Monthly Archives: March 2014

Vaccine schedule, pet size and titer tests (VacciCheck).

I recently read a new blog about vaccines that was written by Dr. Ana Falk and shared by Dr. Jean Dodds on her website: Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog | Vaccinations: A Global Perspective.

We at IVC (Integrative Veterinary Care) are sharing the link with our clients, as it provides a different point of view on vaccinations. In this article, Dr. Ana Falk discusses homeopathic vaccines (nosodes) and also introduces a different perspective regarding vaccinating versus treating parvovirus and distemper in pets. I share the same point of view as Dr. Falk, and I find this article well-written, providing another supporting opinion. Most veterinarians advocate use of vaccines, following proper protocol and schedules. Although Integrative Veterinary Care promotes fewer vaccines, we still do support them because we feel that they are important in preventing diseases that may cause death from fatal illness and disease. It is easier for us to prevent these diseases then to treat them.

Rabies and titer testing

A question by Marie Gallant on our Facebook page asks about the usage of vaccines versus natural options. This prompted us to look into relevant links and supportive information for our clients. In regards to rabies vaccines for our clients, this is our opinion: By law, for rabies in New Brunswick, we follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Dogs and outdoor cats older than 12 weeks of age need Rabies vaccines once, then again a year later, followed by vaccination every three years. 

In the past, we have sent all our blood tests and titers to Kansas State University for lab testing. However, we are happy to announce that we now have access to in-house blood testing for core dog vaccines titers (Distemper, Parvovirus, and Hepatitis) through one of our affiliate hospitals in Moncton (Elmwood Veterinary Hospital). The cost is the same as the core vaccine fee, making this option more affordable for our clients! Although ideally Rabies titers would be performed, the cost of a Rabies vaccination is cheaper than the actual Titer test, so many owners choose to vaccinate instead of the test.

What vaccinations are recommended? 

Before giving any and all vaccinations, I will evaluate your dog on an individual basis. For all vaccines, I try to minimize its use and will only vaccinate when I believe it’s necessary for the individual dog. I typically don’t recommend the Lyme vaccine and only use it for dogs that are getting ticks weekly. I also try to avoid giving Leptospirosis when I can, and if I do, then it is only given to dogs at risk (hunting dogs and dogs that spend time off-leash). Leptospirosis should not be given to dogs under twelve weeks of age, although I have seen it done by some vets.

More vaccines equal more chances of allergic reactions and other side effects. When giving vaccinations, we are injecting something foreign into the animal’s body. This can sometimes hyper-stimulate the immune system into doing things it should not! In the past few years, new studies have shown how long vaccines last in our pet’s bodies — because of the lack of this information just a few years ago, I believe that we have been over-vaccinating our pets.

Depending on the exposure, I will do vaccines for some diseases every three years (or  titer testing) instead of yearly. I do support the puppy booster series (two-three shots in one month intervals). Having experience treating Parvovirus in unvaccinated puppies, knowing that a vaccine could have saved the animal is sad. Personally, I do not vaccinate my pets anymore since they have no contact with other dogs as well as one of my dogs having an immune disease.

Indoor adult cats are vaccinated every three years or more depending on their risk of exposure to other cats. Cats that go outside will get some vaccines every 3 years (herpesvirus, panleukopenia and calicivirus) and leukemia yearly. Kitten vaccines follow the puppy vaccines booster series schedule then they are vaccinated a year later. After this we  do the adult cat schedule mentioned above.

 What is the importance of size? 

Let’s talk about size when it comes to vaccines! Does size really matter? Do we need to give less then the usual 1ml vaccine per dog no matter what size they are? In most veterinary schools, students are taught that it is necessary to give 1ml per dog because this amount was required to stimulate an immune response. Unlike drugs (like antibiotics) that are dose-by-weight in kg, vaccines are dosed per pet. This means that a 5lbs Yorkshire is receiving the same amount as a 100 lbs Great Dane is.

size for vaccines

Because drugs are metabolized by the organs like the kidney and the liver, we need to dose them per weight in order to get an effective level in the blood and tissue so that they can do their job to fight infections and such. The bigger the animal, the more area to cover. But, since vaccines are designed to boost the immune response, it involves the immune system which is not measured by weight and so vaccines are not processed by the body as a drug would.

So, in theory, size should not matter since it is all the same immune system. I decided to personally investigate this a bit, as I struggled to understand how this worked.

Recently, I did titer testing on a 16 lbs Papillon. Although she was now about nine years old, she had only received her puppy vaccinations. Despite nine years of not receiving any vaccinations, it was very interesting to find that both her Parvovirus and Adenovirus titers were still up to date, while her Distemper was a bit lower than the recommendation. ( Technically, this required her to receive a booster shot for Distemper virus, while Parvovirus and Adenovirus was unnecessary.

The time that vaccinations stay in the body depends on the individual. Not every dog will have such a strong immune response to a puppy vaccine that it supports them for nine years. However, we always recommend titer testing every three years, as suggested by Dr. Dodds’.

Now, let’s jump back to the question about the amount of vaccine in relation to the size of the animal. Although in veterinary school I was taught that size did not matter, I read that horses and other large animals actually did differ in the amount of vaccines. For dogs and cats, 1ml is recommended, while horses and cattle receive 2ml and extremely large animals, such as elephants, receive 2-4ml.

So, if size really does not matter, why are horses receiving a higher quantity of vaccines than dogs, for instance? I decided to email Dr. Dodds’ and ask her opinion on the subject.

Dr. Dodds said that her nearly five decades of veterinary experience have shown that the dose of Distemper and Parvovirus can be reduced by 50%, but not more, for small breed dogs (based on their body weight), yet still convey full duration of immunity and protection. This rule applies to both puppies and older small dogs weighing less than twelve pounds. In Dr. Dodds’ studies, she found that greater than 95% of the dogs given a half dose amounted to what is considered to be protective antibody titers for both Distemper and Parvovirus.

She also noted that by reducing the volume of a vaccine, we are decreasing the likelihood of an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Common adverse symptoms often occur within three days of vaccination and can more intensely affect dogs of a young age, small size, neutered dogs, as well as the amount of vaccines given at one time.

Dr. Dodds’ research did not include Adenovirus, so it is unknown if this virus applies to the same idea that dogs under twelve pounds can receive 50% of the typical vaccination amount. Dr. Dodd mentioned that she may be possibly starting a pilot study in regards to small-breed dogs, like the Maltese. Hopefully we will soon have more data that safely recommends giving smaller breeds less vaccines.

As medicine evolves, so do our beliefs and opinions on it. As veterinarians, we can only recommend what we know, what we have learned, and what is supported by scientific data. But as veterinarians, it is also our responsibility to continue learning, question things, and learn from our mistakes.

Giving multiple vaccinations at once

In my personal experience, I have found that giving more than one type of vaccine at one time often leads to more adverse reactions, particularly in small-breed dogs. Although I have seen adverse reactions in large-breed animals, they are typically mild. Unfortunately, severe vaccine reactions in small dogs are more common.

In my practice, I have began splitting up vaccinations for small dogs, and thus far, have not seen a severe reaction in over three years. Now, whether this is because of the amount of the vaccine dose or because the dog only received one vaccine at a time, I don’t know for sure.

As far as splitting off vaccinations, I like to give a Rabies vaccination separate from other core vaccines in smaller dogs. I have also stopped vaccinating my clients yearly and now evaluate the dog’s individual case to determine the frequency of vaccinations needed, as well as titer testing.

In a nutshell… 

The moral of the story is if the dog is under twelve pounds, we should consider reducing the dose of the vaccines for them. To be safe, We can recommend a titer test a couple of weeks later to see if the dose was effective. According to Dr. Dodds’ research, if we give more than 50% of the standard dose, 95% of these dogs will respond well.

However, reducing the dose is going against the manufacturer’s label, and this can put veterinarians in a risky place if the animal acquires Distemper or Parvovirus at a later date. This is a common dilemma in the veterinary profession — every time a veterinarian recommends something “off-label,” such as giving less than a 1ml vaccine for a small dog, they are putting their veterinarian’s license directly at risk. The only way we can reduce this risk is to ask the owner to write a client consent form, acknowledging that their pet is being vaccinated against the manufacturer’s label. Unfortunately, until manufacturers modify their labels to allow for different doses, changing dosages will remain scary territory for veterinarians. This constant legal threat explains why it is difficult for veterinarians to modify dosages and alter their standard practice and routines.

Recommended links and resources

We at IVC (Integrative Veterinary Care) agree with what Dr. Dodds’ opinion on vaccines. You can visit her page: (

Here is the link to Dr. Dodds’ vaccine schedule for those who are interested:
( Although we use a different vaccine company, it is still the same principle. There are many websites discussing vaccines and it can be hard to know what to believe or agree with. Dr. Dodds’ beliefs on vaccines are similar to mine and I trust her knowledge on the subject.

 Dr. Dodds’ blog also talks about vaccine titters and vaccines: (

Dr. Dodd’ recommended vaccine schedule: (

Our Facebook page, Integrative Veterinary Care: (

Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Cert CVHM (IVAS)

Home-made diets vs. commercial pet food diets.

It’s officially 2014, time for resolutions, goals, and plans. Your resolutions may include eating healthier, learning to cook more nourishing food, or spending more time with your family. You may be planning to start a new diet, one full of whole foods, by choosing to cook at home with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. Although you may have planned this diet for yourself and your family, did you think about including your pets in your nutritional goals? If you haven’t, consider it. An overwhelming majority of pets are fed a commercial diet, purchased from the local pet or grocery store, yet very few of these foods are species-appropriate for your dog. In fact, many people think that commercial diets contain ingredients that can be detrimental to your dog’s health and wellbeing.

dog food

Food is body fuel and you or your dog cannot exist without it. The strength of your dog’s immune system, his resistance to disease and illness, and his overall wellbeing depend on diet. Although commercial pet food is convenient, it provides only a fixed formula without any variety and as seen with recent recalls, may be contaminated with bacteria or toxins.(1) But, people need to realize that pretty much all pet food out there right now has been touched by a recall and if they haven’t yet, I am willing to bet their day will come. Not even so-called holistic brands are safe from recalls. When you mass market foods, you are bound to have issues at some point and I do not believe that any products right now are above recalls.

Many commercial pet foods also contain additives and preservatives for extended shelf-life. Some use artificial flavors, colors, and flavor enhancers to make the food more desirable to your canine.

A huge benefit of feeding a homemade diet is the fact that you have complete control over what your dog consumes. Unless a commercial pet food specifically says that it is made with human-grade, whole-food ingredients, it can be made with rendered meat (remember “pink slime”?) — which is meat that has been stripped from the bone and can include connective tissue. Now, again not all commercial dry dog diet are made of rendered meats and there are reputable dry commercial companies out there that have excellent sources of meat in their diets that are not rendered. I appreciate that every part of a meat animal is used for something instead of being wasted, but rendered meat has higher bacterial levels, potentially containing dangerous Salmonella. This meat has to be treated with chemicals, such as ammonia, to be considered “safe.”(2) But, I have heard accounts of rendered meat making its way into Raw Diets and sometime sit explains why some Raw diet suppliers are able to supply their clients with much cheaper alternative to the commercially pre-made raw diets available at pet stores.

Because manufacturers are only required to list the amount of crude protein on the pet food label, they will include cheap sources of protein that aren’t usable by your dog’s body. The term “meat by-products” can be translated to mean poultry feathers, gristle, fecal waste, and horse hair. Carbohydrates can also mean something much different than labeled. Examples of carbohydrates used in pet food can include sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, rice flour, beet sugar, and rancid or moldy grains.

The lack of variety in commercial pet food is also worrying for some clients. Humans would be repulsed by the idea of eating a formulated food that contained every nutrient necessary day after day. So, some prefer to do rotation of commercial kibbles or raw meat protein sources. To each their own preferences when it comes to feeding themselves and their pets and I respect that.

However, even though feeding a homemade diet sounds like the obvious option, it can be overwhelming and difficult, especially without help. If you have the opportunity, work with an experienced veterinary nutritionist who can help you formulate and adjust a diet according to your dog’s specific needs. If not, there are a variety of books and resources available on the internet. Be sure to only use recipes that have been formulated and tested by actual veterinary nutritionists.

We recommend that you visit holistic vet Dr. Susan Wynn’s website ( She has a free, complete and balanced recipe for adult dogs and cats. Beware that many diets available online and in books don’t offer complete nutrition, so do research and determine what’s best for your dog.

Is it hard to balance home-made diets ?

Preparing a homemade diet is a great step towards helping your dog be the healthier he/she can possibly be. But, it is extremely hard to balance those diets. They will need to be supplemented with vitamins, especially in cats that have special requirements like their need for tauring. Home-made diets end up being a lot more costly than commercial diets. They are also more time consuming. Any pets on home-made diet should have regular check-ups and routine blood work. As far as what can be included in the recipe, again it depends on each pet. I like Hilary’s Blend book of recipes because she offers a lot of different options (ingredients) in it and all the diets are balanced for you (if you buy the vitamins she recommends). She tells you how much to feed and so forth. The dog guide sells for about 25$, it is an easy guide to follow and offers a lot of variety. She just recently came out with a cat recipe book.

hillary blend

The Balance It website is also another good option. You could also consult with a board certified pet nutritionist and I can refer you to one if needed. I can do nutrition consult for Chinese Food Therapy, but those diets are best suited for treating diseases and abnormal patterns.

If your pets are healthy and you are just looking for a basic diet guide, then you should check out Hilary’s Blend book. Another book I like is from Dr Barbara Fougere and it is called the Pet Lover’s Guide to Natural Healing for cats & Dogs. Dr Fougere is a great teacher and I call her my own like walking encyclopedia. If I have a question about alternative medicine, she is quick to answer and guide me on the right path. She is also the author of one of the best text book out there for western herbal learning, it is called Veterinary Herbal Medicine which she co-authored with Dr Susan G. Wynn. I have probably 30 alternative medicine books, so I will not be listing them all, but Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats is another reference guide for people looking for home-made recipes. You can also get a Free Homemade Dog food Recipes guide and subscribe to CIVT newsletter about veterinary natural health.

Pets with food allergies that tolerate a protein may develop allergies to that protein over-time. Which means, we need to heal that gut before more allergies and intolerance develop. Pro-biotics, multi-vitamins and gut repairing herbs are our friends in that battle! So, usually I recommend Whole Food Vitamins mix to be added to home-made diets. So, that is why I like the RX vitamins, because they are hypoallergenic supplements and Mindy can tolerate it. I also recommend pro-biotics (RX Vitamins, Herbsmith, Purina Fortiflora, Animal Essentials) for every pet regardless of the diet they are on! I usually evaluate the need on a case by case situation. Not every pet will do well on a certain supplement and that is why it is important to consult with a vet and work as a team before you start playing doctor with your pet! Natural does not mean safe. In regards to pro-biotics, some have added herbs for digestive support, while some are just pure and simple pro-biotics. Any pet on a dry commercial diet should be receiving daily multi-vitamins too. We always forget that even if the label says well-balanced, that dry food as been in storage for how long before you feed it to your pet? How much of those vitamins are still intact by then?

There was an article I read online about the fact that a lot of written veterinary books with recipes in them are not well balanced. I am pretty sure that is true. But then I ask myself, “Do I eat my 8 portions of fruits and veggies a day?” “Do I follow the Canadian Food guide for myself?” I would have to admit that my answer would be a resounding “no!” Yes, I need to exercise more and eat better. But, why do we worry so much about balancing our pet’s diet and not ours? A lot of people, like their pets, are overweight and this leads to a ton of medical problems. Is dry food to blame for all problems with pets or are we just simply over-feeding ourselves, our kids and our pets? So, at the end of the day, this is what we need to remember: regardless if you chose to feed dry commercial diets, home-made diets or raw food to pets, the important thing to remember is: Portion control. If your putting in more calories than you are burning off, then you are going to gain weight and be more prone to diseases. The same goes for our pets!

Free Dogs Naturally Raw food feeding guide download. 

Unsure if your pet’s food has been recalled?
Check out an up-to-date list of pet food recalls, including dates and lot numbers:
Flock, E. April 5, 2012, Salmonella or Pink Slime? Consumers Don’t Have to Make a Choice. The Washington Post.

Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Cert CVHM (IVAS)

Thanks to Dr Murray Alexander Gillies, DVM for editing this blog for me!

Raw diets for dogs

What about raw diets?

Raw meat diets can be a great option for feeding your pet. They offer many potential benefits, however it is important to note that they have their limitations and are not meant for everyone.


According to veterinarian Dr. Barbara Fougere, if you choose a raw diet option you need to de-worm your pets monthly. Cleanliness and hygiene are also very important for anyone preparing raw foods since there is a risk of transmitting infections. Food bowls and instruments need to be cleaned daily and constant hand washing is recommended. Raw diets are also not indicated for animals that have certain immune system problems, chronic pancreatitis, or IBD. If the immune system is not working well and you give an animal raw foods containing bacteria then they can get really sick. Chinese Medicine believes that raw meat is contra-indicated in Spleen QI deficient animals. The digestive system in these animals is so weak that they are unable to digest these diets and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Boiling the food for a couple of minutes is better for those Spleen Qi deficient pets. Raw diets are also not recommended in Yang deficient animals. These are usually older animals that can get worse on raw diets because they are too cooling. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, foods have temperature. Some foods are more cooling and some are more warming then others. The technique used to cook them will also influence how pets will do with certain foods…

Despite these contra-indications, as a veterinarian I do find that raw diets work well in certain conditions. One example is for hot red skin conditions (Damp or Damp Heat patients). I have seen clients have great success with some urine conditions (crystals in their urine) as well. In some cases where pets are sensitive to raw food, we can add-in digestive enzymes and pro-biotics. Holistic vets will often recommend that if your pet is on a raw diet, it should also intermittently be on a non-lactose probiotic designed for pets. As a holistic veterinarian I personally recommend home-made or, in certain cases, raw diets for all my cancer patients.

We have seen how raw and home-made diets can be used well, but the answers definitely depend on the patient. To say that raw diets are good for everyone all the time goes against the holistic principle that we should evaluate each pet and recommend what is best for that particular individual. It is a case by case decision that should be well discussed with your veterinarian to get the best option for you and your companion.

In 2002, there was an interesting article published about The Evolution of Raw Dog Food Diet. This is a great article that supports our point of view that raw food is not ideal for every pet and that in some cases it may be contra-indicated.   It was published in The Whole Dog Journal and presented the opinions of different   holistic vets like Dr.Susan Wynn, Dr. Billinghurst, Dr. Mark Newkirk and Dr. Jean Hofve.

Here is a pretty good small article about how to make raw diets easy for those interested on the subject. This article also lists brands of recommended raw diets that you can likely find in the area from pet stores:

raw food dogs

Here is a free Ebook from Dogs Naturally Magazine  that people can download for a guide on raw diets.

You can subscribe to Dogs Naturally Magazine here. 

This is a link about the calcium and phosphorus balance we need to respect when feeding raw diets in dogs.

Here is a raw dog food primer for more information on how to design diets and what is important:

This is an article on how to include vitamins by using whole food sources with raw diets:

For those looking to start puppies on raw diets this link may help:

I recently spent a weekend listening to a conference about raw diets (the largest online webinar conference on the subject). I learned a few new things from veterinarians and other supporters of raw diets. Here are a few things mentioned by Rodney Habib, pet nutrition blogger and owner of Planet Paws Pet Essentials in Darmouth, Nova Scotia.

1. Make sure the raw meat source is from grass fed animals (make sure the meat source is from 100% grass) and not grain fed animals (higher omega 3 fatty acids in grass fed (anti-inflammatory) vs too much omega 6 fatty acids (pro-inflammatory) in grain fed meats. Therefore, feeding raw meat from grain fed animals goes against the goal of feeding raw in the first place, which is to decrease inflammation with food.

2. Make sure it is fit for human consumption and ask the raw food supplier to prove it with certified paper work (certified by CFIA for human comsumption or FDA in the USA).

3. If it is cheap, you are probably paying for a cheaper source of meat (grain fed or animals finished on grains vs 100% grass fed meat) or they could be adding rendered meat to it, so be careful! Most holistic vet will not recommend you source meat from a supplier that uses grass fed animals that are finished on grains since this modifies the omega 6 ratio and the meat will promote inflammation since it alters the omega 3:6 ratio. Make sure you find a supplier that can guarantee that they source their meet from 100% grass fed animals! Grass fed animals take twice as more time to get to market vs grain fed or animals finished on grains. As a result, so you will end up paying more but you will end up with a meat higher an omega 3! A cheap meat is a meat sourced from grain fed animals, animals finished on grains or rendered meat. *** AVOID THESE!

4. Before buying commercial raw food or finding a raw food supplier, he advises to call or email the president or spokesperson. If they ignore your questions or do not take time to talk to you, it says a lot about them and he avoids sourcing from these companies.

5. He often sources his meat from local farmers or butchers with whom he has developed a relationship with and can trust. Based on his research and the cost per pound of commercially prepared raw diets, it ended up being either cheaper or similar in cost. (He compared to Instinct Nature’s Variety)

6. There is a huge debate regarding HPP raw meats vs non HPP raw meats (Dr Dodds touches on this). Some believe that HPP raw diets should not be recommended and going into this subject would be a blog on its own which I may address in future posts. What is HPP (high pressure processing)? Follow this link for a quick article that describes what it means:

Are there any benefits to cooking home-made diets vs. feeding raw?

There is debate over whether or not we should cook our home-made pet diets or simply feed them raw. Cooking food does offer some benefits to your pets in some cases. With regards to cereals and vegetables, cooking will help improve their overall digestibility. Digestibility is increased with cooking because it softens cell walls. Some pets can’t tolerate raw veggies and may have vomiting and diarrhoea if these are fed. Cooking foods also kills bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, and parasites and toxins which can be responsible for food poisoning and illness.

Even though cooking is good, overcooking is definitely not good. Overcooking foods reduces the nutrients in them. Boiling, baking and frying will destroy some vitamins and due to this vitamin loss, supplementing the diet with approved multivitamins is a great idea. Cooking in high fats and oils can also be bad; however using something like olive oil can be ok. Ideally, you should only add in oils for balance and to help with the calorie requirements of a diet after it is cooked and has cooled down.

If you feel that feeding a raw diet is more beneficial to you and your pet then a fully cooked diet then a compromise to reduce the risk of contamination is to boil the meat for half a minute. You may also sear the outside of the meat in a very hot pan. Again it is imperative to use proper hygiene when handling raw meats. This means washing your hands, cutting boards and utensils with soap and hot water like you would when you prepare your own meals. Wash food bowls daily to insure proper disinfection. You may also consider using HPP raw diets.

You can follow this link to read about Dr Jean Dodd’s opinion on raw food. She is a raw diet supporter.

Part 1: Raw vs cooked Article by Dr Jean Dodds:

Part 2: Raw vs cooked Article by De Jean Dodds:

What about organic foods?

These types of food are more expensive and sometimes may be harder to find, but can often be easily located in organic food sections in most grocery stores today. Organic diets usually have fewer pesticides used on them, although this is not always the case. You do reduce the chance that you will be feeding your pet toxins which may be hard for the liver to process on a daily basis. Organic foods often have higher nutrient and mineral content which may reduce the need for excess supplementation of vitamins and minerals. Some organic foods are usually considered healthier than conventional foods. As there are already a lot of articles about their benefits available on-line, I will not go into full details in this article. Feel free to look them up if you are interested.

Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Cert CVHM (IVAS)

I would like to thank Dr Murray Alexander Gillies, DVM for his contribution, help and the awesome job he did editing this blog!