Lulu was a very pretty slate and white Bearded Collie bitch, born in 1991. Home bred, she was my personal pick-of-litter and we always had a special bond. She was brainy, lively and very brave, always giving her best in any situation. As a show dog she had achieved some success including a CC, Res CC etc, and we had also learned together about sheep herding, a hobby which we both loved more than the show ring.
The previous year (summer 1997) Lulu had had the full booster and subsequently suffered with itchy skin and some coat loss for several weeks. With hindsight she also became very thin, but I put that down to the fact that she was working sheep at least once a week. She wasn't ill, but wasn’t in the best condition either. I had read odd bits about vaccination in the dog papers, and had decided to ask my vet next time round whether she still needed the whole lot. As it happened my vet was of the same mind, but as I was planning to mate her, she advised she should be boosted for the lepto even if not the others. Incidentally I note from my records that she was wormed (Panacur) and flea treated (Advantage) at around the same time.
How was Lulu just after the jab? I can't honestly remember. But she came into season four weeks later and I can remember taking her to be mated, and her flirting nicely with the stud dog, but having to stop to scratch herself, so I guess the itchiness was returning, because I was a little embarrassed in case the stud’s owner might think my girl had fleas…..By the time her pups were around three weeks old the itching was driving her frantic and she wasn’t eating well.
The pups were fine, but I decided to wean them early to spare her, as she was beginning to look a bit frail. Her hair was falling out and one eye had developed a bluish patch. My vet saw her and thought the moulting was a bit excessive and the blue eye suggested liver trouble. At this point I started doing my own research, with help from a senior breeder who has knowledge of herbal remedies and homoeopathy. On her recommendation I immediately put Lulu on a high-quality natural diet, largely raw and organic. Her appetite improved a thousand fold!! She also received several supplements including a herbal tonic mix from Dorwest herbs, and massive doses of evening primrose oil. I was bathing her weekly in a royal jelly shampoo to soothe her skin. In the meantime her hair continued to fall out at a touch until she was about two-thirds bald, and then her skin peeled too. She developed a series of minor infections – ears, eyes, anal glands, nails – all of which we treated as they arose. One day she seemed to have a small fit and at other times she vomited, and of course she was always cold (it was winter) so we put a warm coat on her 24/7. She very gradually got better and by late spring had a whole new coat, very healthy if a little short. As she improved I resumed showing her and she was very successful in veteran classes, and leading a normal doggy life, however I didn’t take her back to the sheep as she somehow didn’t seem as robust as she once was, however she was getting older. Her eye stayed blue for ever more. One of her boy puppies later developed a health problem (auto-immune). I think he is a lot better now following treatment from a homoeopathic vet. Another of the boys is a bundle of nerves and I don’t see why, he was a normal puppy. The others are fine, and the third boy became a Champion at Crufts in 2004. She was found to have haemangiosarcoma in November 2001. She was ten and a half years old. Beardies should commonly live to 14 or 15, barring accidents.
She collapsed at a show (bleeding internally), and a few days later my vet persuaded me to try an exploratory operation, as she seemed a little stronger again. She proved to be full of a soft tumour from above her ovaries right up to her aorta (heart). I saw the tumour in a bowl when it had been mainly dissected out, it looked like raw chopped liver. We couldn’t even wake her up as she would have bled to death. I wished too late, that we could have tried to treat her with homoeopathic remedies, it might have bought her more time and certainly a more dignified ending.
What did the vet say? Not much – see above. I don’t think they had seen anything like that before. Did the vet think there was any link with the vaccine? I didn't ask and she didn't say. Did the vet report the reaction to the relevant bodies? I doubt it. Perhaps if I had been more of a pest about it? How did I feel at the time and afterwards? Sickened. Cheated. And full of guilt.
I no longer do boosters and in fact my youngest dogs haven’t received vaccinations of any kind. I would advise other owners to learn all they can about vaccine dangers, so that they are able to make informed choices. I trust my vet still, she knows and accepts my stance on vaccination and has never put pressure on me to do any more. Other dog owners may have a different relationship with other vets, but I’m now wary of allowing choices to be made for my animals on my behalf. I do realise vets are only human and can make mistakes with their advice, so prefer to take more responsibility for my dogs’ care nowadays.
Currently I have eight dogs here, one is Lulu’s daughter (aged almost eleven) and three are granddaughters. The three granddaughters have never been vaccinated at all, I simply daren’t do them, but instead pay close attention to keeping them happy and healthy via diet and lifestyle choices. The daughter hasn’t been boosted for the last nine years. My two youngest are second and third generation unvaccinated. It works very well and the younger dogs enjoy excellent health. I hope to see further improvements with each successive generation.
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