Medical Update & Odd News

As promised, here’s a quick update from Lilly’s wellness exam last week. Her first with our new family veterinarian. I’ve already reported on the behavioral side of our visit, so here is the physiological news of note.

#1 – Lilly may have a heart murmur.
It’s just a whisper, not a definitive diagnosis, but something our new doc wants to listen for every time she sees Lilly. Considering my mom’s ongoing heart drama, this freaks me out some, so I’m happy to hear any input on what this might mean. I haven’t had time to research it.

#2 – Lilly had another vaccine reaction. This makes three times, as I recall. She had a rough time after her first round of “adult” boosters. She had a rough time about three years ago. And, now this one. My assumption had been that the reaction came from giving all the vaccines at once. So, this year, I spread them out. She had rabies in January with no issues, so I figured were were golden. But, this DALPP (distemper/hepatitis/leptospirosis/parvo/parainfluenza) caused a big bump and lethargy.

I’ve noted before that I generally follow the AAHA Vaccination Guidelines, but just to be sure, I asked again. Rabies can be given every three years. Most of the things in the distemper combo can be given every 3 years, but this Lepto one is needed every year. Lepto is pretty big here, especially with our pond and wildlife, so it’s important. It’s likely the one in the combo causing trouble.

So, I guess we’ll only give Lepto alone for the next couple years, with benedryl and maybe a steriod injection to counter or prevent a reaction.

If necessary, we could test for titers on the others in the meantime, but honestly the efficacy is much longer than you’d expect based on the old idea of giving everything every year.

#3 – They are recommending we get Lilly the rattlesnake vaccine.
I guess it’s a two-shot series the first year, then (I believe) annual boosters after that. Not sure on cost. I’ve heard from friends/colleagues that there is some research out of Western University on the vaccine that shows some protection in the case of a bite. It might help counteract some of the venom, if she gets bitten again, but a bite is still a major emergency. I tried finding the reserach on Medline, but I had no luck. I emailed the company last week, asking for data, but I have not heard back.

If it weren’t for the vaccine reactions noted above, I’d be less hesistent about this option. It’s something to think about for sure.

#4 – We’re putting Lilly on heartworm medicine, with combo tummy parasite control. Because of the growing threat of heartworm, and because Lilly is such a rodent hunter, our new doc thinks it’s better to be safe.

HOWEVER, and I suspect I’m the last border collie person to know this, but Heartguard (or any medicine that contains ivermectin) can cause trouble for any kind of collie breed and some other herding dogs. Holy cow! I had NO idea.

So, we went with Interceptor instead.

#5 – We did a slew of bloodwork, including a fancy thryoid test (free T4 by ED). The second doc who saw us for the vaccine reaction gave me a quick look at the results. Despite a few things being out of range (a pancreas thing, high cholesterol, highish white cell count, etc.), he said there wasn’t anything of concern. I should have asked for a copy of the results and more time to chat, but I had a million other things to worry about, and I didn’t want to eat up his time since they squeezed Lilly in and did not charge us for the second visit.

So, I’ll see if I can get more info down the road.

Ginko is due for his exam soon too, so I can ask for a copy then … maybe.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Betty - May 19, 2009

Our Duffy had a heart murmur; our vet watched it carefully. It increased over time. When it reached a certain level, we started meds. Duffy was with us for 4 1/2 years AFTER the worst reading. According to our vet, many dogs succumb after six months. Obviously, the meds worked well for Duffy to last the extra 4 years beyond the norm. He was really good up until about the last 3 months. So, maybe Lilly’s murmur will just go away, or at least not get any worse; if not, the meds work! Casey has reactions to all his vaccines; so, we do the same as you…spread out his shots. This year, our vet gave us antihistimines to give him before and after his rabies vaccination. They helped with his lethargy; but, he had diarrhea for about 5 days. We asked our vet about a titer test; but, the state law is rabies every three years and it takes a lot to get around that. Our others seem to have no problems with vaccines, with the exception of a small lump now and then.

Good luck with whatever you decide for Lilly…she’s just so precious!

Samantha - May 19, 2009

A totally different species, I know, but my cat had a mild heart murmur that, basically, went away after a while. I think she was going through her whole sickness, which required steroids and cyclosporine, plus a tax on her system from labored breathing, so I don’t know if maybe Lilly’s vaccine problems are related to the heart murmur.

I have Marge on Interceptor monthly. A lot of people get a little nervous with the thought of monthly “chemicals,” but with heartworm, I say the prevention is better than a heartworm diagnosis.

Hope Lilly is feeling better from her latest vaccine ordeal.

Roxanne Hawn - May 19, 2009

Cool. Yes, please ask your friend for help finding research. That’d be great.

Indeed, our pond attracts all kinds of critters and Lilly is exposed to other waterways in town, so lepto is pretty important for us.

The second doc (who saw us for the vaccine reaction) DID say that the cholesterol was related to thyroid, but he said a few other numbers would have to be off to know for sure. Since we did run a fancy thyroid test, and no one seemed concerned with the results, I’d guess she is still sub-clinical.

I do believe some point in the future she will be diagnosed with thyroid issues, and I’ll be vindicated, but for now, we’re up to something like 6 docs who have not thought so.

KB - May 19, 2009

One more thing – I have a heart murmur, just a ‘whisper’, that’s audible at some times and not at others. It hasn’t posed any problems to me whatsoever. It sounds like Lilly’s is probably just as mild and not worth fretting about.

KB - May 19, 2009

Hey, I’m proud to say that the inventor of the dog rattlesnake vaccine is a friend of mine. I’ve fallen out of touch with him but I’m going to email him and ask some questions about what studies are out there. (after catching up, of course!)

So sorry to hear about Lilly’s vaccine reaction, and I hope that she’s bounced back. Lepto is an awful disease. My deceased dog, Astro, survived it. He was vaccinated against it but the particular strain that he picked up wasn’t in the vaccine. Apparently, this continues to be an issue. We’ve chosen not to vaccinate against it but to go straight to the vet if we have a raccoon encounter (there’s still time to vaccinate then, we’re told). But, we don’t have a raccoon attractant like a pond…

You might ask about that high cholesterol reading. I recollect my vet telling me that high cholesterol in a dog is a sign of thyroid issues. They can eat bacon and eggs every day and have no problems but if the thyroid has troubles, their cholesterol spikes. This is a vague recollection but it might be worth a question to the vet.

Rox - May 19, 2009

I’m truly torn. I want to protect them, but the science does seem a bit sketchy on this snake vaccine. Still … our new vet gives it to her dogs, and she hikes many of the same areas we do. And, a behaviorist I know here locally, also gives it to her youngest dog, and I know for a fact she’s VERY scientifically minded. So, if she read the research and went ahead, then that says a lot to me.

Tom and I are talking about it, and we’ll hope to chat with our new doc when we take Ginko in for an exam (maybe next week).

It’s a decision I’m struggling with for sure.

Sharon liveten - May 19, 2009

I’m lucky because none of my dogs have ever had a reaction to vaccines. But the rattlesnake thing is a problem. I’ve not taken mine out on hikes since April when I came across a huge, pissed one. My old vet (that I did not like) used to give that vaccine. My new one doesn’t and under my pressure called UC Davis for more info. They don’t recommend the vaccine, because they say that all of the research on it has been done by the pharmicutical company. Personally, I’d rather be safe than sorry, but he’s adamant. Thought anyone?

Rox - May 19, 2009

Thanks for the warning on the other meds and the extra info on the dosages, etc. All I heard was “DANGER and look it up on line. We’re giving this instead.” I assumed it was safer. So many of these medical issues are so complicated. That’s why it’s so important to have a doc you trust to know these things.

Dog-geek - May 19, 2009

Because of Z’s allergy problems, we’ve done titers for everything except rabies for the last 7 years – everything still comes up in the good range, even though it has been 8 years since he’s been vaccinated!

About the MDR1 gene and drug sensitivity, there is still a lot of misinformation out there – actually the dose of Ivermectin used as Heartworm prevention is fine – it is the higher doses used for mange that are problematic. This holds true for milbemycin oxime, the active ingredient in Interceptor, and the active ingredient in other heartworm medications as well – safe at doses used for heartworm, not safe at doses used for mange. AND, there are many OTHER drugs that are not safe for dogs with the MDR1 mutation, including Loperamide (Immodium), Acepromazine (Ace), Butorphanol (Bute) and others. Heartguard has gotten a bad rap, but it is no more dangerous for MDR1 dogs than the other heartworm preventatives out there – all of them are dangerous at high doses.

Comments are closed