The levels of improvement in this arena are staggering over the past decade. From kibble to canned to home prepared, the choices to a dog owner are varied and of far greater quality than ever available in the past. Do your homework. Try different things. Trust your instincts. Variation is good for your dog. Imagine living your entire life eating only one thing.
I am an advocate of a raw based whole food diet for our dogs. My dogs have eaten raw since they were about 16 weeks of age. I use a combination of home prepared meals and several frozen raw meat complete based diets available now commercially. My goals are high quality ingredients that are organic if possible (or at least antibiotic and hormone free proteins). I like to vary the ingredients utilizing the benefits of diversity.
My advice is to buy the best quality food that you can afford. Read labels. Examine the ingredients carefully. Are the proteins pure or byproducts? Are the ingredients organic or hormone and pesticide free? Learn about what your dog likes and dislikes. Read Whole Dog Journal. I will recommend that again and again. You will find a link to their website on my links page. It is an excellent and non-commercially biased journal that is committed to the wellness of all of our companion animals. Your dog will benefit and your vet bills will be diminished. Proper nutrition is the most essential component to your dogs health.
Safe EnvironmentMany of the routine substances used in households today can be harmful to our companion animals. Limit these in your house as much as is possible. Be vigilant about where you keep chemicals that must remain and make sure that your dogs cannot get to them. Find out what substances are used on your lawn, in your garden fertilizers or pest prevention. Consider using only organic products inside and out. Remember that your dogs walk bare footed on your floors, rugs and lawn. Allow them a safe environment to sniff, lick and play.
Medical Care -VaccinationProtocols are changing as the medical community is becoming more aware of longer immune duration as well as possible vaccine related side effects of immune mediated disease. Ask questions, read and formulate a strategy that works best for you and your dogs. My most important message, after your pup’s initial vaccine series, titer (blood test) for antibody levels BEFORE you boost vaccines in follow up annual exams. Annual visits and blood work with your veterinarian are critical, but annual vaccines are a big NO, as your dog only needs boosters if the antibody levels are inadequate. Vaccines are not always 100% effective at protecting your animal (individual immune response varies with each animal) and vaccines may cause long term, chronic health disturbances. As an example, Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn (DVM, PhD) believes that most animal skin allergies are a result of repeated annual vaccines. Don Hamilton, DVM, provides a complete chapter in his book, Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs, discussing history, research on effectiveness and how vaccines can cause illness. Please read Dr. Pitcairn and Dr. Hamilton and develop a more complete understanding of the complexity of vaccination. Another expert in the field is Dr. Ronald Schultz (Chair, Dept of Pathobiological Sciences at University of Wisconsin-Madison Veterinary School). He encourages fewer vaccinations as well stating that research demonstrates that immunity duration for parvo, distemper and adenovirus is at least 7 to 10 years. Your decision on a vaccine protocol for your animal will make an important impact on their long term wellness and quality of life. State laws make rabies vaccination mandatory. But individual family circumstances create different needs for different animals. Do you live in the City or in the country? Are your dogs exposed to lots of other animals or very few? What diseases have been experienced by others in your area? All of these are examples of factors you can use to evaluate the best choice for you and your dog. Here are some guidelines that I support and will strongly encourage families with Far Away dogs to consider: • Wait to vaccinate for parvo, distemper and adenovirus until your pup is 10 to 12 weeks of age (the mother’s antibodies will protect the puppy until 20 to 22 weeks). • Core vaccines should be given for Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Parvo virus and for CAV-2 (Canine Adenovirus/Hepatitus). Avoid five and seven vaccines combined into one shot. These combinations are too much of an assault on your pup’s immune system. • Wait as long as is possible for the rabies vaccine as it is the most reactogenic and difficult for your dog. Give rabies separately from any other vaccination to reduce the risks and enable better observation of negative effects. Four to six months of age is a reasonable choice. • Protect your puppy from contact with unknown dogs until 22 weeks • Use titers to test for ongoing presence of antibodies after the puppy series of vaccines and eliminate the need for future vaccinations except when immunity is low. • Avoid vaccines for Lyme disease as the vaccine is yet to produce significant improvement in immunity. Please see links and resources for current research articles on vaccinations.