When my beloved Sheehan was about 5 years old, I moved to the countryside.
Now, I had always lived on the edge of the countryside and spent much of my time playing/hiking in the hills and walking by reservoirs and rivers. I knew the countryside code and stuck to it.
Up until then, Sheehan and Spike had always had their annual vaccinations and ate the best “complete” dog and cat food that I could afford for them.
One day, Sheehan developed a massive dry, flaky, white scab on her back and on the site of the scab, lost her hair, so I took her to see an old country vet. He told me to feed her raw mince and brown bread for a fortnight, he suggested that I might crack a raw egg in as well once or twice. He was very much against “complete” food because in its natural state, a dog wouldn’t eat a perfectly balanced diet. I told him about the fact that she ate grass on a daily basis but was never sick with it and he suggested that I give her “veggie ends” because in the wild, if she hunted a grazing beast, she would get all of the vitamins, minerals and fibre of the grass when she ripped out and ate its belly. He also told me to give her starve days every once in a while to clear her gut, after all, a wild dog/wolf doesn’t get to eat every day.
I was discussing this with an old “dog man” – sadly not a new species but a chap who works dogs – and he told me that he only has his dogs vaccinated for the first couple of years.
I took their advice and changed the way that I fed Sheehan and neither she nor Spike were vaccinated again.
I don’t actually know if annual boosters work like a flu jab where you get a bit of last year’s strain; I also don’t know if they are given live vaccines and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there but I do know that apart from breast cancer at 10 (benign tumours), Sheehan was a happy, healthy girl for almost 17 years. A Border Collie’s lifespan is 10 – 14 years with an average age of death at 12 years. Even in her last weeks, she was still walking 5 miles a day. Don’t get me wrong, when she was in her prime, I walked 10 miles a day and she would do about 30 because she was running back and forth as I walked, whereas in her last year, the 5 miles were broken into 3 walks and there was no running about but I know a lot of young, healthy (?), fit (??) dogs that don’t do that. Spike lived to be 21 and developed Chronic Kidney Disease in his last couple of years but that was controlled with medication and diet.
If the vaccinations are live, then surely our dogs, cats and bunnies build immunity that doesn’t need to be topped up.
I have recently learned about the Titre/Titer Test (pronounced TIGHT-er) where a blood sample is taken and can be tested for antibodies to things like parvovirus, distemper and rabies. It is my understanding that the vaccination for parvovirus should last for 7 years and distemper for 5 – 7 years but the vets that will actually do the test will recommend annual testing (it’s more expensive that vaccination – make what you will of that) and many people choose to est every 3 years.
I have also learned a lot about the health problems that cats can develop from eating grains but it is surprising how many cat food products out there still contain rice, wheat and maize.
Finding food without grain for Snowdrop, our new kitten, has been challenging; even the free sample of Royal Canin Paediatric biccies contained grain but Arden Grange (cheaper via Amazon subscribe and save with our other animal feed to make up the 15% discount) has only protein and potato so we’re onto a winner with that one. Wet food is more challenging for her as she seems to have a bit of an allergy to chicken – it gives her a very poorly tummy – and Mr PinQ discovered that even a food labelled as “salmon” was made from salmon, pollock and CHICKEN so we might be making her wet food ourselves.
One thing that I do know for sure is that I won’t be having the babies vaccinated annually.
They will get their primary vaccinations and then I will have to decide whether to test or top-up every 5-7 years. I will also continue to feed and exercise them as I have learned over the years