"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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More Health Care - and Risk Management...
Did I scare you with all the vaccination fraud? Seriously, I do not blame you for feeling quite uneasy about this...
The problem gets worse, because you will run into many problems if you draw the only diligent conclusion from this: to stop vaccinating.
First, there is the health issue: you do not want your dog to get sick. I understand - and I agree. Sort-of.
My reservation is this: it makes sense to me that you want to protect your dog against dangerous diseases that possibly could cost your dog its life. For those, the risk of a single vaccination might be worth the benefit.
But it makes no sense whatsoever to try to protect the dog against diseases that are not going to do it any serious harm. And it makes no sense to me to try to protect your dog against a disease that is so rare that your chances of ever getting exposed to it are slimmer than your risk of getting hit by an airplane.
The only truly dangerous and fairly common diseases that expose the dog to a serious death risk is Distemper and Rabies.
Parvo is not dangerous, except for young puppies - I have seen hundreds of adults dogs get it, without being seriously ill at all. (It always happens 2-3 weeks after vaccination - you may guess why...) For puppies, the situation is a bit different, but the main thing is that vaccination does not help! You cannot get any serious protection by vaccinating a puppy before 12 weeks of age - the puppy seriously risks being worse off when vaccinated, and you have no way of telling! For puppies, you need to make sure that those critters suck the "life" out of their mom - because she will give them protection through the mother milk! However, if your puppy got weaned before 7-8 weeks of age, this protection is not complete - and your pup is vulnerable....
Just about all other diseases that commonly are vaccinated against are no more dangerous for your dog than the flue is for you (like Bordatella, Corona virus, and all kinds of "Kennel cough"...). Or the diseases are so rare or so exotic that your chances of your dog contracting them are not worth writing home about. Or the diseases are simple to cure with antibiotics, once you discover them and get your dog to the vet (like Lyme Disease...). Or the vaccine plain simply isn't effective anyway (like Leptospirosis...).
We need to talk about risk management.
This article will help you understand the fundamental concept I would like to discuss in further detail:
Avoiding health risks - or living with them?
The big question is, "How do you find out what the risk for a certain disease is - in your area?"
It is not always easy, and you will have to do some research on your own, because I cannot give you any general recommendations - simply because the picture varies from one location to another. There are many provinces/states/countries, for instance, where there simply is no Distemper and hasn't been for decades. Same with Rabies. In those areas, there is no responsible health reason for vaccinating against those diseases. However, if you travel, there could be...
But here is the information you need in order to make your risk assessment:
You need to find out how many victims per year a certain disease has claimed in your area.
You need to know the number of unvaccinated dogs in that same area.
That's it! Then you divide the number of disease cases with the number of dogs, and the fraction you get can be expressed in percent or ppm, as you want.
If your vet is a responsible advisor, he/she should be able to give you those numbers. If not, the advice he/she gives you is unprofessional and should not be used. (I am dead serious on this: I will repeat it in court any time!)
The trouble is that finding those numbers might take some guesswork and some estimating. Don't worry too much about that, though - because you do not need precise numbers here. You only need the order of magnitude!
Seriously, it does not matter much if the risk for contracting a certain deadly disease is 50 ppm or 200 ppm. But it matter if it is 50 ppm instead of 5,000 ppm (=0.5%)
As you understand from the article I referred to, risks in the ball park of 100 ppm (=0.000,100%) are in the range of the risk of getting killed in traffic. Yes - this is not something you want to ignore, but it is also something we all have learned to live quite comfortably with, doing our best to avoid "tempting fate" with any hazardous driving.
Death risks in the range of 0.1% (1,000 ppm) and higher are more serious - and if we move to 1% or above, I would personally consider them unacceptable.
But this gives you three ranges of risk:
All you need to know is which category your likelihood falls into. As you can see, you can miscalculate by a factor of ten, and it doesn't really matter a whole lot!
Let's discuss how you find out the number of disease cases in your area. There are many ways. Your government's department for agriculture might have the numbers! Phone them!
If not, you might be able to get them from the veterinary association. Phone them and ask!
If you cannot get through on any of those avenues, you can phone the veterinary hospitals in your area. You do not need to talk to the veterinarian. The receptionist can help you just fine. You simply ask how many cases of the disease this particular hospital has had over the last year. You might explain that you are trying to do a study of the seriousness of this disease in your state/province - which is perfectly true! Remember, you do not need any overly exact numbers....
You do the same with the next veterinary hospital. You simply take them all from the phone book!
If you can cover the entire state/province, you have done extremely well. But chances are that you cannot do that. And you don't have to. You just need to know what percentage of the total area these hospitals cover. Let's say you phoned about 8% of all the hospitals in your state or province. Well, multiply your numbers by 12 then (the reciprocal of 8% = 0.08 is approximately 12...) - and you are more than close enough to a good number for the entire area! You might be off 50% or so - but who cares?!
For the number of unvaccinated dogs, same thing. You need to get an estimate for how many dogs in your area are not vaccinated against this disease. This number can be more tricky to get, because the veterinary hospitals will generally not know directly (they will only know about which dogs they vaccinate, unless they are willing to tell you how many clients they have that refuse vaccination...) - and this means that the veterinary association and the government won't know either, as they generally get their information from the local vets. If you can get an estimate of how big a fraction of the dog population they think is not covered, then fine. You might ask several hospitals - and you might get some very different numbers!
You can also do your own research. You simply ask people you meet on the streets, if their dog has been vaccinated against the specific disease. If you explain your reason, most people will be happy to help you. You simply make a count. What you need is the fraction of the total dog population that is not covered. Let's say you asked 25 people. 4 of them were not covered. This gives you a pretty good estimate: 4/25 = 0.16 = 16% that is not covered. The true number might be 10% - or 25%. And you might be able to get a more precise estimate by asking more people. But, as you understand by now, such differences don't matter... From a statistical point of view, asking more than 100 people is meaningless. The uncertainty you deal with is about the size of the square root of the number of people you ask, so asking 100 people will give an uncertainty of ±10 (10%). Asking 25 people gives an uncertainty of ±5 (20%).
You might want to compare this to the numbers you got from the veterinary hospitals or from other sources. You want to understand that if you make the number larger than it truly is, you will underestimate your risk. If you make it smaller, you will exaggerate your risk. So, to play it safe, you want to keep yourself toward the lower end of what you think would be a good overall estimate. What you particularly need to consider is your chance of having made a non-representative poll. If you ask in a rural area, you might get a very different result from what you will get in a big city. And if you ask in poor neighborhood, the result will certainly be different from what you get in Hollywood. Just use some common sense.
Let's say that you found out that 10% of the dogs in your area were unprotected. You can now find out how many dogs in real life are unprotected by multiplying the fraction you found by the total number of dogs in the area. This number will generally be available from government sources - the dog licensing departments of your local government (county/municipality). Again - a few phone calls will do it. You do not need to phone them all - just enough of them for you to be able to "scale up", just as you did before when estimating the total number of disease cases by phoning the veterinary hospitals.
OK? You now got the total number in your state/province of disease cases. And you got the total number of exposed dogs. Dividing the first by the ladder gives you the likelihood, probably with an accuracy of a factor of two - which means that your number could be twice as big as it should - or half. But it will not be ten times off!
I know - there is a little work involved in this. But everyone can do it. And you dog deserves that you don't play games with these risks. You need to know what they are - otherwise you cannot take diligent care of your dog.
But I assure you: there is POWER in doing this math!
Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
You can reach me by simply clicking on the peeing dog to the right. --->
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Now we are talking about health management, I should also make sure that you check out the information K9joy has on the web site. The relevant page is http://k9joy.com/education/healthcareforyourdog.php. I strongly suggest you check that page - and send in your suggestions to what is missing!
Another serious thing I want to mention is that my mentor in veterinary matters and good friend since 1972, the Danish holistic veterinarian Finn Smed, has agreed to make phone consultations for subscribers to The Peeing Post! Finn has a huge expertise in natural (and inexpensive) medicine - and he has for more than 35 years worked closely with chiropractors, acupuncturist, homeopaths, and many other "alternative" health practitioners. Living and practicing in Denmark, he is not legally obliged to be a member of any associations in order to maintain his license to practice - and he isn't. This means that he can speak the truth! And I know he will. If you have a health concern or a health problem you would like to get some serious a "second opinion" about, then setting up a phone consultation with Finn might be a worthy solution. If he cannot help you, there will be no charge. You can check this possibility out in further detail through Finn's introduction of himself at http://k9joy.com/FinnSmed/introduction.html.