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This is Billybear's story. I'm writing this because I believe that vets lead us to over-vaccinate our dogs. Don't get me wrong. I do believe we need to vaccinate otherwise our dogs are at risk of disease. However I don't believe there is any reason for the amount of vaccinations we subject our dogs to.
Billy as a puppy
Being the type of person I am I chose to vaccinate my dogs with a C5 vaccination (a 5-in-1 vaccine) that the vet recommended was the best option to keep my dogs safe. So as a puppy and again at one year old billy had C5 vaccines. He seemed fine. No adverse reaction, no problem. He had the thickest most gorgeous coat like plush velvet when scissored. He strutted his stuff in the ring and never looked like he had any problems, except that he always seemed to have swollen glands...
Billy at 2 yrs old
At between 1.5 and 2 years of age Billy was mated twice about 3 months apart. After the second mating (8 months after his vaccination) Billy seemed off colour to me. At first I thought he was pining for his girlfriend but he had bad breath (which he'd never had before) and he was depressed. He just wasn't 'right'.
So I took him to the vet. There was nothing really wrong with him so we decided that he may need a back tooth pulled to fix the bad breath. The tooth, which had grown in crooked, was one he never chewed on and was at risk for periodontal disease, it would have to be pulled sooner or later anyway. So I booked him in and asked that they do a thyroid test while he was there.
While under anaesthesia the vet found a tumour under Billy's tongue and removed it. It turned out to be benign (a pyogenic granuloma). The thyroid tests came back .5 below the normal range.
The vet wanted to put Billy on thyroid medication but I said no, he showed no other symptoms. He had a thick coat, he wasn't fat, he was normal. My hunch proved right: After the tumour was removed Billy was better than evr. He had boundless energy, he became a ball chasing maniac, he was happy and active and he no longer had bad breath. I put all his symptoms down to the tumour.
Billy at 3 yrs old
The following year I didn't vaccinate Billy. I figured he'd had enough stress to his system so I let it go that year. I did the thyroid test again however and a year down the track his test came back normal - not only was it normal but it was at the higher end of the normal range! I figured it was the tumour causing the problems - now it was gone all was right!
Billy at 5 yrs old
Since Billy was a registered Pets as Therapy Dog he needed to be up to date on his shots. So at 4 years old I vaccinated him again with a C5.
Eight months after his vaccination Billy was off colour again. We had just moved to Tasmania and I'd broken my ankle so I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been. I put his 'not quite right-ness' down to the move, the stress of missing me while I was in hospital etc. But then I had to stop living in denial and really look at Billy. He was losing coat, he wasn't happy, he was depressed.
And he was licking his lips a lot! I looked under his tongue and sure enough the tumour was back! We got a lift into the vet and we decided to keep an eye on the tumour for the time being and leave surgery till I could drive again.
Two months later the tumour wasn't any bigger but I booked him in to have it removed. This time it was something else, not a granuloma, still benign but one step more serious than the last time. By then his coat was falling out in handfuls. I clipped him off and shaved his tail as it was almost totally bare. We tested his thyroid and it was well below normal so this time I put him on medication.
Since then Billy has been on half an Oroxine pill a day and he's no longer depressed but he still has not grown back his coat - except for the tail which is now almost normal. His skin is dry yet greasy and he has 'dandruff'. For now Billy is doing well - he's happy, active and healthy. I'll be retesting him shortly and adjusting his meds if needed and hopefully he will grow back most of his coat.
However I will not be vaccinating him again. From now on he will be vaccinated homeopathically.
Billy at 8 yrs old
Billy is now almost hairless on his body and tail. He has some hair on his legs, head and ears but its nowhere near the type of thick coat he had. He's on medication and is fine, happy and energetic. He's not fat, just cuddly. But the hair wont grow back and his skin goes through stages of dry flakiness and spotty oily bits... All tests run dont show anything wrong with his skin and skin punches came back that his follicles were 'sleeping'. The vet had no suggestions.
Billy at 10yrs old
Billy started to get more flakey and black grease spots on his skin so I took him to another vet and ran all the tests again. We put him on antibiotics which cleaned the staph skin infection and he may have grown a bit more hair but he's still almost bald. His muscle tone is poor but better on meds than not. At least when on meds he's a happy boy.
Billy at 11-12yrs old
Billy's skin continued to be a problem and he started developing what looked like further complications. He got crusty bits around his eyes, nose and ears. One day his feet swelled up and never got better despite treatment with cortizone. I had him booked in for more tests, more skin punches, but I had to face facts. Billy was unhappy. I had to let him go where he could be whole and grow hair again.
When I got Billy I knew his grandfather had hypothyroidism but I was assured by my vet and other breeders that it was not hereditary. I've come to believe that even if hypothyroidism isn't totally hereditary the susceptibility to it surely is. Perhaps its a weakness in the thyroid or the immune system... either way, I no longer believe that subjecting a dog's immune system to 5-in-1 vaccinations is the right way to go. When living in Greece vaccinations were split into 3 or even 4 shots. I think that's the safer way to go.
Although as I said, I don't think the vaccination itself would have caused the thyroid malfunction if there wasn't a weakness there, I do believe that over-vaccinating him caused him to actually come down with the disease. Billy's immune system was compromised and that, in the end, lead to his dying younger than he needed to.
Billy died in April 2011, only weeks away from his 12th birthday. He died of complications due to a compromised immune system. I will not include photos of Billy in his last 2 years as it breaks my heart to see him like that.
Articles On Vaccines
Billy as a baby - 8 weeks.
Billy at 3 months at his first show.
Billy at 18mths in a full dense coat.
Billy at 5yrs old after he'd started losing hair.
Billy at 6yrs, on medication but still losing coat.
Billy now at almost 10yrs old, almost entirely bald on his back, tail, stomach and chest.