Putting a potentially dangerous substance into a perfectly healthy puppy can seem counter-intuitive.
And some of us will be tempted to consider other, less intrusive, and more natural, alternatives.
Including alternative medical treatments and methods of boosting a puppy’s natural immunity
Developing immunity naturally
It is inviting to imagine that a puppy left to its own devices, properly fed and cared for, will develop its own natural immunity.
But the truth is that immunity is more complicated than that.
To understand how natural immunity works, we need to look a little closer
How does immunity work
Like all mammals, dogs develop immunity to diseases that they have been in contact with.
As soon as your dog’s immune system is alerted to the presence of an invader, it begins to manufacture antibodies to combat the disease.
When immunity doesn’t work
Unfortunately this process takes time, sometimes many days.
If the illness is a mild one, the puppy or adult dog makes enough antibodies to kill the invaders, before they do much harm.
Kennel cough is a disease like this. Most healthy dogs will make enough antibodies to fight it off, before the disease does much harm.
With more serious diseases, or if an animal’s health is already compromised, this system may fall down.
How vaccines work
If a puppy cannot make enough antibodies in time to combat a disease, the disease may overwhelm him.
A vaccine works by giving the puppy some harmless material associated with the disease – which the puppy’s body recognises as an invader.
The puppy’s immune system then leaps into action and generates antibodies to fight that disease.
Boosting natural immunity
At the time of writing, we have not found any alternative way to kick start a body into generating the necessary disease fighting antibodies.
Improving the dog’s overall health and well being can make sure that his immune system is in tip top condition, so that it generates antibodies rapidly and effectively.
But the catch here is, the best immune system in the world cannot instantly create antibodies to a disease that it has never met before. The process of recognition and repair takes time. This is why we need an alternative system to protect our puppies from dangerous diseases.
What about holistic, herbal, and homeopathic remedies?
Holistic medicine involves looking at the whole patient. Taking into account the patient’s lifestyle, general health, environment etc. It means treating the patient as more than just a set of symptoms.
This can only be a good thing.
Some vets describe themselves as holistic vets but the truth is that all good vets and doctors are holistic. No medical practitioner should be treating symptoms without considering all the other things that may impact on a patient’s health.
In the case of human patients this can be difficult to achieve due to the time constraints imposed on us by a free medical service.
With veterinary surgeons treatment is all private, there are plenty of vets in the UK, and there should be no reason for any vet to fail to treat your animal holistically.
Alternative remedies from your vet
Many people expect a holistic vet to offer alternatives to mainstream medical treatments. And many do. Alternatives like herbal remedies, and acupuncture. Unfortunately, neither herbal medicine nor acupuncture offers an alternative to vaccination.
You will also find a few vets (not many) that still practice homeopathic medicine. Some homeopaths do offer alternatives to vaccination for your pet, and you may be tempted to go down this route in order to have a treatment that is entirely free from side effects. Let’s look a little closer at that.
When homeopathy was invented in the eighteenth century by Samuel Hahnemann it was no less plausible than the other medical philosophies of its time.
How it survived and became resurrected in the present day is perhaps more of a mystery.
Homeopathic remedies claim to work by curing like with like. In other words the remedy is a tiny amount of a substance that produces the same symptoms in the body as the disease we are trying to fight.
If your dog is vomiting, for example, the homeopathic remedy would contain a substance that induces vomiting, in the hopes that this will encourage the body to fight it.
In theory of course, this could end up causing twice as much vomiting as before! But homeopathic remedies have no troublesome side effects at all.
This is because Hahnemann devised a system of dilution. He diluted his original remedy source. Not just once, but over and over again.
Less is more?
One of the principles of homeopathy is that the more dilute the substance, the more powerful it is.
In the eighteenth century this might have been believable. But nowadays we know for a fact that the more dilute a substance, the less powerful it is.
What is more, homeopathic remedies are so dilute that in fact, they contain no trace of the plant or product that they are supposed to be derived from. They consist entirely of water or sugar.
Which is why they have no side effects, whatsoever. It is also why they are completely ineffective.
In short, homeopathy doesn’t work. It has no side effects, because it has no effects.
It has been thoroughly and firmly discredited, over and over again, both by individual scientists and nationally be teams of experts. Including the House of commons Science and Technology committee, and more recently by the Australian Government.
If you allow your puppy to be given homeopathic remedies, swallowing them will do him absolutely no harm whatsoever.
But it is important to recognise that he will also be completely unprotected from any disease.
It will be just the same as leaving him unvaccinated. Indeed in a classic study, puppies exposed to parvovirus after receiving homeopathic treatment all died.
Unprotected puppies may survive without vaccination. It depends entirely on the level of disease in your community. Some people do choose not to vaccinate their puppies. Many of us feel that this is a very risky strategy, but it is their choice.
Despite the huge progress made in the last hundred years, science has so far failed to cure all our ailments. And it is only natural that people search for alternatives.
Some alternative treatments undoubtedly have effects on our bodies, and many modern medicines are of course derived from ancient herbal remedies. But at the time of writing, there is not yet any effective alternative to vaccination.
You therefore need to chose between vaccinating your puppy, or leaving him unvaccinated.
Like all effective medical treatments, there is a small risk of side effects to vaccination. But in most dogs these effects are minor and inconsequential. Especially when compared to the benefits that are offered in terms of protection from some very serious diseases.
Vaccinating your puppy also provides protection to the wider community of dogs and therefore benefits dogs all around you, as well as your own special friend.