Fast foods are arguably undoing modern society. They are so easy, so available, so cheap, and so well marketed that everyone in the first world and a fair amount of the third world has consumed them at some point.
I’m old enough to remember when McDonald’s was relatively new on the scene,
and having their french fries became a “thing” that my parents and I shared as a treat from time to time.
As I became old enough to stay home on my own, they were also the source of weekly meals as my aging parents wanted to have a weekly “date night” out at a restaurant. I was thrilled. Before McDonald’s, it was boring fish sticks and puffy baked potato creations called Tater Tots, invented the year after I was born. What’s not to like about a Big Mac, fries, and a milk shake for dinner?
The dark underbelly is that fast foods are also addictive, nutritionally bankrupt, and damaging to your health. As Morgan Spurlock pointed out in his (now free) film, Super Size Me, obesity is second only to smoking as a major cause of preventable death in America.
So, what does this have to do with animal health? Presumably you’re not feeding fast food to your beloved animals. No, I’m talking today about convenience medicine and the short sightedness that’s often Dr. WhiteCoat’s modus operandi.
Let’s Shoot ‘Em Up in Their Tails!
Landing in my inbox last week was word that veterinary researchers at U. Florida have studied vaccinating cats in the tail. Why inject vaccines in the tail? So that when the cancer that follows the vaccination shows up, the surgeons have an easier time amputating the tail tip instead of the usual limb, which wasn’t acceptable to many cat owners.
Whoa! (cue sound of needle screeching over vinyl record, abruptly stopping the music)
Short sightedness like this never ceases to amaze me. Did anyone think that maybe there was something fundamentally wrong with injecting vaccines into cats in the first place, if thousands of them were developing malignant tumors afterwards? Or was that fact just missed in the name of “we’ve got to vaccinate for the good of the cat population?”
Two vaccines have been incriminated in the cases of VAS (vaccine associated sarcoma), a usually fatal cancer: rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). It’s thought to be related to the adjuvants used to make the vaccines trigger more immune reaction in the animal, but that’s besides the point.
Fast Medicine: Too Many Unnecessary Vaccinations
How many unnecessary rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations are given to the average cat?
For rabies, in indoor cats, it’s every one. Where are these guys going to get a rabid bite from?
For the outdoor hunters, it is every rabies vaccination after the initial two, if that initial couple are given at or over 4 months of age. “Once (twice with rabies) and done” is the rule here, the odds being extremely high that lifetime immunity results from the early vaccination.
Who says so? Veterinary immunologists, like Ron Schultz, Ph.D.
For feline leukemia, every single vaccine is unnecessary. Why? FeLV is a chronic disease, and vaccines by definition don’t prevent chronic disease. And FeLV is very much an opportunist virus, attacking and setting up housekeeping in only 10% of those exposed. You can imagine these are the weaker, poorly nourished animals, likely eating an unnatural kibble diet.
But likely none of this is considered by those who would vaccinate every cat with everything available at regular intervals throughout life, right? And we’re back to “fast food medicine” and injecting the body part most easy to amputate when the consequence comes around.
Ouch. Bad medicine.
Fast Food Surgeon’s Motto: To Cut is to Cure!
It reminds me of a procedure advocated many years ago for dogs who repeatedly licked and inflamed the space between their toes. Interdigital cysts and redness and bothersome itch had an answer offered by the surgeons: we’ll simply cut that area out and sew the toes together! That’ll make the problem go away!
I read about this twenty some years back when I was new to holistic vet medicine and it immediately reinforced my choice of career paths. I can only hope the procedure didn’t gain much traction and has been abandoned as archaic and misdirected.
Prevention That Makes More Sense
How about addressing health at a deeper level to prevent these problems in the first place?
First and foremost has to be a close examination of vaccination protocols. When we look for it, we see allergies (like itchy feet, skin and ears) as a very common sequelae to vaccines, often occurring within a month of vaccination.
And how often throughout life is Dr. WhiteCoat recommending this procedure? Against all current immunological understanding, many still recommend annual vaccination!
And those who would seem a bit more “enlightened” still repeat vaccines every three years. Based on good studies showing immunity wanes at three years? Not even close. Lifetime immunity is likely to early vaccines. Says who? Again, veterinary immunologists, who don’t profit from vaccinating but focus on the realities of your animals’ duration of immunity.
Then, there’s feeding that can still be pretty darned convenient and maintain species appropriateness: any number of raw frozen balanced diets are on the market now, and need only be thawed to be fed. [In a hurry? Drop some of that cold or frozen food in a baggie and immerse it in a pan of hot water. Ready in 5.]
Not as convenient as kibble, but you’ve got to ask: how close is kibble to anything a wolf or a bobcat would eat? That’s who you’re feeding, and the answer is pretty obvious: not close at all.
Finally, while it may be convenient to drop squirts of pesticides on your pet’s shoulders to kill fleas, you know in your heart of hearts poisons aren’t good for Spot, Puff, Dick, or Jane. Or the environment. Look for non-toxic alternatives. Effective? Yes. A bit less convenient? A bit, yes, but safe, and that’s well worth the effort if vital animals are your goal.
And speaking of hearts, pesticides for heartworms are a dicey risk as well, with the possibility of autoimmune fatalities in the convenience of the monthly pill. You’ve got safe heartworm prevention options here as well.
To raise vital animals, and enjoy all they have to offer for long joyful years, you’ve got to look beyond the myopia of convenience and “fast food medicine.”
If some safe and effective prevention practice is a bit more work, but it adds life to your beloved companion, isn’t that effort worth it? I think the bright eyed wags and tails up you’ll see will answer that quite convincingly.
Photo credit: Bazza