My 11-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Katie, is having a liver crisis. When I got her five years ago, she had severe heartworm and periodontal disease. She also had a mast cell tumor on her back. All were treated successfully. She has always been a finicky eater, but because of irritable bowel syndrome, she has been put on Hills i/d diet food. On good days, she weighs 9 pounds. In March, Katie ruptured three discs in her back. She had just had her six-month geriatric lab work done. Everything came back normal, and she had surgery to repair her back. In July, Katie went in for her six-month lab work, three-year rabies shot and six-month Bordetella. Her lab work came back fine, with only a slight elevation in liver enzymes (200). She was put on Denamarin, and six weeks later she had no appetite. Biopsy showed fibrosis and cirrhosis. Could the rabies shot have caused this?
P.L., Winchester, Va Dec 12, 2011
Poor Katie has faced many health problems, no doubt from her poor start in life before you adopted her. Poor nutrition and lack of regular veterinary care (including normal health checkups and heartworm preventive medicine) can wreck an animal's chances of enjoying a healthy life. This is also true for puppies that came from puppy mills, where many commercial breeders do not provide pregnant dogs with good nutrition and veterinary care. Their offspring, sold in pet stores and on the Internet, suffer the consequences, often compounded by inherited genetic diseases. Your old dog's liver is reflecting a lifelong battle after a poor start in life. Katie may enjoy some improvement with a special diet of good-quality protein and various supplements, which your veterinarian can provide in appropriate doses. These include vitamins A, E and B-complex; L-carnitine; and zinc, in addition to the Denamarin already prescribed. (Denamarin is a liver-benefiting formulation of an extract of milk thistle and methionine, an important amino acid.) The rabies vaccination could not have brought on this chronic liver disease, but it certainly could have played a role in stressing her system beyond its capacity to maintain normal physiological functions and regulatory activities. Sick animals should never be vaccinated, as I emphasize in my new book, "Healing Animals & The Vision of One Health".
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