Three moments of learning
I hope life is treating you well. It is unusual for me to spend days contemplating what to write about, but this week I did. Perhaps it is because there are many preventable health problems I hear about every single day, and there is so much I want to share within the limited space of this newsletter.
In the end, I decided to share a few very typical interactions with dog lovers I experienced over the past few days here in Prague. They are examples of what has been going on in general. From my point of view, healthcare is in trouble due to a lack of independent, unbiased research, as well as weird paradigms and protocols that are deeply embedded in both the practitioners' and dog lovers' minds. It would make sense if the medical system focused on the most effective and least expensive treatment methods as well as prevention, but paradoxically, it has been focused on maximizing profits by selling proprietary drugs and equipment, which is very frustrating to see.
In my opinion, the current state of medicine is not the fault of individual veterinarians or doctors, but the result of several systemic flaws that begins with one-sided education and ends with lobbyists working hard to influence the lawmakers and protect the interests of pharmaceutical companies.
Sadly, one of their primary goals is to sideline simple and inexpensive treatments and generic medication, and make the existence of smaller independent companies and health product manufacturers more difficult.
The three “moments” I will share with you today represent the challenges mentioned above, but they also help us determine what we, as a community, need to focus on.
My friend came over for a visit, and arrived with her smart phone in her hand outstretched towards me. “Peter, I have to show you something. My daughter’s dog had an allergic reaction to turkey!” Swiping through the phone, I stopped on an image of her dog’s puffy and swollen face. The poor pup’s eyes were only slits, and her nose resembled that of a Sharpei instead of her real snout, which was slim and pointy just a few hours earlier.
“Turkey?” I asked her, with a good dose of doubt in my voice, mainly because food allergies rarely look this severe in dogs. “What did you do during the day?” I inquired. “Well, we went to the vet and she got some vaccines this morning, and was absolutely fine. Then we fed her turkey and she got all swollen like a balloon.”
Immediately, I knew that this was an allergic reaction to the vaccine, because I have seen it many times before in practice. Severe swelling following a booster vaccination is very common.
“How often do you vaccinate your dog?” I asked my friend.
“Every year.” she replied.
“Hmmm, did your veterinarian not tell you that even by conventional standards, boosters should not be done more often than every three years?”
“No, they say I should vaccinate annually and that not vaccinating is illegal." (Note: This is NOT true.)
I then explained to my friend that giving 6 antigens in 1 vaccine is not unlike catching six different diseases all at once. The immune system may get overwhelmed and respond with a very exaggerated immune response that presents as severe facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, or an autoimmune disease, a condition where the body starts destroying its own platelets or red blood cells. I have seen many dogs like this in the past.
People also often forget that there may be a delay of days, weeks, and sometimes even months before some of the effects of excessive vaccination manifest.
“Is it okay if I send you my article on safer vaccination for dogs which will also give you some ideas on how to address vaccine side-effects?" I asked my friend. "These reactions are typical in younger dogs when they are vaccinated for the second time. Their immune system creates antibodies after the first vaccination, and then over-reacts when they receive the booster.”
“Okay, thanks Peter!”
A few days later, I talked to my friend again and this is what she said to me: "So, I talked to my daughter, she said for sure it is from the turkey..."
The challenge here is that many people still do not understand that even if this was true, this kind of reaction is a very clear sign that this unfortunate dog has an immune system disease. Allergies are just a symptom of an overwhelmed body whose immune system is "freaking out" and crying for help.
A message appears on my phone: “Hey Peter, we will not be able to see you today as originally planned because we are taking our puppies for their first vaccinations.”
“I see. How old are they?” I texted back.
“Six weeks, they have to be immunized and then again at 8 weeks, then 12 weeks, and again at 16 weeks.”
“Is it okay if I share something with you?” I asked my friend.
“Sure!” my friend replied.
“You see, there is much evidence that the immune system of a 6 week old puppy is immature, which most dogs lovers do not know,” I started out gently, to make sure my friend did not feel criticized.
“If a puppy gets vaccinated at 6 or 8 weeks, the antibodies it acquired from the mother will latch on to the vaccine particles (the antigen). The antibodies will be used up by creating these antigen/antibody bonds, which will increase your puppy’s chances of getting infected by the real disease.”
“Effectively, puppies will be less protected than if they were not given these early vaccines. The immune system matures at the age of 12-20 weeks, which means that the first vaccines should not be given until at least 12 weeks of age. Also, if the maternal antibodies are present in a blood test performed at 12 weeks, there are ways to reduce the amount of unnecessary vaccinations and still keep your puppies protected.”
"Is it okay if I send you an article about a safer approach to vaccination of puppies and adult dogs?”
“Yes, you can, but I have been told that my puppies should be vaccinated at 6 weeks. I am worried that they will get sick if I don’t follow the instructions.”
I did my best to alleviate her concerns, “I understand, but please just read the article, and trust that I would never do anything to threaten your puppies’ well-being or lives. I am confident this protocol will work."
“So great to see you Peter! It has been so long!” my relatives greeted me with enthusiasm this past weekend. “Sorry, our girl Maggie is rather smelly, but it is normal for her. She has been like this for a long time.”
I looked down, and I saw Maggie, the sweetest, tail-wagging Basset Hound trying to get my attention.
And then, the pungent smell of wet dirty socks combined with the odour of rotten ripe cheese hit my nasal passages. Seriously, it almost knocked me over.
I turned to my friends: “I think I can help. I recently published an article on yeast skin infections in dogs. I would love to give Maggie my four essential supplements - vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 oil, and probiotics."
“It is a gift from me to Maggie,” I pointed towards her, sitting in the corner looking kind of embarrassed.
“All I need you to do is to take her off of kibble! Can you do that?”
“Awww, we can’t do that, we go away for weekends and we would not be able to take meat with us,” my relatives object.
“It's not a problem, you can get a cooling box with ice that preserves the food for several days.” I replied.
“Ehhhm, we don’t think it is possible, the box wouldn’t fit. We usually have so many things we need to take,” they replied.
I felt as if I had failed Maggie. It wasn’t her fault she made the whole room smell like dirty socks and rotten cheese. “I am sorry my friend, I hope you know that I’ve tried.” I looked at Maggie and shrugged my shoulders.
The whole evening, Maggie kept coming to me wanting to have her itchy, yeasty skin scratched. I felt terrible for her, because I could see that most people in the room refrained from petting her because she was so smelly.
The next day, we went for a hike, but Maggie couldn’t come. She could not make it up the hill very well despite being only eight years old. Not an old dog according to my standards. Fifteen years is old, but not eight! I was bummed to see her sad eyes when we left her behind.
The day before our departure, the husband approached me and said, “We think we could give raw food a try. How long would it take before we see the results?”
“You would see some changes within a month, and a clear difference in 3 months. Is it okay if I check Maggie’s teeth, the smell may be partially coming from her mouth,” I inquired.
“It looks like she has some tartar, but feeding her raw bones will fix most of it. She doesn’t seem to have any deep pockets or abscesses, which is great news. Here is an article on dental care for dogs and one more on raw bone feeding. Just let me know when you are ready to do the diet switch and I will get you the Fab4 essential supplements to make Maggie’s diet complete."
I am not 100% sure that they will switch Maggie over to better food, or if they will take her through a detox and give her the essentials to allow her skin to heal and recover. All I know is that I simply can’t walk by a dog that needs help without speaking up, and I know many of you are like that too.
UPDATE: Great news! After I finished writing this piece, I received a call from Maggie’s family! She has been on raw diet now for 3 days! I will keep you posted about her transformation.
One brief conversation can transform the life of a helpless dog forever.
Of course, there are many people who will refuse well intended, sound advice. I often wonder what is at the core of such resistance. My sense is that people generally do not like to be told what to do, and that we all carry this strange form of teenager-like resistance until we die.
Sadly, such resistance combined with bad habits and laced with a good dose of laziness, is at the core of poor health and unhappiness.
But there is another reason why people refuse to accept solid advice that is based on expertise and decades of experience. The further away the offered solution is from the generally accepted convention, the more likely people are to dismiss it.
There is also the friends and family element to consider. Don't even try to give nutritional or medical advice to a family member! How could they possibly take advice from you, their brother, cousin, or daughter — even if you are an expert in the field! How absurd!
But I am not listing all these obstacles to stop you from trying. Sometimes, the seed of knowledge lands on fertile soil, and you can make a difference between life and death, or a short versus a long life, for someone.
For years I have been writing articles and courses that provide solutions to veterinary problems and diseases. I know that the knowledge shared within them can help many dogs live healthier lives, and allow people to spend more happy years with their dogs.
I know the lessons that stick the best are those we learn the hard way, however, this does not mean that learning without having hard lessons isn’t a better way to go.
I hope I can ask you to help with the “learn the easy way” campaign.
Here is how it works:
There are thousands of Maggies in the world, and they do not deserve to be given up on.
Thank you for your help! ❤️🐶
PS: Now that I have finished writing, I realize that I too refuse advice from my family! Would you believe it? But it is usually something like this: "Peter, you have a zit, put some antibiotic cream on it!" "No, it is okay, I will use my Skin Spray,"I reply. I guess, we all live in our own universe, and believe our way is the best way. How can we be mad with those we love? We all have our own truth. Take care. ❤️