Q: I’ve heard that vaccines can be harmful to pets and cause auto-immune diseases. Are there any alternatives to vaccines for my pets so that they are protected from infectious diseases?
A: Vaccines are a hotly debated topic in the human and veterinary medical fields and there are many and varied opinions on this issue.
Within the veterinary arena, vaccines have been vital in stopping the spread of devastating and fatal viral infections within our animal populations. Vaccines have allowed us to not only keep our domesticated animals safe but also to protect our farm animals and food sources over the years.
Due to the availability of vaccines, we have been able to limit, if not eradicate, the spread of a large number of infectious diseases through our animals' populations within the United States.
The theory behind vaccinating a large number of animals is to create enough immunity within a population of animals that when that population is exposed to a dangerous virus it becomes more difficult for the disease to spread. If there are a few individuals within the population that are not vaccinated, they would be protected by the majority. However, if a majority of the population is not vaccinated, and does not have any immunity, then the spread of the virus can be devastating.
There are also multiple viruses that can jump from an animal to a human, such as the Rabies virus which is almost 100% fatal in humans if not treated immediately. So, to continue to slow the spread of infection and protect our animal populations, vaccines are essential.
However, it is important to understand how vaccines work so that you are not over vaccinating an animal unnecessarily. Young animals need to have multiple boosters to induce the most appropriate immune response at the beginning of their lives, and once the animal is an adult the vaccines can be spaced out.
You also need to understand which vaccines are core vaccines and which are non-core vaccines to avoid giving your pet unnecessary vaccines. The vaccines you give a pet is determined by your location in the United States and the pet’s lifestyle and possible exposure.
There is also the ability to run blood titer tests once a pet has been properly vaccinated to determine if the animal has an appropriate immunity to provide protection rather than boostering the vaccine. However, these blood tests are expensive and sometimes difficult to interpret but can be potentially used as an alternative to follow up boosters.
Q: My cat is very overweight and I need some advice as to how to help him lose weight.
A: An overweight cat may be cute and cuddly but is at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to the excess weight on its body.
For the most part, cats become overweight when they are fed an unlimited amount of dry food. Dry cat food has a higher amount of carbohydrates and, for a cat, this is similar to eating fast food every day, all day long.
A cat is built to eat small meals throughout the day that are high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. Their metabolism is also adjusted to fasting for periods of time throughout the day rather than eating whenever they are hungry
To effectively get a cat to lose weight, you must switch your cat to a primarily canned diet and offer meals rather than leaving the food out all day. I recommend feeding a determined amount of canned diet with a small amount of dry food twice daily and if the cat does not eat the entire amount then you must put it away until the next meal.
I also recommend exercising your cat with laser pointers, climbing cat furniture and leash walks outside. With a diet change and increasing exercise you should start to see some weight loss in your kitty!