Pet Health and Wellness – Internal Parasites – Worms

This page is based on an episode of The Woof Meow Show which aired on April 26th, 2014. Don Hanson and Kate Dutra talk with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic about hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms and the scariest of all the internal parasites; heartworm. We discuss the importance of protecting your pet and your family from these parasites and the safest and most effective means of accomplishing this protection. You can listen to the show by <clicking here>. You can listen to a more recent show on this topic by <clicking here>.

If you are concerned that your pet may have any type of internal parasite, please see your veterinarian rather than trying to treat your pet on your own. Your veterinarian is trained to help choose the safest and most effective treatments for your pet and will take care to consider how the treatment of one pet may affect people in your home as well as other pets and other species. The number one reason the National Animal Poison Control Center receives calls is because people have inappropriately used a product for treating fleas on their pet.

Internal parasites that affect our pets may pose a significant problem for our four legged friends and can also be contagious to humans. There are two main types of parasites; those that live in the GI tract and those that live in other parts of the body. When considering worms in the intestinal tracts of dogs and cats, we are usually referring to the following types; hook worms, round worms, whip worms, and tape worms. The other worm we will be discussing is the heartworm, which migrates through the body and into the heart.

While both dogs and cats may host the whipworm parasite, feline whipworms are uncommon in North America. Whipworms are typically contracted through the ingestion of contaminated matter (soil, food, water, feces and animal flesh) and can survive in the environment from months to years. Whipworms may cause significant damage to the intestinal tract resulting in bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea, or it can also be asymptomatic. It is often associated with dehydration, anemia and weight loss in dogs.

Hookworms are very small and barely visible to the naked eye. They typically attach to the small intestine and feed on blood and tissue fluids from the host animal. The primary concern for hookworms is the development of anemia and weight loss. As with whipworms, hookworms are more prevalent in our canine companions and often result in more damage to our pet’s GI tract.

More commonly known but less harmful internal parasites are the tapeworms and roundworms. Tapeworms are the size of a grain of rice and are often spotted under our pet’s tail, near the anus or in their fecal matter. Several segments can come out together, in which case they look more like a piece of linguine with horizontal lines running through it. Our pets can get tapeworms two different ways; from ingesting prey that has tapeworms, such as a mouse, or from ingesting fleas, which carry the tapeworm egg. If our pet has fleas and they groom or bite at themselves, they may inadvertently ingest the fleas thus becoming infected with tapeworms. While it is rare for humans to get tapeworms, as it requires the ingestion of a flea, it does sometimes occur, primarily in children.

To continue with the food analogies, roundworms look similar to a piece of spaghetti. Tapeworms and roundworms don’t usually cause a lot of weight loss unless your pet is very infected; butt scooting may be a sign if your pet’s anus is irritated by tapeworms. The primary concern for roundworms is the possibility of stunting growth in puppies as the roundworms eat the partially digested food in the intestinal tract. Humans can contract roundworms if the eggs are inadvertently swallowed. Once an animal has a round worm in their body, some of the worms will move from the intestinal tract into muscle tissue where they remain dormant and inactive until the hormone levels change during pregnancy. The newly awakened worms may then transfer into the offspring through the placenta before they are even born or via the mammary glands during nursing.

All of these worms produce microscopic eggs that are shed in your pet’s feces in the litterbox or in your yard. Even if you cleanup after your pet religiously, there will still be some of these eggs in the environment in incredibly large numbers. Roundworms can shed up to 1,000,000 eggs per gram of feces. The FDA estimates that the average dog excretes 0.75lbs of feces per day. That’s 340 grams which means your dog may shed as many as 340 million roundworm eggs per day!

The fact is, in most cases if you took a shovel full of dirt from anywhere in your yard and analyzed it, you would find eggs for these parasitic worms. In almost all cases puppies and kittens are born with worms, which is why they are routinely wormed when you first get them.

Dr. Cloutier recommends that puppies be wormed at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16 weeks of age to make sure that the worms are “wiped out” and so that your yard does not become contaminated with worm eggs. While no one intentionally ingests worm eggs, if you are playing in the yard, pick up a ball that lands in the grass, and then pickup and eat or drink something, there is an excellent chance you will ingest some worm eggs.

Statistics indicate that 1 in 7 people in the US will show an exposure to roundworms if they are tested. In poorer countries it is estimated that 50% of the population would test positive for roundworms.  Since round worms can migrate through the body, they can also cause severe liver damage, blindness and other life threatening problems.

Intestinal worms in our pets are very easy to prevent, if we do it faithfully. A simple once a month treatment can prevent against all types of worms. Why do we need to do this every month? Because our dogs are outside every day, walking barefoot on the ground and picking up things on the ground with their mouth. They’re not only in our backyard, but we take them other places as well; the dog park, Bangor Forest, hiking trails and many other areas where other people take their dogs. All of those places carry parasites in the soil, and more so if some of the dogs that visit there are not on a monthly worm preventative.  If you cat is an indoor only cat and you have no other pets, you may want to talk to your veterinarian and see if they believe a monthly worm preventative is necessary.

Heartworm falls into the category of worms that exist outside of the GI tract and is a scary internal parasite. Heartworm can be transmitted across species, including but not limited to dogs, cats and humans. It is transmitted via a mosquito that has become infected when they bit wildlife or a pet that is already infected. An infected mosquito typically deposits about four microfilariae (worm larva) when they bite. Statistically one of those four worms will make it to the heart of our pet where it will grow to be an adult worm, growing to about a foot long and living in the right side of our pet’s heart. The migration to the heart and development into adult heartworms typically takes about six months.

If your pet’s heart has both male and female worms, they will start to reproduce, which then means they can infect mosquitoes that bite them and then those mosquitoes can go on and infect other animals. As the worm population grows it can cause problems in the heart and pulmonary arteries; killing the worms to get rid of them is not a simple matter because of where they are located. The dead worms will pass into our pet’s lungs where they can cause additional problems. While heartworm is usually treatable, it can take several months.

We are seeing more and more heartworm in Maine. In certain areas of the southern United States it is estimated that fifty percent of all animals not on a preventative have heartworm. We currently don’t have that high of an incidence in Maine because many pet parents do use a preventative but also because our climate limits the amount of time mosquitoes are active.  However, as well-meaning people and rescue groups bring more dogs up from the South, we bring some dogs into Maine with heartworm.

If no dogs in a neighborhood are carrying heartworm, the percentage of mosquitoes in that community carrying heartworm will be less than 1%. However, if there is a dog that is positive for heartworm in your neighbor’s yard, research suggests that 60% of the mosquitoes in that yard will be carrying heartworm and just a couple houses away, 20% to 30% of the mosquitoes will be carrying heartworm. This is very much a community problem.

If you are adopting a pet from the South, you want to make sure that they are tested for heartworm before they are transported to Maine and again after they have been in Maine for 6 months, and then annually. This is necessary, because there is a period of time where a dog can test negative for heartworm but still have it.

Treating heartworm is a serious issue. It requires a very toxic, arsenic type compound, and your pet needs to be in otherwise good health before being treated. It takes a couple of months to treat and then you must keep your dog quiet for a month during the treatment. It is much easier to prevent heartworm than treat it, so why not just use a preventative?

Heartworm can be prevented by a monthly treatment for both dogs and cats, often with the same treatment you give them for intestinal worms. In Maine, it was typically recommended that a heartworm treatment be given monthly for six months. However, some of the heartworms have become resistant to the preventatives, so manufacturers have had to change their labels to read “Use for six months after the last possible exposure” which effectively means, to be most effective we should be using a heartworm preventative 12 months out of the year even in our cold, frigid state. The heartworm preventatives are very safe, very effective and easy to do. One is even listed as safe for pregnant and lactating animals which suggests a very high degree of safety.

Even indoor cats require protection from heartworm. There is a certain species of mosquito that prefers to get into our homes and also tends to bite cats and carry heartworm. There was a year at the Veazie Veterinary Clinic, probably about ten years ago, where they actually saw more indoor cats test positive for heartworm than dogs.

It should be noted that in the South, in the Mississippi River Valley, there is a type of heartworm that is completely resistant to the heartworm preventatives. Fortunately, it has not moved beyond that area yet.

Although not common, heartworm can be transmitted to people. Since humans are not natural hosts for the heartworm, the heartworm do not fully develop to the full size worms as they do in our pets, but they can pass to the lung and are sometimes mistaken for lung cancer.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (

Pet Health and Wellness – External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (

Worms, Fleas,  and Ticks, Oh My!-Parasites & Your Pets with Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

 Ick! A Tick! -with Dr. Dave Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

External Parasites – Ticks and Fleas with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Internal Parasites – Worms with Dr. Dave Cloutier from the Veazie Veterinary Clinic

©2014, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Vaccinations–Interviews with Dr. Ron Schultz

Vaccines are incredibly important in preventing infectious diseases in both animals and people. However, they can also cause life threatening adverse reactions. This interview discussed the importance of vaccines and how to use them in the safest manner possible.

In Memory of Tikken 300x300I first learned of Dr. Ron Schultz sometime between the spring of 2000 and the spring of 2002. Paula and I had started reading everything we could about vaccinations, especially adverse reactions due to over vaccination, because our Golden Retriever Tikken had started exhibiting some severe behavioral changes in the spring of 2000. Her aggression towards other dogs and subsequent obsessive-compulsive shadow and light chasing began shortly after her third Rabies vaccination. Her first Rabies vaccination was in 1997 when she was a puppy. Her second occurred when she was one year old in 1998 and the third occurred in 2000. At the time Maine law required revaccination for Rabies every two years, even though the Rabies vaccine was labeled as offering immunity for three years.

We were not initially aware that Tikken’s behavioral changes were a result of a vaccine reaction.  We consulted with our local veterinarian who provided treatment and then the veterinary behavior clinic at Tufts University when we saw no improvement. When there was still no improvement we consulted with an applied animal behaviorist in Wisconsin who suggested we explore a homeopathic treatment for Tikken’s disease. In the spring of 2001 Tikken was examined by Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta, ME and diagnosed as having had a reaction to the Rabies vaccine. She was subsequently treated and cured for a Rabies miasm by Dr. Herman.

As a result of Tikken’s illness, Paula and I started educating ourselves about vaccines and I came upon the following quote, by Dr. Schultz, from a veterinary text book.

A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccination. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years in the life of the animal. – Veterinary immunologist Ronald Schultz and Tom Phillips make the following statement in Current Veterinary Therapy, volume XI, pp202-206, 1992.

It was apparent that experts in the field felt that the annual vaccination of our pets was not necessary. Knowing the types of reactions that vaccinations could cause, we continued to learn everything we could about vaccines. We also started to share that information with our clients at Green Acres Kennel Shop when I wrote the article Rethinking Annual Vaccinations for our April 2002 newsletter, Paw Prints.

On February 7th, 2013 Tikken crossed the rainbow bridge at 16 years of age. While she had mostly recovered from the behavioral issues resulting from her adverse reaction to the Rabies vaccine, she was never the same confident, anxiety free dog that she was pre-reaction. Her veterinarians have advised us that the two immune mediated diseases (hypothyroid disease and golden retriever uveitis syndrome) she later developed were also probably related to the Rabies vacation and her genetics. The vaccine triggered an abnormal immune response which affected these other organ systems.

Upon Tikken’s passing Paula and I were looking for an appropriate way to remember her and decided to commit to educating others by sharing Tikken’s story and to do a fundraiser for The Rabies Challenge Fund ( and This interview and the four resulting Woof Meow Shows with Dr. Schultz are part of that educational effort.

The following are notes, not a transcript, from an interview with Dr. Ron Schultz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Schultz is considered to be one of the foremost experts on immunology and vaccinations for pets. The interview occurred on Friday, May 3rd 2013 and was broadcast as four separate editions of The Woof Meow Show on the Voice of Maine WVOM, 103.9FM & WVQM 101.3FM on four subsequent weekends.

  • June 22nd and 23rd – Vaccinations- Why they are important, Core Vaccines & Vaccination Schedules <click to listen>
  • June 29th and 30th  –  Vaccinations, Titer Testing, Non-Core Vaccines and Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex <click to listen>
  • July 6th and 7th –  Vaccinations- Non-Core Vaccines for Cats and Adverse Reactions to Vaccines <click to listen>
  • July 13th and 14th  – Vaccinations – The Rabies Challenge Fund. <click to listen>

The last show has actually aired twice. These four shows have been our most popular podcasts to-date with over 2800 downloads as of October 14th, 2013. All four shows are also available for download at the Apple iTunes store and at

Thanks to the generosity of 53 clients, friends and colleagues we were able to raise a total of $1240 with our fundraiser for The Rabies Challenge Fund from September 1st through October 5th. As promised we matched that generosity dollar for dollar and have sent a check to the Rabies Challenge Fund for $2,535 as a memoriam for our Golden Retriever, Tikken.

Thank you to all of you that contributed; Ann Murray, Anonymous, Barbara Cyr, Becky Brimley, Belinda Doliber, Brent & Michele Slater, Carol Higgins Taylor and Juanita Taylor, Carolyn Clark, Chris & Jane Flieller, Cindy Black, Coastside Bioresources, Colleen Pelar, Cynthia Bentley, Cynthia Farrell, Dee Hoult (Applause Your Paws), Doreen & Ken Dybevik, Gary  & Deb Mickalowski, Ginger & David Ward-Green, Heidi Riggs, Helen Musselwhite, Jan & David Pilotte, Jen Shryock (Family Paws), Jill Marple, John Hamer & Anne Marie Storey, Dr. Judith Herman, Julie Perkins, Juliette Humiston, Kathy Klein, Ken & Peggy Grant, Laura Van Dyne, Linda Mosely, Links Online Marketing, LLC (Kristy & Ken Kimball), Maina Fernald, Margaret Hall, Maria Staples, Marjorie Speck, Michael Puls, Michelle Sirois, Nanette Belenger, Patrick Lyons, Ralph Carr, Rhonda & Rick Hutchins, Richard & Cristanna Cook, Rick and Jill Marston, Sandra Payne, Sarah Baldwin, Sherry Pfister, Susan Scammon, Susan Witt, Teoti Anderson and Vanessa Field.

The Shows

Vaccinations (22JUN13-23JUN13)
Why they are important, Core Vaccines & Vaccination Schedules

Core Vaccines

Vaccines are important because they can prevent some very serious vaccine preventable diseases that can make animals very sick and can even kill. Since the veterinary profession started to reexamine vaccines in the 2000’s, they have come up with the term “core vaccines” to identify the vaccinations that all animals should have. These vaccines are so effective that they will prevent the disease in all appropriately vaccinated animals.

According to Dr. Schultz, dogs should receive the following core vaccines Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2), Canine Adenovirus-1 (Infectious Canine Hepatitis [ICH])/Canine Adenovirus-2 and Rabies Virus (RV). The latter is not only important for the dog, but because it is usually fatal and can be transmitted to humans, it is considered a public health issue.

Dr. Schultz recommends that cats receive the following core vaccines; Feline Parvovirus (Panleukopenia) Virus (formerly known as feline distemper distemper)FPV, Feline Calicivirus (respiratory) (FCV), Feline Herpes Type 1 Virus (FHV-1), and Rabies Virus (RV).

Vaccine Schedules

Since the late 1990’s there has been a big change in the recommendations for how often our pets should be vaccinated. For years vaccinations were given annually as part of a pet’s annual wellness exam. This changed with the eventual recognition that pets were being over vaccinated, which in turn in some cases was causing pets to become very ill or to even die.

Dr. Schultz indicates that dogs should not receive any vaccinations before they are six weeks of age. This is because a puppy/kitten gets some immunity through antibodies in their mother’s milk. Those antibodies help protect the puppy/kitten from disease but also will interfere with vaccinations. This is why puppies and kittens receive multiple vaccinations. Although the antibodies in the milk interfere with vaccinations, under no circumstances should you prevent the puppy/kitten from getting these antibodies.

Recommended vaccination schedule: Start at 8-10 weeks, give a second dose 3 to 4 weeks later and then a final dose an additional 3 to 4 weeks later, making sure it is at 14 to 16 weeks of age. By then the mother’s antibodies will not interfere with the vaccinations.

After these initial puppy/kitten vaccinations, Dr. Schultz recommends doing a titer test or revaccination when the puppy/kitten is a year of age and then revaccinating or re-titering no more frequently than every 3 years.

Some breeds (Rottweiler’s and Doberman’s) do not develop an immune response as easily, especially to the canine parvo vaccine. However, studies have demonstrated that if that last dose is at 14-16 weeks of age at least 98% of puppies will get immunized, regardless of breed.

What Determines How Long A Vaccine is Effective?

It’s the specific vaccine and the disease it was designed to prevent that determines how long it will confer immunity. All of the core vaccines, except Rabies, are modified live vaccines. This means that they actually must infect the animal in order to have an immunization effect and therefore must contain an attenuated version of the actual virus. The immunity that is conferred by this type of vaccine, just like the core vaccines for children (measles, mumps rubella), provide long term immunity because they are live, replicating viruses, much like the immunity one would get if one were actually infected with and recovered from those diseases. Immunity conferred by these vaccines is typically many years to a lifetime. If you get measles or are vaccinated for measles as a child you will not get it again anytime in your life, even if you are exposed. That is the same with distemper, parvo, and the other core animal vaccines. That’s why back in the 1970’s Dr. Schultz and others started questioning the need for annual revaccinations of our pets. In other words, for the core vaccines that include a modified live virus, once a pet has had their puppy series and their revaccination at one year of age, they should be immune for life and should NOT require further vaccination. This is why instead of revaccinating annually Dr. Schultz recommends that we only consider revaccination every three or more years. His personal preference is to do titer testing every three years. A disadvantage of titers is they can be more expensive than revaccinating, but it is much safer to do a titer because while the adverse reactions to vaccines are fairly small they still can occur. Plus it’s just not good medical practice to give a vaccine that’s not needed.

Rabies Vaccinations

Titers can be done for Rabies but due to legal and public health requirements, revaccination for Rabies is still required every three years. Those legal requirements don’t necessarily follow science or good vaccination practice, but they are the law of the land.

All states in the US now have a three year Rabies vaccination law. The initial Rabies vaccination should not occur before 12 weeks of age. The second vaccination should occur a year later and any subsequent revaccination for Rabies should not occur more often than every three years. If you travel internationally with your dog, other laws may apply. I had a friend who moved out of the USA and had to have her dog vaccinated for Rabies three times in a few months in order to be admitted to the country where she moved. The dog later developed hyperthyroid disease which is a possible vaccine reaction.


Vaccinations (29JUN13-30JUN13)
Titer Testing, Non-Core Vaccines and Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex

Titer Testing

Antibody titer testing is a good alternative to revaccinating every three years and should be considered when you bring your pet in for an annual wellness exam. An annual wellness exam is a very important part of any pet’s ongoing veterinary care. Additionally, some of the non-core vaccines must be given on an annual basis because they are only effective for a year.

Dr. Schultz recommends titers for Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2). Titers are generally not needed for Canine Adenovirus-1 (Infectious Canine Hepatitis [ICH])/Canine Adenovirus-2) if you get positive results for distemper and parvo. Titers don’t need to be done more often than every three years.

Unfortunately there is confusion in the veterinary community as to how to use and interpret a titer test. A common misunderstanding about titering is that it is only a snapshot that indicates an animal’s immunity at a specific moment in time and that it does not indicate if your pet will still be immune in three months. Dr. Schultz indicates that is not the case at all. With regard to Distemper, Parvo and Adeno, a positive titer indicates immunity for life unless the animal contracts a severe disease that suppresses their immune system.

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

Non-core vaccines are not necessary for many animals and are only recommended when an animal as at risk of contracting the disease due to lifestyle and or where they live.

Dr. Schultz believes the most important non-core vaccine for the dog is the one for kennel cough or more correctly called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). This is a complex disease that involves a number of bacteria and viruses which can cause this disease. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most prevalent of the bacteria that contribute to this disease. A variety of viruses can also contribute to this disease (Canine Parainfluenza, Canine Influenza virus, and several others). A variety of vaccines exist to reduce the severity of kennel cough.

“You cannot prevent kennel cough like you can prevent Distemper. You can prevent Parvo. You can prevent Adeno, ( infectious canine hepatitis). What we do is when we give the kennel cough vaccine we’re hoping to reduce the severity of the disease and we can’t as I say prevent it, as it is so complex.” – Dr. Ron Schultz

Other non-core vaccines for the dog that are important are Leptospirosis (caused by four different serovars/strains). The other disease that is regional for which there is a vaccine is Lyme disease.

These non-core vaccines, unlike the core vaccines, only provide short-term immunity and must be given annually.

Why don’t these vaccines confer long term immunity? It has to do with the immunity of the animal. There are some diseases, with humans too, where once we get the disease we develop a lifelong immunity. An example with this with humans would be measles. But with humans and animals there are also many diseases which we can get over and over again like Lyme disease and the common cold.

Some of the human vaccines that only give short term immunity would be tetanus. Part of the reason dogs require more frequent vaccinations than humans is that they don’t live as long.

Kennel Cough/CIRDC

Most boarding facilities, daycares and training classes require the canine cough vaccine, even though it’s not a core vaccine. Over the past 15 years the vaccines that are used for this complex group of diseases have changed, as well as the protocols for their administration. What in your opinion really works best?

First we need to remember that canine cough/CIRDC is not vaccine preventable. The vaccines only reduce the severity of the disease. Part of that is because we don’t even have vaccines for some of the organisms that cause CIRDC. However, even where we do have vaccines, they are often only 60% to 70% effective. That’s why a dog can be vaccinated and still get CIRDC.

For Bordetella, the most important bacterial component of canine cough, we now have an injectable vaccine which is made from a dead organism, an intranasal vaccine which is a modified live vaccine, and an oral vaccine which is made from a modified live organism. The two live vaccines are more effective than the dead vaccine. Dr. Schultz recommends revaccination on an annual basis and prefers the intranasal vaccine. It not only includes Bordetella but also canine Parainfluenza. Since the normal path of infection for these diseases is via the respiratory system, Dr. Schultz feels the intranasal approach is the best way to administer this vaccine.

Both Bordetella and canine Parainfluenza can also be administered by injection, but Dr. Schultz indicates that neither work as well as the vaccine administered intra-nasally. Some dogs will develop a cough after being given the intranasal vaccine but it is not an infection but is actually an allergic reaction to the Bordetella component of the vaccine. These dogs have not developed canine cough but because they have a hyper sensitivity to the vaccine they are coughing.


Vaccinations (6JUL13-7JUL13)

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats and Adverse Reactions to Vaccines


In cats there are very few non-core vaccines that are recommended. While Feline Leukemia has previously been recommended annually this has changed to every 2 to 3 years since the publication of the new guidelines. It is now only considered a core vaccine for all kittens because if we get a major part of the population of kittens vaccinated we could reduce or even eliminate Feline Leukemia virus as a cause of disease in the cat. It would require two doses given between 8 and 10 weeks of age and between 12 to 14 weeks of age. Dr. Schultz would recommend a third vaccine again at one year and then no further vaccines for FeLV. They have actually eradicated Feline Leukemia in Switzerland using this type of vaccine program with kittens.

The Feline Immune Deficiency Virus vaccine is not recommended by Dr. Schultz. There is also a Feline Infectious Peritonitis vaccine that is available and most feline practitioners do not recommend this vaccine.

Non-Adjuvanted One Year Rabies Vaccine for Cats

A non-adjuvanted Rabies vaccine that requires annual revaccinations is also available for cats. In addition to the ingredients used to stimulate the immune response many vaccines contain an adjuvant, which is an additional ingredient designed to further stimulate the immune system. Unfortunately, this adjuvant is often the vaccine component which causes an adverse reaction, hence the development of this non-adjuvanted vaccine. This will probably become a three year vaccine in the near future.

Adverse Reactions Caused By Vaccines

Injection site sarcomas, the development of a malignant tumor at a vaccine injection site was one of the reasons vaccines started to be looked at more critically. This was discovered in the mid 1980’s when these lethal tumors started showing up in cats.

Vaccines do have the potential to cause harm, but for years the prevailing attitude was if a vaccine doesn’t help, it least it won’t hurt. Obviously this was not the case and people started to reexamine if their pets should be vaccinated so frequently, much less at all.

In general vaccines are very safe. Less serious adverse reactions can include causing a change in pigmentation at the injection site. The injection site sarcoma was very much a species issue related specifically to the cat. Injection site tumors in the dog are very rare. All of these adverse reactions are determined by the genetics of the animal, not only the vaccine. When breeders observe these vaccination reactions in litters, they need to make sure that those animals producing these litters are not bred again. Doing so only perpetuates the genetics and increases the odds of an adverse reaction.

Autoimmune diseases are genetically controlled but can be triggered by vaccinations. Immune mediated hypersensitivities like anaphylaxis have both a genetic and a vaccine component. Adverse reactions do not always occur the first time a vaccine is administered but can occur after subsequent vaccinations when the animal becomes hypersensitive.

Certain vaccines are more likely to trigger this type of hypersensitivity.  The Leptospirosis vaccine and the injectable Bordetella vaccine have caused hypersensitivity reactions. It’s often not the antigens in the vaccine, the substances that are meant to help the animal, that cause the reactions. Reactions are often caused by other ingredients in the vaccine like Bovine Serum Albumen, adjuvants, etc. By vaccinating only with the vaccines that are absolutely necessary and as infrequently as possible, we can minimize the risk of adverse reactions.

There are many adverse reactions that can occur from a vaccination. Dr. Schultz has a list over a page long of potential vaccine reactions. Even behavioral changes can be the result of an adverse reaction because the immune system is closely integrated with both the nervous and endocrine system. This is why behavior can be affected by a vaccine.

The only reactions that are considered to be caused by a vaccine are those that happen immediately, within 15 minutes to an hour after vaccination. There are other reactions that can happen days, weeks and even months later.


Vaccinations (13JUL13-14JUL13)

The Rabies Challenge Fund

Tikken’s Story

Don and Tikken-1with text 600x903Our Golden Retriever Tikken had started exhibiting some severe behavioral changes in the spring of 2000. Her aggression towards other dogs and subsequent obsessive-compulsive shadow and light chasing began shortly after her third Rabies vaccination. Her first Rabies vaccination was in 1997 when she was a puppy. Her second occurred when she was one year old in 1998 and the third occurred in 2000. At the time Maine law required revaccination for Rabies every two years, even though the Rabies vaccine was labeled as offering immunity for three years.

We were not initially aware that Tikken’s behavioral changes were a result of a vaccine reaction.  We consulted with our local veterinarian who provided treatment and then the veterinary behavior clinic at Tufts University when we saw no improvement. When there was still no improvement we consulted with an applied animal behaviorist in Wisconsin who suggested we explore a homeopathic treatment for Tikken’s disease. In the spring of 2001 Tikken was examined by Dr. Judy Herman of the Animal Wellness Center in Augusta, ME and diagnosed as having had a reaction to the Rabies vaccine. She was subsequently treated and cured for a Rabies miasm by Dr. Herman.

For more about Tikken, the Rabies vaccination and here treatment: <click here>.

The Rabies Challenge Fund

This is a project conceived by Kris Christine whose Labrador Retriever, Meadow, had an adverse reaction to a Rabies vaccine. Meadow developed a mast cell sarcoma at the injection site of the Rabies vaccination. Kris actually recruited Dr. Ron Schultz and another veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodds, also very involved in vaccine work, to start a study to answer the question how long is the duration of immunity from today’s Rabies vaccine used with dogs? Current vaccines are labeled by the USDA as one year or three year vaccines. In some of these cases the vaccines are actually identical.

Because Rabies is a disease that can affect humans in addition to animals it is regulated more strictly than other vaccines. The duration of immunity is actually determined by challenging previously immunized animals with exposure to the disease to see if they survive. No additional challenge tests have been done beyond three years. A goal of the Rabies Challenge Fund is to complete this study at the 5 year and 7 year points.

The Rabies vaccine given today is a killed or non-infectious vaccine. Typically the duration of immunity for vaccines of this type is much shorter than the duration of immunity for modified live vaccines. For example a distemper killed vaccine provides immunity for about a year while a distemper vaccine made with modified live virus has a duration of immunity equal to the lifetime of the animal.

Up until the mid-1980’s, the Rabies vaccine was made with a modified live virus and that vaccine likely would result in lifetime immunity. However, because a few cats that received that vaccine actually developed a Rabies infection after vaccination the USDA no longer allows this vaccine to be used in the US. It is unclear why these cats developed Rabies from the vaccine. It is quite possible that their immune systems were already compromised due to an infection of Feline Leukemia virus.

The goal of the study being conducted by the Rabies Challenge Fund is to determine if the current killed vaccine will offer immunity up to five and seven years.

A new advance in Rabies vaccines is the development of vaccines made with recombinant technology. A feline version of this Rabies vaccine already exists. It behaves like a live vaccine but it cannot actually infect an animal with Rabies. This technology has also been used with the Distemper vaccine for the dog. That vaccine gives as long a duration of immunity as a modified live virus vaccine, up to nine years, which is considered a lifetime. Since there is no live virus in the vaccine it is also safer. It is also safer because recombinant vaccines, unlike killed virus vaccines, do not require the addition of adjuvants to help increase the immune response. It is believed that the hypersensitivity reactions to vaccines may be in part caused by these adjuvants.

The Rabies Challenge Fund is funded entirely by animal owners, not vaccine companies or any other company. The University of Wisconsin has been very generous in reducing the costs of the study since it is being funded by animal owners. Donations have come from individuals, dog clubs and others. The study is not over and fundraising is ongoing. If you are interested in helping fund this project you can find more information at (

The Rabies Challenge Fund is not only doing research but has also done some very effective lobbying to change the laws in all 50 states so that dogs only need to be revaccinated for Rabies every three years. Prior to that effort, there were many states that required the Rabies vaccine annually.


©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense

By Kate Dutra

< Updated 14APR19 >

Change – not a word that many pet food manufacturers wanted to hear, but definite music to our dogs’ ears and overall heath. The change that we are referring to is dietary rotation. When we first began discussing dietary rotation several years ago, many of our pet food manufacturers were livid! Today however, largely to meet consumer demand, many pet food manufacturers now are producing diets within their food lines that are designed for convenient rotation.

For years, the pet food companies have been successfully convincing many of us that changing our pet’s diet will result in digestive upset. And if you ever did try to switch foods, they were quite often proven correct and you would never make that mistake again! But when you step back and think about it from a canine evolutionary standpoint, does it even make sense? Dogs are scavengers. In its feral state a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts should be equipped to handle a variety of different foods in rapid succession – there is nobody providing a slow transition to a new diet.

So what has caused this change in our domesticated dog’s gastrointestinal tract? The answer in short is that, with the help of the pet food manufacturers, we have caused it. Let’s say for example that you purchase a 30# bag of dog food and it takes your dog 6 weeks to eat it. So for 6 weeks, aside from the occasional snack here and there, your dog eats nothing else. You were so pleased with the results of this food, that when you returned you purchased another 30# bag of the same food again and again. So now, for several months your dog has consumed only that one specific type and brand of food. Now I ask, if you were to only eat one thing for several months, even if it was of great quality, and you suddenly changed, would there not be a high probability that you too would be suffering from digestive upset?

The benefits of dietary rotation are many. The first that comes to mind is simply a decrease in food boredom; imagine what it would be like to eat the same thing every day for a week, yet we often ask our dogs to do it for a lifetime. Secondly is that by alternating diets we have the opportunity to broaden our dogs’ exposures to other meat, fat, grain, fruit and vegetable sources, thus introducing different macro and micronutrients for optimal long-term health; with increased exposure comes a healthier gut and the ability to handle a wider variety of foods without digestive upset. Thirdly, by rotating diets we can potentially decrease long term exposure to harmful pathogens and microbes found in some grains which can lead to chronic illness that may not appear until later in life.

Thankfully, many of the pet food companies are now offering lines that give the consumer the ability to easily rotate diets. This however does not mean that you need to stay within a specific brand line, even though the manufacturer wants you to. We actually would encourage the rotation of brands as well as food ingredients whenever possible, as different companies make use of different vitamin packs and sourcing for their primary ingredients. But if you are not comfortable with this, your dog will still benefit from change within a brand as opposed to no change at all.

When you do change you may notice some differences. In some case stools may be smaller and firmer, other times larger and softer. There will be some foods your dog prefers over others and you can note that preference. (I actually had a lab that HATED the duck formulas – go figure)! As you and your dog try out the foods, you will find that you will both develop a preference for certain ones and use those in your rotation. The key is to not be afraid to try something new; the pet food industry is always coming out with great new stuff, it’s not just chicken anymore! Remember, if your dog has a healthy gut and is accustomed to new foods, they will be able to handle the change.

Diet rotation is not for every dog, however. Although rare, there are some dogs with true food allergies that may be best left on the same diet. Others are on prescription diets or have specific health concerns and dietary changes should not be attempted until discussed with a veterinarian. But if you believe your dog would benefit from dietary rotation we encourage you to start today. If your dog has been consuming the same food for an extended period of time, chances are you will have to slowly transition to any new diet, but hopefully with a little patience and some yogurt you will be able to help your dog’s gut develop and regain optimal health, allowing you to transition foods rapidly with little to no mixing.

NOTE: We typically do not encourage rotation of dry diets for cats, particularly neutered males as there is the potential for a change in the pH of the urine which could lead to the formation of crystals in their urine.

Shared Blog Post – Food Transitioning versus Food Rotating: What is the Difference? – Dr. Jean Dodds – 12APR19 –

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No Pain, No Force, & No Fear – Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care

<Updated 19JUN19>

< A short link to this page – >

Green Acres Kennel Shop is a pet-friendly, force-free, fear-free and pain-free facility. We believe that pets have an intrinsic right to be treated humanely, to have each of their individual needs met, and to live in a safe, enriched environment free from force, pain, and fear. Green Acres Kennel Shop meets or exceeds the standards set in the Guiding Principles of The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association AAHA 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines.

While there are many excellent pet care facilities that genuinely want the best for the animals they care for, we believe it is essential that pet guardians realize not all people in the pet care business are “pet-friendly.” In some cases the abuse does not stem from ill will, instead, it is merely a matter of a lack of education about dogs and cats their needs, behavior, and acceptable, humane care. Regardless of the reasons, however, the outcome for the animal is a negative one.

As a “Pet-Friendly” facility Green Acres pledges that we will NEVER intentionally do anything that will cause your best friend any sort of physical, mental or emotional trauma. If your pet is stressed, we will tell you, and while in our care we will do everything we can to reduce or alleviate that stress, not contribute to it.

As members of The Pet Professional Guild we “…understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No compulsion based methods are ever employed to train or care for a pet..”

We concur with the AAHA Guidelines which state: “Aversive techniques include prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. None of those tools and methods should be used to either teach or alter behavior.” Green Acres Kennel Shop does NOT use or recommend the use of any of these aversive tools.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )

Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

Other Online Resources

Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Pet Professional Guild – Guiding Principles

2015 AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines  –

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