Vaccination &/or Homeopathy
The subject of vaccination is a contentious one indeed. It is not my intention to influence individual animal carers about whether they should or shouldn't vaccinate but admittedly I have weighted this article against frequent or prolonged use of vaccination. My chief objective is to encourage the carers of horses to build up their equine companions' health to an optimum level that will act as their best natural prevention against illness. It is necessary for the individuals to make their own decisions by keeping an open mind and weighing up the pros and cons from both the conventional (allopathic) and homeopathic points of view. At the same time consider the individual requirements for a horse that may be at greater risk by coming into contact with other horses in situations such as shows/events, studs or boarding facilities. Awareness of the legal ramifications of the state in which the horse mainly resides regarding vaccination protocols is also your responsibility.
A WORD ABOUT VACCINES
A growing number of veterinarians are speaking up about their findings on the hidden dangers of vaccines. In veterinary practices around the world it is being observed that chronic disease is occurring in animals at an earlier age, with more frequency, and with greater difficulty to treat with orthodox methods. Although mixed breeding practices, commercial diets, and other environmental factors play their part, many believe that multiple vaccinations are to blame for genetically and otherwise weakening our animals.
Vaccination is not 100% effective in preventing horses from acquiring specific diseases. It must be remembered that if a vaccine claims 80% efficacy of protection that this means that 20 out of 100 horses may still end up with the disease they have been inoculated against. Risk of side effects is high with negative symptoms being noticed within hours, days, weeks or months after the inoculation and is often dismissed as not being related to the vaccine. Adverse reactions may even take months to years to become apparent as they worsen by degree with each subsequent booster. According to research, the vaccines that are the worst offenders of adverse reactions are Potomac horse fever, rhinopneumonitis, influenza, and encephalomyelitis.
WHY DO VACCINES CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS?
Vaccines cause side effects or reactions because a modified attenuated organism, a chemically killed virus or bacteria have been directly administered into the bloodstream that is an unnatural route of infection into the body. Furthermore, a carrier substance in the vaccine, known as an adjuvant, has been added to assist the action of the antigen to enhance or modify the antibody response to the antigen. Adjuvants can be substances such as mercury or formaldehyde! Vaccination focuses on antibody production that acts as a substitute for the entire natural immune response.
Bypassing the normal portal of entry where a primary response is usually seen as the body's first line of defence, the artificially placed infection (vaccine) tricks the body by avoiding the primary defence and introducing the invader straight into the last line of defence, the bloodstream. The body has been deprived of the usual incubation period which normally gives the body the time to mount its own immune defence and can no longer initiate a generalised inflammatory response, the natural defence mechanism that usually responds to infection! It eliminates the generation of a fever, an important aspect of immune response that endeavours to burn up the harmful organisms. The result is that the body becomes confused, which manifests into the various side effects that we see, or even goes into a state of shock or an anaphylactic response.
Live attenuated viruses are the most common antigenic materials of vaccines. Once they have been placed into the blood they will remain there for a long period of time, perhaps permanently. While they have increased the production of antibodies they have at the same time altered and suppressed the natural immune response as a whole and probably weakened the general health of the horse. The lowered function of the immune system may even cause it to fail to distinguish between those of its own healthy cells and those that are foreign. Consequently, this may provoke an auto-immune disease.
Another factor is that the foreign proteins in a vaccine, that have been introduced directly into the bloodstream, have not gone through the digestive process or been addressed by the liver where certain immunoglobins are produced to destroy harmful microbes. Considering that undigested proteins in the blood are a major cause of allergy it stands to reason that the process of vaccination can also be attributable.
FREQUENCY OF INOCULATION
It is increasingly evident that the need to revaccinate annually is becoming far from necessary. Recent research suggests that we are in fact over-vaccinating equine companions for a number of diseases. There is very little literature on studies performed to validate the safety of vaccinations or their protective duration and most of what is available comes from the vaccine manufacturers themselves that will naturally demonstrate a bias. I don't think that I need to mention the lucrative nature of vaccine programs to the veterinary practice. There are even fewer studies to state how effective protection of a vaccinated horse will be when actually challenged with a specific disease. It is also of note that vaccine guidelines do state to only administer the vaccine to a 'healthy' horse. Ironically, a healthy horse has little attraction for bacterial and viral invaders!
It has also come to be suggested, by veterinary immunologists, to delay vaccinating foals until maternal antibodies have nearly exhausted themselves, which now appears to be longer than at first believed. This can vary amongst foals as some will have acquired better maternal antibody levels than others. Mares that are of strong immune status or have received immunization 4-6 weeks before foaling will obviously pass on higher quality and quantity of maternal antibodies. Foals that are strong at birth are more likely to have suckled a greater quota of colostrum in their first feeds than weaker foals that may miss some of this most important maternal antibody transfer.
While there is still a presence of maternal antibodies in the foal's system they will interfere with the foal's ability to produce its own active antibodies after a vaccination because the maternal antibodies clean up antigens of a vaccine before they can stimulate the foal's own immune response. Researchers suggest waiting to vaccinate foals until they are 7-9 months of age rather than 3-4 months of age as originally recommended.
The following can be found in "Current Veterinary Therapy XI", a well-acknowledged conventional reference amongst the veterinary community. Authors are Tom Phillips, DVM and Ron Shultz, PhD:
"A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccinations. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal. Successful vaccination to most bacterial pathogens produces an immunologic memory that remains for years, allowing an animal to develop a protective anamnestic (secondary) response as a result of interference by existing antibody... The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered of questionable efficacy unless it is used as a mechanism to provide an annual physical examination or is required by law (ie. certain states require annual revaccination for Rabies)."
Another example for not revaccinating too frequently is a study by Fred W. Scott, DVM, PhD and Cordell M. Geissinger, BS written in the "American Journal of Veterinary Research", May '99:
"Objective - To evaluate duration of immunity in cats vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine of feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline herpes virus (FVH), and feline calicivirus (FCV).
Results - Control cats remained free of antibodies against FPV, FHV, and FCV and did not have infection before viral challenge. Vaccinated cats had had high FPV titres throughout the study and solid protection against virulent FPV 7.5 years after vaccination. Vaccinated cats were seropositive against FHV and FCV for 3-4 years after vaccination, with gradually declining titres. Vaccinated cats were protected partially against viral challenge with virulent FHV. Relative efficacy of the vaccine, on the basis of reduction of clinical signs of disease, was 52%. Results were similar after FCV challenge, with relative efficacy of 63%. Vaccination did not prevent local mild infection or shedding of FHV or FCV.
Conclusions - duration of immunity after vaccination with an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine was > 7 years. Protection against FPV was better than for FHV and FCV.
Clinical implications - Persistence of antibody titres against all 3 viruses for > 3 years supports recommendations that cats may be revaccinated against FPV-FHV-FCV at 3 year intervals."
The recommended alternative to having to initially vaccinate or revaccinate every year is to check your horse's antibody levels. A blood sample is drawn and sent to a lab to test vaccine titres, a representation of your horse's antibody levels to a specific disease. If the levels are greater than 1:64 your horse is likely to be still protected. A safer margin for not requiring further inoculation at that time would be levels higher than 1:100. If the levels are less than 1:64 then a vaccine booster is suggested. The levels are not conclusive proof and opinions can vary as to what is a protective reading. A vaccine that is presumed to have an active protection for 12 months may produce titres that appear still adequate at the end of a 12-14 month period. However, titres may decline rapidly in the following months leaving your horse unprotected perhaps sooner than your annual check. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian your horse's individual needs and expected risk of exposure, his opinions (and others) for a particular vaccine as to its efficacy and expected duration of protection. Do some research of your own to factor all available information into the equation.
Taking blood titres acts as a compromise between annual revaccination and those who would prefer to avoid vaccination but haven't the faith to rely on homeopathic treatment alone. Be aware that your horse is more likely to be in danger of a degenerative disorder from vaccination than acquiring an infectious disease!
DO NOT give a vaccine to a horse whose rectal temperature
is outside the normal limits!
DO NOT give a vaccine to an unhealthy horse or one who has an already compromised immune system!
DO NOT give modified live virus vaccines to pregnant mares!
DO NOT give polyvalent vaccines (multiple live vaccines in one inoculation).
Where possible, give only killed virus vaccines rather than modified live virus ones.
DO give the separate vaccines at least 2 weeks apart rather than all in the one day to give the immune system a small chance to recover between shots.
DO NOT give vaccines too frequently.
DO NOT give vaccines to horses that have exhibited side effects in the past.
DO NOT give vaccines at times of expected additional stressors e.g. The day before a competition or similar exertional stress, at times of surgery, when about to haul a horse over a long distance, or when new spring grass is available to the horse.
DO NOT give vaccines to young foals under the age of 9 months.
DO discontinue vaccination after the horse has reached 3 years of age.
DO look hard at the alternatives!
THE HOMEOPATHIC ALTERNATIVES
My belief is that classical homeopathic prescribing helps to balance a horse's state of health so it can act as his best natural defence! By strengthening the horse's immune system and overall health, also known as the 'Vital Force' (see NHM Volume 3, Issue 3, Depicting the Vital Force in the Horse), we not only increase the resistance to invasion by infectious disease but also reduce the susceptibility to disease in the first place. Should you choose to use conventional vaccination, if your horse has had homeopathic constitutional treatment prior to being inoculated, it will also be better equipped to deal with any consequent side effects of the vaccine that may ensue.
Of course complete health is difficult to achieve these days due to environmental toxins effecting our air, water and soil and providing a truly natural lifestyle is also questionable. However, homeopathy can help to address some of these issues by balancing the horse's health to the best that it can be in a given circumstance.
When a reaction to vaccination occurs in a susceptible horse, homeopaths call this state 'vaccinosis', a dis-ease entity that is introduced or stimulated by the assault of vaccination. In a susceptible individual vaccination can compromise the immune system that will in turn become a disturbance of the vital force. This disturbance is what leads to the chronic disease of vaccinosis. This can manifest in a multitude of ways, many of which are skin eruptions, dry splitting coat, alopecia (hair loss), warts or sarcoids, ear infections, weak hooves, allergies, behavioural problems, digestive disturbances, arthritis, immune response disorders, thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, cancer, infertility, neurological syndromes, urogenital complaints, and respiratory disorders.
Some homeopaths advocate the use of Lyssin, a homeopathic nosode, immediately post inoculation of the Rabies vaccine. Thuja and Silicea are also commonly administered immediately after other types of vaccines to act as a prophylactic against any unwanted side effects of the vaccine. In my opinion, this type of routine prescribing may be helpful at some times and at other times not. It is possible that if the horse is in good health and isn't given the chance to deal with any side effects on its own, the immune system is not kept in practice. Nor does it consider the need to individualise a prescription on the totality of symptoms that particular horse may manifest. You will need to ask yourself does the horse need Lyssin, Thuja or Silicea, does it need a different remedy, or does it even need a remedy at all! To my way of thinking tossing remedies in a routine fashion at the vital force is nearly equivalent to using homeopathy in an allopathic manner.
Regarding the Rabies vaccine, aside from it being mandatory in many states in the USA, I do not discourage its use especially where there is a high risk of exposure. Left untreated, or incorrectly treated, Rabies has a 100% fatality rate. If you are suspicious of your equine companion having come into a source of contact with the Rabies disease, please seek prompt veterinary attention! Once conventional veterinary assistance is under way the homeopath, or homeopathic veterinarian, can then look at treating the presenting symptoms homeopathically too.
THE USE OF NOSODES:
As more and more animal carers seek a way in which to avoid the detrimental effects of vaccine the use of homeopathic nosodes has gained popularity, and some call it the homeopathic version of vaccination. A nosode is a remedy that is made from an actual product of disease e.g. Lyssin is made from the saliva of a rabid dog. A nosode can also be made from a patient's own discharges or secretions and then be given back in potentised form to that same patient, this is known as an auto-nosode (or auto-isopathy).
This is a lot safer than what it may first appear. Due to the homeopathic process of dilution and succussion of a substance in an alcohol base, a homeopathic remedy or nosode in potencies higher than 12c (or 24x) is rendered harmless, as there are no longer any molecules of the original substance remaining. What has been left is an energetic imprint of the original substance that has been liberated into a powerful healing form. Although most nosodes have not been scientifically proven, there is much documentation and anecdotal evidence in clinical practice on their use to suggest that nosodes can be highly effective in treating disease.
There are several ways in which nosodes may be prescribed. One method of use for nosodes is prophylactic treatment to assist in preventing disease. Some but not others support this technique, as a controversy exists due to the difficulty in running studies at a conventional standard. There are no means by which an energetic immune status can be defined or measured. However, homeopathic prophylactic treatment, or homeoprophylaxis, has had a long history in homeopathic medicine. It has been used for both short-term prevention during epidemics with some success, and long-term prevention for specific infectious diseases. Most experience with this approach occurred during the era preceding the availability of vaccines. Homeopaths reported a decrease in the severity and frequency of disease in those patients who received homeoprophylaxis.
When an epidemic occurs, details of characteristic symptoms of a number of cases during the epidemic are correlated to build an image of the disease's own symptom totality. A remedy, not necessarily a nosode, is chosen for its similarity to this totality and if it is found to act curatively in the majority of cases it may be said to be the 'genus epidemicus' of that epidemic. At that time, the active remedy may also work prophylactically for those who have not yet developed symptoms of the disease.
As to long-term prevention, nosodes for most diseases are available as an alternative to vaccination but have not been shown to raise the titre of antibodies in disease. It can only be speculated that protection is afforded at a deeper level than that of antibodies by lessening the susceptibility of the horse. Although no adverse reactions from homeoprophylaxis have been documented to date, my one concern is the impact of certain homeoprophylactic schedules in the symptom free horse over a long period of time. If a nosode is given to a horse that is symptom free for too lengthy a period of time it may well develop a 'proving' (symptoms that can be created in a healthy subject by a remedy that demonstrate what can be cured in an unhealthy subject). Once a remedy is discontinued these artificially induced symptoms usually have a short duration and soon leave of their own accord.
My question is, if a remedy such as a prophylactic nosode is given for a prolonged period of time and repeated annually just like a vaccination in allopathic protocols beyond an appropriate stimulation, can this become an indelible imprint? If using nosodes, I would prefer to see an initial response encouraged in the horse but then to only give further doses of the nosode at times of increased risk or when needed isopathically.
The most common application of nosodes is isopathic use rather than homeopathic, which in homeopathy is taken to mean the administration of a nosode to a patient suffering the same disease symptoms as those from which the nosode was originally made. This type of use does not necessarily follow the homeopathic principle of the law of similars where "like cures like", but rather treats correspondingly to the actual disease symptom picture, not the symptom picture of the whole patient. Isopathic use, however, is when you will tend to see the most effective use of a nosode. When an unvaccinated horse has come into contact with an infectious disease or exhibits the first signs of an illness, this is the best time to administer the corresponding nosode and it often prevents the development of clinical disease. If further symptoms become apparent then a constitutional remedy can be individually prescribed. This is not to say that a nosode can't be the 'simillimum' . If the nosode fits the symptom picture of the whole patient then it can act homeopathically. If the symptom picture fits (and is limited to) that of the disease then the nosode can only act isopathically.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VACCINATION AND HOMEOPATHY:
A vaccination, as previously described, introduces a foreign agent directly into the bloodstream bypassing the first line of defence and setting itself up in the body as a permanent disease state which, albeit in a percentage of cases, offers protection to the body against getting that specific disease. However, at the same time, it weakens the Vital Force (VF) and in so doing weakens resistance to other disease. It seeks to supplant natural immune response. Vaccination does not promote health; its suppression can lead to more insidious disease.
A nosode is akin to a substitute for vaccination in that it may be used isopathically and prophylactically but is given orally as a harmless energetic substance that does not bypass the first line of defence. By exposing the immune system to the energetic form of a specific disease (an artificial disease), it can promote a stimulation of the immune response rather than suppress it, as is the case with vaccination. When a nosode is used isopathically or in a therapeutic manner it is not designed to increase the overall health of a horse but targets the 'similar disease' itself. Isopathic treatment is best used in conjunction with constitutional treatment.
Constitutional treatment is about treating the patient and not the disease! Classical homeopathic prescribing treats the horse as a whole on its totality of symptoms, thereby rebalancing its VF with energetic fine-tuning. This in turn strengthens the VF to be most effective in the body's own self defence mechanism and is an ideal approach prior to any vaccination to help ward off unwanted side effects of the vaccine and may even eliminate the need for vaccination. When treating a horse constitutionally post exposure to disease, again the symptom complex that is displayed is considered in its entirety so that an individual remedy that matches these manifestations will act as a catalyst to bolster the VF back to a balanced state. The stronger artificial disease imprint created temporarily by the remedy will in fact stimulate the VF to overcome the actual disease state.
DO NOT give a remedy to a horse whose rectal temperature
is outside the normal limits!
DO consider that if your horse is healthy it may not need additional protection!
DO treat your horse constitutionally when indicated to arrive at the best state of health and natural protection!
DO maintain constitutional treatment prior to any mandatory vaccines to minimise side effects.
DO NOT use homeoprophylaxis without the guidance of a professional homeopath or homeopathic veterinarian to establish the most appropriate schedule.
DO NOT use nosodes for a pregnant mare.
DO NOT give nosodes to foals under 12 months of age.
DO NOT use nosodes for a horse with an acute condition, or for the weak or chronically ill.
DO use a short-term prophylactic treatment, as guided by your professional, for horses who have had previous adverse reactions.
DO use acute remedies for serious immediate vaccine reactions, call your vet, and report the reactions.
DO treat your horse with homeopathics after a vaccination reaction has become a chronic condition.
DO use occasional nosodes for protection after the initial vaccination protocol in a youngster rather than continuing to revaccinate.
DO NOT give nosodes at times of expected additional stressors, e.g. the day before a competition or similar exertional stress, at times of surgery, when about to haul a horse over a long distance, or when new spring grass is available to the horse.
I personally DO NOT annually vaccinate my own horses or other animal companions. Fortunately, in Australia we have a much lower incidence and variety of equine disease than what is encountered in the USA and do not have compulsory vaccination regulations imposed on us. I DO give the occasional Tetanus shot when a horse is badly injured to cover the immediate danger period. I DO NOT vaccinate with the Tetanus prevention program because of the greater assault it places on the immune system. I DO use a short-term homeoprophylactic schedule of Ledum followed by Hypericum for less threatening episodes of injury. I DO use nosodes if an unprotected animal has been recently exposed to an infectious disease but follow up with constitutional treatment as required. Any other illness or state of imbalance that my animals may acquire I treat in the true 'classical' sense. I do not administer a remedy before such time when a symptom picture would indicate what the nature of the imbalance is so that I can be directed to the choice of the correctly matching homeopathic remedy.
I have had a large number of horses over the years in my care, and apart from accidents that have caused bodily injury, they have always been particularly healthy. I can honestly say that I have never had an adult horse come down with a fully blown case of colic (touch wood) or any other major disorder! I have had one foal come down with a light case of colic from overfeeding on new rich pasture but had only to administer the correct acute homeopathic remedy to set him right within 20 mins. I put my horses' good fortune down to good management, the absence of vaccination, a reasonably natural diet, and a healthy environment along with classical homeopathic treatment (constitutional treatment) to keep their health at an optimum state of balance.
DO try to not fear disease. The French chemist Louis Pasteur (1822-95) who originally formed the germ theory and developed vaccines, in later years made a very appropriate statement..."The microbe is nothing, the terrain everything."
Please bear in mind that the suggestions and remarks offered in this script are for educational purposes and in no way replace veterinary advice or treatment! Always call your veterinarian when serious events arise! If you desire to follow a holistic path then I would recommend that you obtain approval from your veterinarian to seek the professional services of a qualified classical homoeopath or other certified holistic health practitioner!
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