As a blog writer and podcaster, I get a lot of email, especially when things have gone badly in an animal’s world.
One recurring theme that has always rubbed me the wrong way is the reports that puppies were vaccinated, often more than once, before they were sent home. As most leave for their new homes at 8 weeks of age, that translates to vaccines given to pups of 4 weeks or 6 weeks of age, and maybe again at 8 weeks, before they travel!
As there is plenty of science behind this being a dumb practice, I’m calling it out as such in this episode.
Minimally, the early vaccination of pups and kittens does no good but more concerning: every vaccine, given at any age, carries a very significant risk of long term damage to the recipient. Witness the explosion of allergic itchy skin and/or ears over the past many years. Most of this follows vaccination, but often a month later (so, unless you look for this pattern, you’ll miss it).
It boils down to what’s long been known about Mom’s colostrum and “passive immunity.” We’ve generated data on that since at least the 1950’s! And that is the #1 reason for “vaccine failure,” meaning the hoped for immunization has failed.
As I understand the breeders’ intent (“We don’t want to lose youngsters to infectious disease!”), I do offer some safe and effective alternatives to all this crazy over vaccination.
Please join me for this discussion and tell me in the comments if you need anything clarified.
Links for this episode
Natural Exposure, Natural Pup Immunity (Free report)
Our sister supplement site: Vital Pet Health
Thanks for listening!
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Title: Breeders, Please STOP doing this!
Dr. Will Falconer: Welcome to another episode of The Vital Animal Podcast. I am Dr. Will Falconer, a veterinarian for 40 years and a homeopathic one for darner 30. And this episode is all about "Breeders- Stop doing this please". An all too common practice I often hear about is vaccinating pups or kittens. I'm going to mostly speak about dogs here, but the same thing happens with kittens, I'm sure. At four weeks of age, some even earlier, some at six weeks, slightly less worrisome, but only slightly, vaccinating these youngsters at eight weeks of old, when they normally would go to a new home. So why is this a bad practice? First, let's look at what's called passive immunity.
First and foremost, colostrum is something we need to know about, and every breeder of any species of animals knows well about colostrum. It is that antibody-rich, first syrupy milk that comes from Mom. Whether Mom is a dog, a cat, or a cow giving birth to a calf, a mare giving birth to a foal, etc. All warm-blooded animals, including us as humans make this first milk called colostrum. It is antibody-rich, but it has to be gotten into the youngster early before the gut closes to these large molecules. So again, every breeder knows this and tries hard to ensure that their youngsters get the colostrum from Mom, in their first 12 to 16 hours after they come through the birth canal, and enter this germ-y world from their relatively sterile uterus. So lots of effort goes into getting that colostrum in with good reason. We know that the death rate is higher in calves, and foals are likely to get joint ill, and pups and kittens can die if they don't get colostrum to protect them from this environment they land in.
But what do we know about how long this passive immunity lasts, and you can get a sense of why it's called passive immunity. This is immunity, that's a given. It comes from Mom, the pup or the youngster didn't have to work to build it. It's passive in the sense that it's ingested, and there it is. So every germ that Mom has been made immune to by living in the world and mounting an immune response, that is passed on to her youngster through colostrum. How long does this passive immunity last?
In the 1950s, there was published work from Cornell on a thing called a nomograph. Where they were measuring Mom's antibody levels, and using that data to predict how long pups were protected against, in this case, distemper. But there's similar work done for parvo and other diseases. The bottom line in measuring this was most pups have this protection until at least 12 weeks of age, and by 16 weeks of age, most have lost it. So it lasts a while, it's not just there for a couple of days and then gone. A lot of eight-week old pups still have Mom's protection, and a lot of 12-week old pups too, but it falls off after time.
Dr. John Robb, who you may have heard in episode, I think it's number four, corroborates this. He has found in his work of doing titers on thousands of animals, that if the animals are vaccinated at 12 weeks of age, there are typically no titers resulting. No antibodies in other words, produced in the youngster, who's vaccinated at 12 weeks of age. So from that experience over and over again he's telling people, “No wait, you want to get that vaccine later.” He's talking mostly about rabies, but it's true of any diseases that Mom has antibodies against. Wait until 16 weeks, or wait until older. So why is vaccinating a very young pup a brainless idea?
First and foremost, it is not likely to create what we're after which is active immunity. Remember we got passive immunity, which is the colostrum, it is there from Mom, they don't have to work to make it. Active immunity is what we get from being exposed in the world to either natural exposure, via being out for limited amounts of time in the world, and getting exposed to parvo or distemper, maybe from a recently vaccinated animal, that kind of thing. Active immunity is what can also come about if we choose to vaccinate. Dr. Ron Schultz, an immunologist from the University of Wisconsin says, “Maternal antibody interference is the chief cause, the number one reason of vaccine immunization failure.”
So let's pause for a moment. There's vaccination, and there's immunization, they are two different things. Vaccination is just the procedure of pushing that vaccine through the syringe into the youngster’s body, or whatever age animal is getting vaccinated, that's vaccination. We draw the fluid up in the syringe, we stick the needle into the recipient and we squirt it, that's vaccination. What we are hoping happens is a thing called immunization, meaning the vaccinated animal responds to that injected foreign thing, that germ, that virus usually, and mounts an immune response that is measurable. We will talk more about the frailty of what titers can measure and what they can't. You will hear some of that in the interview with Dr. Robb earlier, but the hope is that vaccination equals immunization.
What Dr. Schultz has said, and many other immunologists, in fact have said, is that maternal antibody interference, this antibody that's come there passively for Mom’s colostrum, is the number one reason that vaccination too early fails, it doesn't create immunization. In addition, the young pup’s immune system is only semi-developed. They're not mature when they hit the ground, in their immune system, as well as you know, everything else. That is why they look so charming and so semi-developed, and we all fall in love with them. They’re still growing, they're still maturing, and that immune system is not ready to handle any kind of an insult, you might say, of an injected slew of viruses.
Further, getting a vaccine even in an adult. So regardless of age, we see what I've often called, immune system confusion. Nothing like vaccination ever, ever happens in nature. One, we're giving something foreign through a very unnatural route. In nature, the exposure would come to one virus, usually through the nose or the mouth, and the immune system is sequentially alerted to that virus, and says, “Oh, we've got a challenge here,” and all these signalings go off. We talked about this with Dr. Pitcairn in episode number two. A whole slew of signals go off. There is a very concerted effort to make immunity as soon as possible with this thing that the pup is exposed to through nose or mouth.
So first, we give it through a very unnatural route, we pick up the skin, we shove in a needle and we squirt. Secondly, never happening in nature, is that there are multiple germs, viruses usually, in that syringe. In the case of a dog, it's not unusual to have four, five or even seven viruses in that syringe. Distemper, parvo and DHLPP, lepto is often in there, parainfluenza is often in there, and hepatitis is often in there. So that never happens in nature, they are exposed to one virus at a time, that's how nature works. And what happens when we do this unnatural procedure called vaccination is usually chronic disease to the recipient. The commonest being allergies, which is a wild immune overreaction to normal things like a fleabite, or a bite of chicken. We see allergies in our animals mostly in the skin and the ears, at least in the dogs and cats.
Number one and number two reasons for dogs seeing vets, they swap places, but we've got data now going out 15 years that says allergies are the number one reason that dogs see vets. Whether it's skin or ears or both, that's immune confusion. You shouldn’t be reacting to normal things in a wild reactive way and in an inflammatory way. And far worse and more life-threatening is what's called autoimmune disease. The commonest in our animals are immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. Where the red blood cells of the pup, the youngster, or even the adult, are now viewed as foreigners and attacked vigorously by the immune system. So red blood cells are necessary to life and when the immune system starts attacking them, you can imagine that animal is in trouble. Another little less common is immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, where the platelets are attacked. And if the blood can't clot, that means every little bump and bruise can turn into a hemorrhagic disease, and they can die from that as well.
So the bottom line is vaccinating the very young is far more likely to cause damage than to help a youngster. Let me read that again. Vaccinating the very young is far more likely to cause damage than to help. But I hear you, you want to help protect your litter, right? You've worked hard to bring them into the world. You've chosen your breeding animals, hopefully carefully. And you're giving the greatest nutrition you can think of to the mom as she's carrying this litter and you don't want them dying for goodness sake. So what to do? I understand you want to reach for some protection, but let's not do the early-life vaccines. That is not a good idea, for the above reasons that I have just read to you.
Well, one is you can use a thing called homeopathic nosodes. These are homeopathically prepared remedies, meaning ultra-diluted medicines, made from disease processes like parvo or distemper, discharges. You can start these as early as you wish. I recently had someone write me in with a cat rescue organization, they would find cats under the porches and these cats were dying of feline distemper. They can start as soon as they pick these cats up, giving them a nosode to feline distemper or panleukopenia. In the dogs we typically use two, parvo, and distemper, these are the main killers of pups, or possible killers of pups. Distemper much less common, parvo very, very common wherever dogs live and hang out. Parvo is shed in the stool, and it's in the environment, it's ubiquitous we say, it's everywhere dogs are, and feline panleukopenia or feline distemper is the main killer of kittens.
Nosodes are 100% safe because they are ultra-diluted, beyond physicality in fact. They are energetic medicines like all homeopathic medicines, and they are well studied, they are well known to be effective. We have studies in humans. In lepto the most striking one, from several years ago, where over 2 million people in Cuba, after a hurricane went through were protected from lepto. Which commonly is a runaway disease that kills many after water is everywhere with a hurricane, carried by water. Lots of good data on that. We've got studies on dogs way back to 1929 for distemper.
A veterinarian named Dr. Jervis, working back in 1929, frustrated that he was losing all these pups to distemper, turned to homeopathy. Which was a going medicine at the time and learned that he could protect effectively. Pups in a kennel, right next door to someone suffering from distemper, if he gave them the distemper nosodes they did not get distemper. Look at Dr. Cooney’s experience from episode three. He has eliminated parvo from his practice population and used to suffer on a regular basis, parvo in his practice. He’d walk into the office and smell the parvo wafting through the air as he opened the door, that's been gone now for almost three years, and that was due to his incorporation of homeopathic nosodes against parvo.
So how to get these things? Talk to your homeopathic vet. If you don't have one, or your vet doesn't have access to them, you can search my website at vitalanimal.com. In the show notes for this episode will be vital animal.com/11. This is Episode 11, and you will find links there.
And in addition to nosodes, you can also use a proven immune booster that works at any age, in any species. That is what we call Canine Immune Complete. This is based on transfer factors, which are you could say, the brains of colostrum. Colostrum is a soup of antibodies and growth factors and all these things but the immune brains of it are these things called transfer factors. We've got an 80-1 concentration of transfer factors in Canine Immune Complete. So from colostrum to the finished product, there is an 80-1 concentration of these immune brains, you could say, to educate the immune system to respond well to any foreigners, not just distemper or parvo, but to any foreign challenges.
In addition, it's got synergistic medicinal mushrooms, and as I mentioned, unlike colostrum, transfer factors can be absorbed at any age in any species. So antibodies remember, are gone to the body for absorption after about 16 hours post-birth. The gut closes up says, “We're not going to absorb any big molecules anymore, that's dangerous. We're going to be digesting food and breaking down food into amino acids. And those are okay to absorb but we're not going to absorb big proteins.” So the gut closes, but transfer factors are small and they can cross species lines and be absorbed at any age. You will see a link to my Vital Pet Health sister company in the show notes, also on how to get the Canine Immune Complete. Of course, you don't need to be a breeder to benefit from this approach, animals of any age can benefit from these timeless helpers. Though I don't generally recommend nosodes to adults, they simply don't need them. But I'll also link in the show notes too, a good way to get pups off the ground and what to do to get natural immunity in yet a third way, which is called natural exposure.
So again, the show notes will be at vitalanimal.com/11. So to wrap up, please, please breeders, stop vaccinating these newbies. If you send them home at eight weeks of age and you want to do something before that, use these strategies, use nosodes, use Canine Immune Complete. Both of those can be started at any age you wish. And if you have experienced infectious disease problems, doing these things will give you a great leg up. You should be able to eliminate any past history of infectious diseases in your youngsters. And you'll obviously be doing everyone a service but most of all the pups and kittens you've labored so hard to help bring into the world.
Until our next episode, this is Dr. Will Falconer. All my best to each of you listening and to all those innocent animals in your care. Bye for now.
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Next week: Dr. Madalyn Ward, long time friend and homeopathic colleague, on how horses can be part of the “Natural Rearing” world by viewing their wild cousins, the Mustang and thinking through common management challenges on feeding and vaccinations. If you’ve got horses in your life, you’ll want to be sure to hear this smart equine vet!