Recent recalls of commercial dog food have made me even happier that I feed my dogs “raw,” as in BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food).
My dogs are fed a no-grain, meat-vegetable mix from weaning on, though of course they sometimes get treats with grain in them. Food like this is available frozen at natural-organic pet stores, but I make my own with the aid of a seriously heavy-duty grinder. BARF isn’t cheap, but it’s the single best investment you can make in your dog’s health – with beautiful clean teeth as an added benefit.
If you must feed some commercial food, get one with as little grain/soy/extraneous stuff as possible and as much meat as possible – human-quality meat – since you don’t even want to think about the quality of meat which goes into even fairly expensive commercial food. In addition, give your dogs pieces of poultry, skin, bones and all, or whatever bone-in meat is cheapest. Mine love raw pork chop bones and beef/veal rib bones, which are soft enough for them to eat almost completely. The idea is for them to eat the whole bone and the meat on it. Big “dog bones” can break teeth, since they are very hard. Dogs still enjoy chewing on them, though.
A revolution is happening in routine veterinary care these days. Soon even the most prehistoric vets will realize that the days of the “yearly booster shot” are behind us.
While puppies still need their baby shots, not all vets give a series of 3 any more. My vet only gives 2 combination shots, beginning at 8 weeks. Some breeders now insist on giving each vaccine separately instead of the old 3-in-1 or 5-in-1 mixtures. Leptospirosis is no longer a routine vaccination in the North, though it’s important in warm regions. Bordatella (Kennel Cough) vaccine, given intranasally, is required by boarding kennels and repeated every 6 months, since this infection, though usually only a nuisance ailment, spreads like lightning.
Once puppy shots are finished, the new protocols developed at Colorado State University call for routine “boosters” only every three years. For older dogs who have had a couple of rounds of boosters, some vets (mine is one) don’t give any more, as long as the dog’s life and home situation haven’t changed.
Rabies vaccine, a particularly nasty vaccine for a very nasty, fatal disease, is the only one required by law. After the one-year “baby rabies” shot given at about 6 months, regular vaccinations are usually given every 3 years. New research is under way hoping to prove that the immunity conferred by rabies vaccine lasts much longer than 3 years. If this is found to be true, it will spare dogs unnecessary vaccination.
Why is all this less-vaccination concern so important? For most dogs it isn’t. Their bodies can deal with over-vaccination with no obvious problems. However, for a lot of dogs, too many shots can trigger autoimmune diseases like hemolytic anemia and various other problems. The cause and effect isn’t usually crystal clear, but evidence is mounting.
Welsh Terriers are generally a healthy lot, having been spared the laundry list of ailments which afflict “popular” breeds. That doesn’t mean Welshes don’t have a few genetically-based health problems. None is common among carefully-bred dogs. Puppy-mill products are another matter.
The worst Welsh Terrier ailment is glaucoma, an incurable, though treatable, eye disease which strikes at the age of 6 or 7, usually after dogs’ breeding lives are finished. Unfortunately we have no genetic test for this problem, though responsible breeders will make sure any glaucoma-producer is spayed or neutered, along with as many as possible at-risk puppiesof his/her immediate family. Welsh Terrier glaucoma is caused by a recessive gene or genes, so that careful pedigree analysis can help a conscientious breeder “breed away” from the problem.
Finally we have a new test which should help to predict the incidence of Primary Lens Luxation (PLL). This eye problem has sometimes been mistaken for glaucoma before a genetic test existed to confirm diagnosis. PLL can also be a precursor to glaucoma. Fortunately this problem is a simple recessive. Thus, breeding clear-to-carrier individuals cannot produce at-risk puppies. Testing puppies from clear-to-carrier breedings will reveal carrier status, on average, 1/2 clear and 1/2 carrier individuals. Two clear parents can only produce clear puppies, with no further testing of the puppies needed.
Skin allergies, while not fatal, can make both the dog’s life and his master’s a preview of hell. I’m not talking about some summer sneezing or scratching or foot-chewing caused by pollen or food allergies, which are easy to deal with once the allergen is found. While rare, severe allergies can cause a dog literally to scratch every hair off his body until he is a mass of sores. Such allergies are treatable in various ways, of course, but the heavy-duty steroids often used have their own problems. Badly-bred dogs produce allergies more often than well-bred ones, but sometimes an allergic dog appears from perfectly normal parents for no obvious reason. Over-vaccination is suspected as a culprit in some cases of severe allergies.
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