Are you over-vaccinating your pet?

Hello Happy Fluffers!

Today I'm going to talk about the issue of over-vaccination, its implications, and how you can prevent over-vaccination. I learnt about this from Dr. Karen Becker, and this knowledge came in handy recently as I got a call from the vet reminding me that Happy's re-vaccination was "due". 

Instead of taking Happy to the vet for re-vaccination, I decided to heed Dr. Karen's advice and first do a test to see if re-vaccination was necessary. As you all know, Happy is sensitive to chemicals; hence I was worried over-vaccination might negatively affect him. 

So what was this test I did? A Titer (pronounced Tight-er) test.

What exactly is a Titer test?

Well, the Titer test is a blood test that specifically measures the existence and levels of antibodies to diseases. For our canine companions, that would mean measuring their antibody levels against the Distemper virus and the Parvo virus — viruses for which ANNUAL vaccinations are normally administered (without regards for pre-existing antibodies!).

What I wanted to find out was Happy's levels of antibodies against those viruses. And if they were still in the healthy range from his vaccination a year ago. After all, if the test showed that it was in the positive range, it would indicate that he was still protected against the viruses. And that additional vaccination wouldn't be necessary or effective.

Worse yet, I found out that over-vaccination could lead to deadly vaccine reactions and lifelong chronic illnesses... including autoimmune diseases and cancer.

Leading veterinary immunology researcher Dr. Ronald D Schultz says that vaccinating annually is actually an extremely high-risk procedure and proved that the procedure does not make furry friends any more "immune" from the diseases. His research showed that with one round of core vaccines (which dogs get as puppies), most dogs will be protected for many years (sometimes even for life).

So you can understand how I didn't want to put Happy at risk — especially since he has never reacted well to many products — be it food, repellants or even grooming products. Chemical preservatives seem to be the common culprit in each instance he had breakouts, and they're found in vaccines too!

Think about it... we ourselves as humans are commonly vaccinated against measles, hepatitis, and rubella as children. And exactly how many of us get re-vaccinated again to prevent them? Well, re-vaccination hasn't been necessary because our bodies would have created antibodies to guard against those viruses for a lifetime.

And the same should apply to our furry friends too! (if they're healthy)

So to avoid over-vaccinating Happy, I took him to Animal Medical Centre on Jalan Tun Razak for a Titer test. I had previously called to check if they provided the test as it wasn't commonly available and I was overjoyed to find out they did :D

Animal Medical Hospital Entrance


Happy and Papa

I went with Happy and his Papa without making an appointment. And I requested to do a full blood test (which includes a blood chemistry profile and blood count) along with the Titer test since both procedures required a blood sample.

When it came our turn, the attending vet proceeded to run a general physical examination on Happy. He asked when Happy had his last vaccination and I told him that it was the 4th of March last year. "The titer test will most likely indicate positive levels of antibodies as vaccinations were only done last year", he said, before we put the muzzle on Happy and drew a blood sample from Happy's right arm (seeing Happy's blood got me real queasy in my tummy! )

We were told that the blood analysis would take about an hour... so we took Happy to the nearby KLPAC (Sentul Park) for some fresh air. Time passed by pretty quickly and we soon found ourselves back at the vet to follow up on the results of the test. The vet gave us a brief rundown on the results and said that everything looked alright. Happy's Titer levels were 6+ — it was in a healthy range which meant he still had sufficient antibodies against both Distemper and Parvo viruses. In a nutshell, Happy was immune to those viruses :)

Happy's blood test

(the written part are the figures and results of Happy's Titer test — they were written below his blood chemistry profile)

Now while Happy's test results were good, Animal Medical Centre still recommended yearly vaccinations. As mentioned above, annual vaccination is a common practice among vets — as it is a way to get patients to come back to the clinic, they mostly advocate it (despite them not being necessary). That said, I was firm with my decision to not vaccinate him and was relieved that they respected my decision.

I know it can be daunting if your vets pressure your pets to get their annual vaccinations. It can be hard to say no as you would expect vets to advise you well — they are afterall... the experts... right? Well definitely in certain aspects! But... I am convinced otherwise on particular issues — like the issue of over-vaccination. I urge you to be cautious and advise that you too get a Titer test done for your fluffy one before a re-vaccination.

Anyway, below is the receipt for Happy's blood test. As you can see, the Titer test was RM95.

AMC Receipt

As far as I know, the centre might be the only place that provides Titer testing in Malaysia. Hence, I had no choice but to bring him to the centre to run the test. I still intend for Happy to continue going to his regular vet — Damansara Heights Veterinary Clinic, even though they reminded me about his re-vaccination. Also, I plan to make supplemental visits to holistic vet Dr. Susanna at Asia Paws.

In the meantime, I'm certain Happy will be fine without his re-vaccinations.

On the way home!

Well, that's all for my Titer test adventure. Hope you all found it useful :)

If you'd like further information about the issue of over-vaccination, check out the informative video below by Dr. Karen Becker about the dangers of over-vaccination. 

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My first blog post — Why I started Happy on real food

annie and happy

Hello and happy Saturday everyone! This is Annie of Happy Fluff — the proud slave of Happy 😛

If you have been following us for awhile now, you would know why I started Happy Fluff in the first place. Since taking him home from the pet shop, Happy has never responded well to commercially available foods. He could never gain weight and in addition, he itched lots :(

The itching could not stop and things became worse over time as he continued to scratch his itch away. It got to a point where he developed a secondary infection.

happyswound sad happy

We made countless trips to the vets, and tried various premium kibbles but nothing seemed to help. 

At this point, Happy was ill — with fevers caused by his infected hotspots — and he had little to no appetite. I was so afraid that I was losing him and was desperate to try anything that would help. So I then decided to do some research and had the good luck of stumbling upon raw feeding. Like many, my first reaction was "Eeew! Feed them raw? That's gross!", but nonetheless, I took the plunge (with fingers crossed) and gave him some raw beef. To my relief, he took to the beef and ate everything! I made the decision there and then to go longer term on the raw diet.

Happy's Before and After

Weeks turned into months, and to my delight, Happy gained back the weight he lost. He eventually recovered and I have never looked back since. I knew that feeding Happy fresh meats were good, but I had wanted to be sure that he was getting balanced nutrients from the food, so I took an interest in preparing Raw/Barf meals for Happy myself. 

I started with online resources, and then moved on to books. Also, I began religiously following an American Holistic Vet by the name of Dr. Karen Becker who also advocates raw diets. As Happy is picky like most Shibas I know and as he doesn't eat bones (what kind of dog doesn't like bones right?!), I had to filter through loads of information to look for suitable alternative nutrient sources as I prepared his meals.

Happy has been doing great since I made the switch to raw food, but I've always wanted to make sure I'm on the right track. So when it came to my knowledge that there was going to be a Dog Nutrition Workshop conducted by a certified holistic vet by the name of Dr. Susanna, I signed up immediately! (Big shoutout to my dear friend Rachel of Sushicat (link to sushicat) for bringing the workshop to my attention)

The workshop was held in her clinic —the Asia Paws clinic in TTDI. It is an appointment-only clinic, so do check with them if you do intend to bring your pets there!

I was greeted by Dr. Susanna's friendly assistant at the door and was promptly led up to a room on the first floor where the workshop was held. The room was equipped with a TV for slide presentations, and a white board for explanation. Once everyone arrived and was ready, school was in session :)

Asia Paws Workshop

Dr Susanna first took down all the particulars of the dogs from the owners — info like breed type, age, and current food intake. 

Then, she proceeded to guide us through the workshop. She shared with us her experiences with her very own dogs, along with her experiences with her patients dogs to illustrate the difference between certain dogs — like how they all took to raw foods differently.  She wanted us to know that it is normal for dogs to be different from one another. And to always feed according to one's lifestyle and one's dog's habits. I.e if you find it too queasy to feed raw, then cook it lightly. And if you cant find certain ingredients, there are always alternatives. She emphasized that there is no one way to do things. Just a little common sense is needed!!

While I might have been exposed to Raw feeding prior to the workshop, I learnt so much that day. It definitely gave me more confidence to create different recipes for Happy without worrying too much about the exact balance of nutrients. What's important is that the basics are covered. Dr. Susanna did mention that she thinks about the palatability, flavor and texture of the foods when feeding her dogs, because she can't imagine having them eat the same thing all the time! I honestly hadn't really thought about that till then, I was more concerned with whether Happy was eating enough. 

So, I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone who considers their pets as family. For anyone thinking about making the switch to raw but haven't had the courage yet, this might be the push you need. Dr. Susanna will give you every reason you need — to know about species appropriate diet — and debunk any myths you might have heard of raw diets or even any concerns you have.

It's really not as hard as you think. From the benefits I have personally witnessed and experienced with Happy, I highly recommend feeding fresh foods. You may start with cooked foods if you aren't ready to go straight to raw. In my opinion, I think ANY fresh food beats dry or canned food as they are filled with preservatives to have a longer shelf life.

Dr. Susanna ended the talk by giving us all a little handbook to take home. She saved the handbook for the end so we would sit attentively through the workshop and not be distracted by the notes in the handbook :)

Interested? Follow Asia Paws on Facebook to see when they might run another workshop!

And if you're interested in preparing something for your furry friend. Check out the video below! It's a beef based meal I prepared for Happy. Enjoy :)


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