eliminate entirely any "heartburn" I might have had over my decision. Now, all I have to do is avoid that Nazi dog catcher with the uniform, gun and attitude for the rest of my dog's life.
I want to add one last thing, one more dog story.
When I met my "spouse, he/she" had a dog who was five years old. Beautiful, wonderful, healthy dog. This dog lived to be 16 years old, and I'm convinced he would have lived longer had we not followed the vet's advice and started him on Science Diet, which he hated and refused to eat, instead of the leftovers and Gravy Train we had been feeding him.
For most of his life, this dog was much loved but "benignly neglected". We never got around to having him neutered. My spouse is pretty sure he had his puppy shots, but doesn't remember getting him any more after that. We moved around a lot back then, 13 times in 15 years, and I certainly don't remember getting him any shots during that period of time. He was never wormed, never checked for heartworm or lyme disease. We fed him lots of leftovers, lots of meaty bones, and he loved Gravy Train a la mode with, of all things, a little bacon grease and more leftovers. And fish. He loved trout. He had a great coat of hair, beautiful teeth and was never sick a day in his life until the very end. Would his story have been similar to the stories of my unfortunate dogs had we made sure and taken him to visit the vet every year? Hummmm. I wonder.