July 28, 2007

Good people, bad medicine

One of the most troubling aspects of re-administering booster shots to dogs and cats is how often many good-hearted veterinarians ignore the general rules that pertain to the vaccination procedures.

Veterinarians who are aware of the risks advise against vaccinating a dog or cat who is stressed, under a general anesthetic or recovering from surgery, who has a chronic illness, allergies, is on treatment for an infection or has a history of immune system disorder, etc.

In these physical states an animal's immune system is either not functioning at its peak or is 'busy' dealing with another challenge.

A multi-component live virus vaccine is a robust challenge to the immune system and when given on top of other existing factors, it can prove too much for the animal to cope with.

Two weeks ago, Matisse was holding up one paw and walking on three legs when he and Stuart returned from a noon walk. From Stuart's description of the event, it appeared that Matisse might have been struck by a snake.

We could not see any puncture wounds and there was no swelling, but we rushed him to the closest veterinarian.

I always loved Dr. Cindy. She is vivacious and caring. She kisses my dog when she enters the room.

We hadn't seen her since Aimee received her last booster shots in 2005. Still, it was an emergency, she was 5 minutes away and Vandermause was not available.

So I bulldozed my way into Cindy's office without an appointment, catching her in between clients.

According to vaccine manufacturers' labels, unless a dog or cat is healthy it should not be vaccinated. So it should be customary to take the animal's temperature to check for any evidence of infection before recommending shots.

She only half entered the room when she noted on his chart, "He's overdue for all his shots, do you want to take care of that while you're here?"

Inside my jaw dropped. I brought my dog in because we feared a snakebite! I'm pleased that I was stayed poised when I said, "No."

Later, when we were home and there was no evidence of snakebite or other trauma, I reflected on the moment.

What an idiot.

And then I recalled all the years I took Aimee to Dr. Simmons.

He was the only vet in Austin whose eyes didn't register dollar signs when we walked in with a standard poodle.


I thought him the epitome of the good country animal doctor, a complete sweetheart.

In the four years we took our animals there for annual vaccinations, he never took my cat out of the carrier; just jammed a needle into her scruff to administer one after the other booster shots.

And I thought nothing of it.

Such good people. Such bad medical practice. What are these people thinking?

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