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Jun. 22nd, 2020

I'm a pretty open-hearted person. Some people would probably call me naive. Actually, come to think of it, probably a lot of people would. I'm no saint, but I'm generally honest, strive to be a kind and good person, and try to see the best in people. There are very few people in this world that I truly dislike. With the exception of, say, Paul Bernardo, there's almost no one I'd ever want to hurt in any way. I've been involved in many different activities with many different groups of people, and I consistently play the role of Switzerland. Some people take pride in being a bitch. I take pride in not being one.

Several people have expressed surprise and concern about the openness of this journal. This comes as a surprise to me. After all, it's not a journal about religion or politics or sordid sexual practices; it's a journal about a dog. I could cheerfully burble about Bella all day long because I adore her, but no one wants to listen to that. So I put it in writing instead. That way, nobody has to read it unless they choose to.

I do mention the people and dogs that I meet on my journey with Bella, but never in a critical way. I get excited about Bella's successes in shows and trials, and I get depressed when we're not as successful. I know she's not the perfect Toller (which one is?), but I like to try things with her, and I want to do everything we try as well as we can.

I don't want to be perceived as boastful, and I don't want people to interpret anything I write as a slam on anyone or their dogs. That is never my intention. Perhaps I sometimes choose the wrong words, or perhaps it's naive to think that everyone understands that I share stories about Bella, and occasionally about other people that I know, because I delight in them.

In any event, I've decided to make this journal less public. Most entries are now friends-locked, which means you'll need to make a LiveJournal of your own and add me to your Friends' List if you want to read it. I've waffled about doing this, and I'm not hiding anything. I just want to feel more secure in the knowledge that I'm not inadvertently upsetting anyone.

If you want to read more Bella burbling than the average human can stand, leave a comment on this post, tell me who you are, and I'll friend you back.

Sep. 25th, 2009

I spoke to the vet yesterday, and Bella doesn't have lepto. Again. So, again, we still don't know what made her sick. ::sigh:: The vet spoke to another vet who specializes in pathology, and this vet didn't think the cause was likely to be a TBD. If she'd had Lyme either time, it would have been taken care of by the antibiotics, but in any case, her Lyme test has been negative three times. So has Erlichia. It could still be some untestable form of Rickettsia, but Bella's current doxy regime should take care of it. I had asked about doing titers for TBDs, but they're very expensive (about $100 for each one). The doxy should be taking care of them too, if they're there, so I think I'll pass on them for now.

The other possibilities are low-grade metritis and some kind of low-grade autoimmune disorder. Since whatever it is is only expressing itself in with fever and stiffness and then disappearing after a few days, there's no obvious way to test for whatever it is at the moment. The only thing to do at the moment is finish the course of doxy, wait for Bella to come into heat again, and see what happens.


Bella continues to act as if she were never sick, and I expect that's the way it will go until next time, if there is a next time. The nine-TBD DNA panel came back with everything negative, of course. ::sigh:: I joined Tick-L and put the mystery before them. One person suggested doing a a Protatek titer panel because it may be better than DNA tests for picking up low-grade or chronic infections. Another person from Toller-L suggested doing the ANA test because it's not expensive and it might yield a positive result. It's also been suggested that Bella's current dose of doxy is not aggressive enough: she needs more and to take it for longer than two weeks to blast anything that might be lurking in her system. I'm taking Bella and Nick into the vet's tomorrow to be microchipped (Bella doesn't have one, and Nick's chip isn't CKC-approved) and to have blood drawn from Bella for her second lepto titer, so I'll talk to the vet about those ideas then. The younger of the two vets is pretty open to taking suggestions from me because she knows I'm in touch with a lot of Toller breeders and owners.

I'm starting to feel really poor!

I'm also feeling a bit overextended at the moment. I have to readjust my schedule so that I can do the things I most want to do with both Bella and Nick. I think there's only one more agility lesson after this week, and I'm not going to continue over the winter. I like it, but I'm more interested in obedience and retrieving at the moment, plus I now have two dogs to show (or at least I will once Nick is registered with the CKC), and there's only so much time and money to go around. Nick has PADOC obedience classes on Monday nights, followed by a handling class if enough people show up (Bella will go to that too). Wednesday is members' night, which is Bella's night because Nick isn't really trained enough to do much there. I need to spend time training both dogs on other evenings--Nick has a lot to learn, period, and Bella needs remedial work on heeling. I also want to continue to do what retrieving I can while the warmth and light last. I'm going to thaw a duck out this weekend for the two of them.

I've entered Bella in the Port Hope show on October 2 and 3. She still has her coat, but she's starting to shed, so I hope she hangs onto it for a little while longer. I was kind of hoping for a small entry (say, Bella and Riley :-), but it turns out that quite a few people are going. One of them is Kim--her first show with Hazyl! We're going to drive down together. So it may be a wash, points-wise, for Bella, but it'll be fun seeing lots of different folks.

The Ontario Club is holding a fun field day on October 4, so I'll take both Bella and Nick to that (another reason to get a duck out this weekend!). I'm really looking forward to that--it should be good fun.
Bella's nine-TBD panel came back last week--everything was negative. We're still waiting for confirmation on the lepto test, but I just can't imagine that she caught lepto two years in a row. Yes, it's endemic here, but it's not THAT common.

There are some TBDs that haven't been identified, so it's possible that she has some weird strain of Rickettsia that doesn't show up on the tests. I'm keeping her on doxy for at least another week in case that's what's going on.

So we're no further ahead in figuring out what's making her sick. The only link between the two illnesses at the moment is that she was having a false pregnancy both times.

Argh! I was hoping that something would come back positive so that it could be definitively treated and forgotten.


Liz's grand old lady, Tidy (Can CH Kare's Ocean Tide CDX WC JH) died very suddenly and unexpectedly on Saturday morning. I'd taken Nick out to Pat's for an obedience lesson on Saturday afternoon, and Pat told me the news. Liz had let all of her dogs out that morning, and when she called them in for breakfast a few minutes later, Tidy didn't come. Liz found her in the back yard, lying peacefully on her side in the grass, already gone. She'd shown no signs of being ill, and she didn't appear to have any injuries or to have eaten anything suspicious. The vet said the best guess was that her heart gave out.


Sleep well, old girl. You'll be missed.
Bella's mystery illness has run its course. Thursday and Friday were pretty rough for her--she was stiff and sore, and once lying down, couldn't get up by herself. She couldn't walk up even one stair, and she tiptoed around like an old woman. The intial bloodwork at the vet's showed that she was slightly anaemic, her WBCs were normal, and her liver and kidney function were normal. Her fever peaked at 40.6C on Thursday by my thermometer and started slowly going down on Friday about 24 hours after she was started on amoxycillin.

After a discussion with other Toller folks on Facebook, I took Bella into the vet again on Friday for repeat bloodwork and to draw blood for the most comprehensive TBD panel the vet could find. Friday's bloodwork showed that the anaemia had corrected itself (just like last year) and that her WBC count was now slightly elevated (also just like last year). Her fever slowly decreased on Friday throughout the day, but she still had trouble moving. I had to hand-feed her both days because she couldn't reach down to the floor to eat, and she also had problems even bending her neck enough to take food from her bowl. She was briefly uninterested in food on Friday afternoon, but otherwise never lost her appetite. The vet gave me two weeks' worth of doxycillin in case she does have a TBD.

Bella managed a short walk down to the park on Friday evening and sat on the hill watching Nick chase tennis balls, and we headed up to the cottage with Jim and my parents early Saturday afternoon. She was still running a low fever, but she was moving much better and made it up and down the hill to the lake without much difficulty. She retrieved bumpers from the lake quite enthusiastically for a little while until she started to shiver. I put her lifejacket on to give her some insulation and then swaddled her in a blanket back up in the cottage. It took at least an hour for her to throw off the chill. She only went in the water once on Sunday--I expect she remembered that it made her feel worse the day before. She didn't get any more chills and was fine swimming on Monday when her temperature was back down to normal. By Monday evening, you'd never have known she'd been sick, although she did look rather tired.

This episode mimicked last year's almost exactly. Bella's fever went a little higher this time, and she took a little longer to recover, but everything else was the same. Her only symptoms were the sudden onset of a high fever, stiffness, and joint/muscle pain. She had no swelling, no vaginal discharge, and nothing in her bloodwork suggested anything more than that she was fighting some sort of infection and inflammation. She was happy to eat as long as I hand-fed her. The only link between the two episodes is that she was having and is having a false pregnancy. False pregnancies don't cause sudden high fevers, but if she's a TBD carrier, the hormone wackiness may have supressed her immune system enough to let the bug get a foothold.

The nine-disease tick panel and lepto test are pending. I expect the lepto test to be negative, just like last year, and I'm rather hoping that something comes back positive on the tick panel. Then at least I'd have a cause and a cure for this mystery ailment. Nothing else really fits: pyometra wouldn't have been cured by amoxycillin, her symptoms don't fit Addison's, and the lack of joint swelling or unusual bloodwork results don't suggest any autoimmune disorders. She seemed to respond to the antibiotics in about the time frame that you'd expect antibiotics to take effect. I had her on both amoxycillin and doxy on Friday and Saturday, but she lost her breakfast two days in a row, so now I'm just giving her the doxy. The vet said that the doxy might upset her stomach and that the amoxycillin wasn't really needed if she's also on doxy, so I thought that getting just one antibiotic might make her less nauseous. She kept all her meals down yesterday and on Sunday, so hopefully that'll continue.

[Truth be told, she's a teeny bit heavier than she ought to be, so missing a few meals won't hurt her. I'm cutting back her food until she loses two pounds and regains her girlish figure.]

A few people suggested that I spay her so that she won't have any more false pregnancies to trigger whatever this is. I'll wait until the results of the TBD panel comes back before I consider that. I'd like to find out what's actually making her sick--it'd suck if I spayed her and she got sick again anyway. Also, I'm a bit paranoid about anaesthetics after what happened to Lyza. I don't really care if she ever has puppies or not, but I'd kind of like to try to finish her championship. Of course, if I have to choose between a healthy Bella and champion sick Bella, it's a no-brainer. Ideally, a cause for the two episodes will present itself, be treated and cured, and then we can go on as usual.

At the moment, I'm just glad that my girl is back to her old self again. I hate seeing her sick.


Click on the "illness" tag to the left and read the entries about Bella's mystery fever last summer.

She's doing it again.

I got up last night around 4 am and noticed that she didn't seem like her usual self. I took her temperature and it was higher than normal. By this morning, it was 40.1C, so I took her into the vet as soon as the office opened. Everything is the same as last year: fever, lethargy, stiffness, slight anaemia, white blood cell count normal, liver and kidney function normal. No sign of pyometra. No other symptoms.

The vet started her on amoxycillin again, sent blood off to test for lepto, and ran a Snap 4DX for TBD. The lepto test takes a couple of weeks, but the Snap test was negative for everything. I thought the fever was vaccinosis last year because she'd had a parvo/distemper booster several days earlier, but she hasn't had any vaccinations since then. She's having another false pregnancy like she also did last year, but false pregnancies shouldn't cause a fever.

I stayed home to watch her today. She seems slightly more bright eyed now than this morning, but she's stiffer and her fever is higher (40.4C). Last year, she started getting better about 24 hours after going on the antibiotics. I hope the same is true for this year.

I hate this.


Jean Dodds Seminar, Part IV

The last topic of the day was hypothyroidism. About 70% of the thyroid gland has to be destroyed before classic hypothyroid symptoms present, so Dr. Dodds spent a lot of time going over the early signs of hypothyroid that aren't commonly recognized as such:

General symptoms: lethargy, mental dullness, exercise intolerance, neurologic signs, weight gain, cold intolerance, mood swings, hyperexcitability, stunted growth, and chronic infections.

Neuromuscular symptoms: weakness, stiffness, laryngeal paralysis (which results in a changed bark), facial paralysis, a "tragic" facial expression, knuckling or dragging feet, muscle wasting, megaesophagus, head tilt, and drooping eyelids.

Dermatological problems: dry scaly skin and dandruff (which can be treated by bathing the dog in Murphy's Oil Soap), coarse dull coat, bilaterally symmetrical hair loss, "rat tail", "puppy coat", hyperpigmentation, seborrhea or greasy skin, pyoderma or skin infections, myxedema (coarse, thickened skin), and chronic offensive skin odour (smells like rancid butter).

Reproductive disorders: (males) infertility, lack of libido, testicular atrophy, hypospermia/aspermia; (females) prolonged interestrus interval, no heat cycles, silent heats, false pregnacy beyond the maiden heat, and weak, dying, or stillborn pups.

Cardiac abnormalities: slow heart rate (check when the dog is at rest and look for changes over time), arrhythmia, and cardiomyopathy.

Gastrointestinal disorders (chronic, not occasional bouts): constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Hematologic disorders: bleeding, bone marrow failure, and low red blood cell count, white blood cell count, and platelets.

Ocular symptoms: corneal lipid deposits, corneal ulceration, uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye), dry eye, and tear duct infections.

Other disorders: IgA deficiency, loss of smell, loss of taste, glycosuria (glucose in the urine), chronic active hepatitis, and other endocrinopathies (adrenal, pancreatic, and parathyroid).

I've seen various of these symptoms and disorders discussed on Toller-L and the Holistic Toller group. While just one isn't necessarily diagnostic of hypothyroidism, having an affected dog tested for hypothyroidism is probably a good idea.

Link to nutrition: there is too much iodine in many commerical foods, and iodine suppresses thyroid production. If you're supplementing your dog's diet with kelp, don't feed too much of it as kelp has lots of iodine.

The typical age of onset of hypothyroidism is 1.5 - 3 years, but it can happen any time after puberty. A complete thyroid panel should be done annually or every two years. Blood for testing should be drawn between heats and after false pregnancies, which means 12-16 weeks after the start of a heat.

Hemolife is the diagnostic arm of Hemopet and will be doing its own thyroid tests within the next month. A complete basic thyroid profile includes T4, T3, FT4, FT3, T4AA, and T3AA. FT4 and FT3 measure the amount of free, bioavailable T4 and T3, while T4AA and T3AA measure autoantibodies. Additional tests are available for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and TgAA (thyroglobulin autoantibody). The OFA thyroid registry performs limited thyroid panels and will miss about 8% of positives. If you want to send blood in to Hemolife, you can find the instructions for how to do this under "Services" on their website: www.hemopet.org. Hemolife will provide you with a breed-specific, age-specific interpretation of the results.

When interpreting the results of thyroid tests, you have to know your dog. Puppies have higher thyroid levels than adults, while geriatric dogs have lower levels. Large and giant breeds have lower thryoid levels, and sighthounds have higher levels. Rabies vaccines can raise TgAA levels, so wait at least 60 days post-vaccination before testing.

Dogs with autoimmune thyroiditis should NOT be bred, regardless of their clinical status, because autoimmune thyroiditis is a heritable trait. Relatives of potential breeders should be screened annually from puberty. Dr. Dodds recommends that dogs not be bred until at least the age of three (later is better) to allow time for the condition, if it exists, to show up.

Hypothyroid dogs can be treated with thyroxine. The half-life of thyroxine in the body is 12-16 hours, so it's better to give the dog two doses per day instead of one. Two doses per day will provide more constant levels of thyroxine. Thyroxine binds to calcium and soy, so it's better to dose directly by mouth rather than putting the pill in food. Give doses one hour before or three hours after meals. "Pill pockets" (e.g., a bit of bread, a dunk of peanut butter) to encourage the dog to eat the pill are fine.

When testing dogs on thyroxine, draw blood 4 to 6 hours post-pill, and have the full profile done to make sure everything's as it should be. Readings should be high if the blood is taken 4 to 6 hours post-pill. Dogs should be dosed based on their optimum weight, not their overweight weight.

Dr. Dodds recommended the Whole Dog Journal as a valuable source of information on all kinds of things.

And finally, proof that I'm not just making all this up:

Dr. Jean Dodds Seminar Certificate

Jean Dodds Seminar, Part III

The afternoon session of the Jean Dodds seminar was devoted to nutrition and hypothyroidism. I'll just do nutrition in this post.

Commercial kibbles have a 90-day shelf life. They're dated like milk is, so when you're choosing a bag, pick the one with the longest expiry date. Choose brands that don't have preservatives, and read the ingredients! Ethoxyquin, an antioxidant, used to be a common ingredient in kibble until it was recognized to cause significant health problems. For some reason, it's now making a comeback--it's even showing up in prescription kibbles sold only by vets, so watch out for it. If your dog has gastrointestinal problems, avoid commercial foods containing gluten, soy, and corn. If your dog has seizures, avoid rosemary extract.

The protein content of dog food should be about 30-35%, and the fat content should be < 14%. The quality of the protein is more important than the amount. If you dog has pancreatitis, its food should be < 9% fat. Beef often causes allergic reactions or triggers food sensitivities. Avoid lamb if it hasn't been grass fed, otherwise it may contain too much copper. For more on food allergies, see www.foodallergytest.com.

Home-cooked and home-prepared diets are better than kibble. Adding raw food to kibble is also better than just kibble. If you're making your own dog food, it should be 70% meat/organs/bone and 30% veggies. The best veggies are leafy greens or yellow vegetables: parsley, kale, spinach, carrots, squash, and yams. Feeding these types of vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. Vegetables should be chopped or cooked--dogs don't process cellulose very well. Dr. Dodds didn't feel that rotating protein sources improved nutrition very much, but she did say that it would reduce food sensitivities. Don't feed cooked bones because they can splinter.

Dogs with liver or gastrointestinal issues may not be able to tolerate raw diets. The short, acidic digestive system of dogs is why they can eat raw meat and the bacteria it may contain without getting sick. Food passes through them quickly enough that the bacteria can't reproduce and make them sick. GI issues can slow digestion, and blossoming bacteria tends to travel from the gut to the liver. Dogs with GI or liver issues should be fed cooked or commercial diets.

Dogs on raw diets will have different lab results (e.g., blood tests) than those on commercial diets. Some data on this have been published in veterinarian nutrition literature. Raw-fed dogs will tend to have higher blood urea and nitrogen, higher blood counts (e.g., red blood cells, white blood cells), and higher creatinine. Individual dogs should have blood drawn and analyzed when they're healthy--then, when they're sick, you have their normal baseline to compare lab results to. Typical lab results for different breeds of dogs are available from Hemopet.

To be continued...


Bella's eyes are still looking good. She hasn't had any discharge since the first two applications of cream (which is basically the same as Polysporin). I brought her into doggy daycare today because she didn't get to go on Wednesday. She has a new playmate there today--Brady the four-month-old golden retriever. He's going to be a big golden--he's already as tall as Bella and probably weighs more than she does. His nickname is "Tank." :-)

Jane held a rally practice last night. Bella did pretty well--she was attentive and enthusiastic without being scattered. She's even starting to go over jumps at a distance, which is a good sign for agility. We practiced several honours in different positions (the judge can ask for a sit or a down, with the handler either beside or in front of the dog). Bella was kind of distracted by something at the far end of the field--I couldn't see anything, but Zoey kept staring down there, too, so something was going on--but she held her sits and downs with only one or two lapses. The only thing she did consistently wrong was to curve away from me during backwards heeling. She hasn't really done that very often before. I don't know why she was doing it last night, but sometimes she has "aberrations" like that that just go away on their own.

When I got home after practice, I discovered that our entry for Bowmanville had arrived in the mail. There are five dogs in the Rally Excellent classes in two of the four trials (Cinders is one of them). There was only one in all the trials at Pefferlaw, so I was kind of surprised to see that. I'm already starting to get nervous. :-/

LittlestJim's school had a BBQ fundraiser the other night. It backs on the schoolyard/park at the end of our street, and it was a nice evening, so Bella came with us. One of the fathers came up to talk to me--he has a Toller from Kare who may be Kare's Mazie. For a relatively uncommon breed, there sure are a lot of Tollers in our neighbourhood: Chelsea lives across the street, Jessie lives a block or two away, Cedar and Lyza are just a little farther than that, and now we have Mazie. Peterborough, little city that it is, is proving to be a hotbed for Tollers.

Jean Dodds Seminar, Part II

It's going to be a bit of a challenge to write up my notes--the seminar tended to jump from topic to topic, especially when people were asking a lot of questions--but I'll give it my best shot.

According to Dr. Dodds, yearly vaccinations were originally recommended for dogs and cats not because there was evidence that they needed them that often, but because it was a mechanism to get pets into the vet's office for an annual check-up. When you compare the number of vaccinations that a dog typically gets in its relatively short lifetime to the number of vaccinations that a person gets in their much longer lifetime--well, it's a bit ridiculous, really. The core vaccinations for dogs (the ones every dog should have) are distemper, adenovirus 2, parvovirus, and rabies. The core vaccinations for cats are feline parvovirus, herpes virus, calicvirus, and rabies. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm not sure what adenovirus is, never mind the what the difference is between adenovirus 1 and 2. I know that Lucy was vaccinated for feline leukemia when she went from being an indoor to an outdoor cat, but I don't know why that's not one of the core vaccinations.

For dogs, parvovirus is the most serious and common disease right now. There have been a number of parvo outbreaks in the U.S. in recent years. There's not much distemper around in the pet population anymore, because of vaccination programs, but it still exists in wildlife and feral dogs and can enter the pet population through contact with those animals. As I mentioned yesterday, there's very little rabies in Ontario. There's no difference between the one-year and three-year rabies vaccine except for the label on the bottle, so dogs don't need to be vaccinated for rabies annually. The goal of Dr. Dodds' rabies challenge study is to evaulate the duration of rabies immunity conferred by the vaccine. She thinks it lasts for seven years or more, perhaps even the lifetime of the dog. When vaccinating your dog for rabies, ask for a vaccine that doesn't have mercury or thimerosal in it (Imrab makes this kind of vaccine).

Another serious illness that dogs can contract is canine influenza, and there is no vaccine for it. Its symptoms look a lot like kennel cough, which isn't life threatening. The difference is that canine influenza comes with a fever, while kennel cough doesn't. If your dog starts to cough and is running a fever, it should be taken to the vet and started on a course of antibiotics immediately as the risk of pneumonia is very high.

The optimal age for vaccinating is 12+ weeks for puppies and 10 weeks for kittens. The earliest safe age to vaccinate puppies and kittens is six weeks, but Dr. Dodds said that vaccinations really shouldn't be given before eight weeks. The age at which vaccinations are effective depends on when the maternal antibodies wear off--if maternal antibodies are still present when a puppy is vaccinated, the antibodies will neutralize the vaccine. This is why puppies get a series of vaccinations: because it's difficult to predict when the maternal antibodies will wear off, and there may be differences between individual dogs and between breeds. Dr. Dodds prefers single vaccinations to combinations, and she recommends giving them 3-4 weeks apart. Again, the most important one is parvo, so it should be given first. Females shouldn't be vaccinated just before becoming pregnant in order to increase antibodies in the pups, because their hormones are out of whack when they're in season, and this raises the risk of adverse reactions. Dogs shouldn't be vaccinated at all after 10 years of age.

It's considered safe to take puppies out into the world three days after their second vaccination. The problem, of course, is how to socialize a puppy while not exposing it to life-threatening viruses when it's still vulnerable, particularly if you're spacing individual vaccines 3-4 weeks apart. Dr. Dodds suggested taking puppies to public places where dogs aren't common, such as parking lots outside of stores and malls, or inviting healthy dogs to your home. Carrying the puppy and having people play with it in your (or their) arms instead of letting it touch the ground in public places will also reduce the risk of exposure. Puppies can attend puppy obedience classes after their first round of shots because owners who take their puppies to classes are generally a clean and responsible lot, so the risk of infection is relatively low. However, there is still a risk, because nothing is risk free, so puppy owners should have this explained to them.

The only vaccination required by law in Ontario is rabies--everything else is a recommendation and is optional. Vets incur no legal liability by not recommending vaccinations, except for rabies, because everything on the label is a recommendation. Ontario law doesn't clearly specify a minimum age at which puppies should be vaccinated for rabies--it says something like "three months or older," which may be interpreted by individual public health officers either as "it must be given at three months of age" or "it must be given sometime after three months of age."

A titre measures the immunity conferred by vaccinations and by natural exposure. Because of the lower limits of lab tests, any measurable titre is considered protective--a measurable level = committed immune memory cells. The number provided on a titre test (e.g., 1:256) refers to the number of dilutions it took before antibodies could no longer be detected. A higher second number in the ratio (1:1024) is better than a lower number (1:16), but any measurable titre is a good titre. However, in Ontario, public health officers will not accept titres as evidence of vaccination.

After vaccination, a dog's titre will rise for about three months, after which time it will stabilize and return to the dog's basal level. Once the animal has stabilized, its titre should stay at its basal level and not decrease with time. This is only true for virus vaccinations, not bacteria vaccinations (such as lepto), but I don't know why. This is why Dr. Dodds doesn't think that dogs need to be repeatedly vaccinated against viral diseases. You can't boost an immune system that is already on guard for a specific disease, and over-vaccination can backfire and weaken a dog's immune system. [On a human note, annual flu shots are recommended for susceptible individuals because cold and flu viruses mutate quickly--this year's flu is not the same as last year's flu, and immunity to one doesn't provide immunity to another. That's why you can catch colds and the flu throughout your life. I don't know why these viruses mutate quickly while other don't.] Titres should be done several months after vaccinating (so that you're not measuring the temporary spike) and then again in several years.

Inoculated dogs will shed virus, so dogs that come into contact with them may show a measurable titre even if they haven't been vaccinated themselves. Dogs can also be exposed to a virus in the environment without necessarily becoming sick, so they can produce positive titres that way too. Rabies is always fatal, however, so a dog can only produce a measurable rabies titre through vaccination. I'm a little fuzzy on why rabies virus can't be shed by vaccinated dogs--I'm guessing it's because the the rabies vaccine is a killed virus rather than a modified live virus. A modified live virus will reproduce in the dog's body, but a killed one won't. In any event, Dr. Dodds was quite clear on this point: positive rabies titres can only be gained by vaccination. She has had the occasional positive titre from an unvaccinated dog come up, but it's always been a false positive as a result of a clerical error.

The rabies vaccination is the strongest vaccination given to dogs, and it's one of the ones most likely to cause adverse effects. Rabies vaccinations should be given separately (i.e., 3-4 weeks before or after) from other vaccinations when the dog is healthy, not in heat, etc. Dogs with chronic conditions (e.g., hypothyroidism) shouldn't be vaccinated at all. A letter of exemption from a vet is acceptable in lieu of a rabies vaccination in Ontario, so owners of geriatric dogs (> 10 years old) or dogs with chronic health problems should get one of these from their vet. Adverse reactions from the rabies vaccination can include changes in temperament.

To be continued...


Bella's right eye was kind of runny yesterday evening, and the white part of her eye was an interesting shade of pink. I made an appointment with the vet for this afternoon. The vet examined Bella's eye, said her cornea appeared to be clear and unscratched, noted that the accumulated goop (which I hadn't wiped off because I wanted her to see it) was slightly green and the tissues around her eye were a little swollen, and concluded that it was conjunctivitis. I have cream to put in both eyes to clear it up/prevent the other one from becoming infected. Bella's eye looks a little more gooey than usual, but it doesn't seem to be causing her any discomfort and she's not squinting or blinking any more than normal. She sure doesn't like having the cream put in, though. But, then, neither would I. And she can't go to doggy daycare tomorrow because she might be contagious. :-(

While I was at the vet's, I also had a Lyme test done to see if that's what made her sick in July. It came back negative (she was also negative for heartworm--they do both at once). I talked to the vet about whether her illness could have been a reaction to the vaccination, but she was inclined to say no until I mentioned that Bella had been having a false pregnancy at the time of the vaccination (it was a different vet than the one who told me about the false pregnancy). Then she conceded that it might have been. Since parvo is an immunosuppressive virus, it might also have been the start of an opportunistic infection that moved in while her immune system was below par after the parvo vaccination. There's no way to know. I think I'll bring Bella in for titres--including a rabies titre--after her next heat. If the rabies titre comes back positive, then I'll ask if they'll sign a waiver for rabies shots on the condition that I have rabies titres done every three years. I'm also going to email Jean Dodds and ask her opinion. Mairon has emailed her a few times, and she said that she's always gotten an answer.

Jean Dodds Seminar, Part I

Went to Jean Dodds seminar yesterday. Information overload. Head exploding. Oy.

She talked about three main topics: vaccinations, nutrition, and hypothyroidism. The audience asked a LOT of questions, so although I took copious notes, they don't exactly follow a linear progression. I will attempt to summarize them in installments in the next week or so.

There were two main points of interest for me: leptospirosis vaccinations and vaccinosis. I should qualify that--it was all interesting, but those two things were ones that were on my mind going in and coming out.

Regarding lepto, Dr. Dodds said that she would never vaccinate for it unless there was a huge local outbreak that had been shown to be caused by one of the serovars included in the vaccine. She thinks that the risk of an adverse reaction is just too high and the benefits too low. She acknowledged that lepto is a very serious disease that can be passed from dogs to humans. She said there were two strategies for dealing with it in areas (such as Peterborough) where it is endemic: vaccinate and hope for the best, or don't vaccinate and whisk your dog into the vet's at the first sign that something's off. If symptoms suggest that it might be lepto, then the dog should be started on a course of doxycillin or amoxicillin immediately, and a test for lepto should be performed. There's no way to confirm a lepto diagnosis quickly, so you have to treat in the absence of a diagnosis. That pretty much sums up what happened when Bella got sick this summer: I had her at the vet's within an hour of coming home and finding her acting "not right," and the vet started her on amoxicillin the next morning after Bella's fever had risen overnight. As it turned out, Bella didn't have lepto, but it's comforting to know that the vet and I both responded appropriately.

During lunch, I told the people at my table about Jilly's terrible reaction to Fort Dodge's lepto vaccine a number of years ago. A couple of people mentioned that Fort Dodge had admitted to batches of contaminated lepto vaccines that made a lot of dogs sick. After they'd mentioned that, I remembered that Jilly's vet bills were paid for by Fort Dodge, so she was almost certainly one of the dogs who got the bad vaccines. I'm pretty sure Linus got the lepto vaccine that year too (but never again)--I guess it was either stunning hybrid vigour or luck of the draw that he didn't get sick.

Regarding vaccinosis, Dr. Dodds wasn't entirely clear on whether individual vaccines were preferable to multiple vaccines. At one point, she did say that individual vaccines should be given several weeks apart, but she also referred to parvo/distemper/adenovirus vaccine combos without saying anything negative about them. (On a side note, I'm not even sure what adenovirus is. It's one of the four "core" vaccines that she thinks every dog should get, but I've never actually heard of it before. Linus got annual "combo-wombo" vaccinations (except for lepto, except that one year), so presumably it was in his mix, but Bella's never had it as far as I know.)

One way or the other, several things can increase the risk of vaccinosis: genetics, stress, sex hormones, poor nutrition, and existing health problems. Breeds with dilute coat colours are more prone to adverse vaccine reactions. Dr. Dodds didn't mention Tollers specifically here, but she did say that dogs with lighter coat colours and pink noses were in this group. Females shouldn't be vaccinated when they're in heat, in the 30-day period before estrus, while pregnant, or while lactating. Males shouldn't be vaccinated around times of breeding or if they're housed with females who are in heat. Adverse vaccine reactions typically happen within 3-10 days following vaccination, although they can show up as late as 45-60 days. (I would have liked to have seen a list of possible reactions, but there were so many questions being asked by the audience that she wasn't showing her slides methodically here.) Additionally, parvovirus and retroviruses are immunosuppressive viruses. Therefore, parvo vaccinations will suppress the immune system for several days. Thus, if you vaccinate puppies for parvo and there is "street parvo" in their environment, they may come down with parvo. They don't get parvo from the vaccination, but the street parvo can move in and make them sick during the period of immune suppression before immunity kicks in. Finally, if a dog has a vaccine reaction, that dog should not receive any more vaccinations, ever, including rabies.

Speaking of rabies, and I did not know this, the current protocol for dogs is to get their first rabies shot sometime in their first year, to get a booster one year later (regardless of the fact that current vaccines are three-year vaccines), and then to get rabies shots as required by law (generally, every three years) thereafter. Dr. Dodds has begun a rabies challenge study to determine how long rabies immunity really lasts, but she said at least twice that rabies should be given at < 1 year and again one year later. (The one-year booster is the part I didn't know about.)


Bella was vaccinated against rabies a couple of days before she flew from Minneapolis to Toronto. She didn't have any adverse reactions to this shot, as far as I know. She was very shy for the first couple of months in Peterborough, but I think that was far more likely to have been the result of the huge change in her lifestyle and environment, not to mention the flight itself, than an adverse vaccine reaction. That was her first rabies vaccination; according to Jean Dodds, she should have another in December 2008.

Bella was given a parvo/distemper (only) vaccination on July 4 (it was specially ordered in for her). We also discovered that day that she was having a false pregnancy. On July 10, I came home and discovered that she was getting sick. She was running a low fever and was lethargic, but she didn't have any other symptoms at first. Her fever was higher on July 11, as was her white blood cell count, and she was stiff, sore, and having problems getting to her feet after lying down. She also had difficulty going up stairs or even getting into the car. She was started on a course of amoxicillin and showed significant improvement within 24 hours, as is often the case when an infection is treated with antibiotics.

Tollers are one of the breeds that are predisposed to vaccinosis, so Bella had genetics working against her. She shouldn't have been vaccinated during a false pregnancy, but I didn't think of that until a day or two later, so she had that working against her too. She wasn't particularly stressed--all dogs get a little edgy when they go to the vet's, but Bella was pretty relaxed about it all. She has a high-quality raw diet and is generally in great health.

So why did she get sick? Was it vaccinosis? It could have been--it was in the right time frame. She was vaccinated during a false pregnancy, which is a no-no, and that increased her risk of reaction. All the tests they ran came back negative, and her final diagnosis was "fever of unknown origin," which isn't a diagnosis at all. And, in fact, vaccinosis is usually a diagnosis of exclusion.

Did she get sick because there was something in the environment that took advantage of the period when her immune system was suppressed? That's possible too--the time frame was also right for that, and she seemed to respond to the antibiotics in the way that infections typically do. Amoxicillin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, so even though an infection was never found, Bella could have had something starting somewhere that was quickly knocked out by the drug.

But what if it was vaccinosis? If that's the case, then she shouldn't be vaccinated ever again for anything, including rabies. Which, because Cathy and I agreed to follow Jean Dodds' protocol, is the only vaccination she has left, and she's due for another one in December. And rabies happens to be the strongest vaccination out there--it's known to cause a lot of vaccinosis.

Except for bat-strain rabies (and the incidence of rabies in bats is very low), there is no rabies in the Peterborough area. An aggressive anti-rabies initiative by the provincial government has wiped it out in this part of Ontario and limited its entry from New York state to small areas around Wolfe Island and Niagara Falls. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in Ontario, but you can get a waiver from a vet if your pet has had an adverse vaccine reaction in the past (this is what Jilly has).

I discussed all this with the people at my table at lunch, and they agreed it was a tough call. There's really no way to know why Bella got sick in July. If it was an opportunistic infection, then it's okay to vaccinate her for rabies. If it was vaccinosis, then she shouldn't be vaccinated anymore, period. I was sitting next to a Golden Retriever breeder who believes in minimal vaccinations, and her opinion was that Bella shouldn't get any more rabies shots. I don't know if I could convince my vet to write a waiver for me or not. She might do it if I agreed to annual rabies titres.

I think I need to email Dr. Dodds.


I met and talked briefly with Shannon Viljasoo and Mairon Bennett before the seminar started (they were sitting two tables away from me), and then met up with them and Chris Choi in the parking lot afterwards. Chris looked quite delighted to see me and gave me a hug :-). For the most part, I've found Toller people to be friendly and helpful, but sometimes I detect an undercurrent of bias against newbies to the breed, so it meant a lot to me to have Chris do that. I've emailed Shannon a fair bit (and Mairon, but much less), so it was great to meet them in person. The four of us made for an odd kind of symmetry: Shannon, Chris, and I have the only three Maverick pups in Ontario, while Shannon, Chris, and Mairon are owners of dogs from the near-legendary Onepenny Pipercub litter (Mairon was the breeder, of course). I need a Onepenny Toller and Mairon needs a Maverick pup, and the circle will be complete. :-) There's a specialty fundraiser in Bowmanville in October, so I'll go to that and get to hang out with them some more. We'll all also be at the the Toller booster/AGM in Orangeville in December, so I'm looking forward to that too.
Here on a quick trip back from the cottage for MiddleJim's soccer game. Bella's doing great and she loves the cottage. She and Katie have been playing tag with each other and jumping off the dock to retrieve sticks. Bella hasn't quite figured out that she's supposed to bring the stick back to me and drops them all in a particularly inaccessible place on shore as soon as she stops to shake.

Bella also got to go on her first motor boat ride yesterday. She was a little alarmed at first, but settled in as soon as she saw that Katie didn't mind the noisy engine. The boys like to go across the lake to the "jumping rocks," where they can jump anywhere from a couple of feet to about 30 feet into a deep part of the lake. There's not much of a shoreline there, so people have to climb back into the boat using the prop of the motor as a step. Everyone laughed at the bright orange lifejacket that Bella was wearing, but its usefulness became apparent when it was time to haul the dogs back into the boat: it has two handles on the back (which was partly why I bought it). Getting Bella in the boat was easy; getting Katie, who weighs more, especially when she's wet (she's an unusually furry border collie), was a lot harder. Score one for the funny-looking lifejacket!

There was a message waiting for me from the vet: the urine culture came back negative, and the lepto DNA test was also negative. So, it wasn't a kidney or bladder infection, and it wasn't lepto. I'll bring her back in a couple of weeks for a repeat Lyme test. If that's negative, well, we may never know what kind of infection she had. The important thing is that she's back to her normal, bouncy, happy self.

Jul. 13th, 2008

Bella jumped up on the bed this morning and also ran up and down the stairs to the basement. I'd say she's pretty much back to normal. :-)

11 am: 38.0C


Bella just keeps doing better and better as the day goes on. I took her out for a second walk this afternoon, and she trotted along beside me almost the entire time. Towards the end, she even broke out into a run.

We left her in the backyard with the boys to go grocery shopping, and when we got home she greeted us with a big smile. She ran in circles around us and jumped off and back on to the front porch a couple of times. Considering that she was having trouble even walking up a single step yesterday, that's pretty good. She still has a little residual stiffness, but she looks like Bella again. Thank GOD. I will sleep better tonight, I can tell you.

8:15 pm: 38.4C Even lower!


Jim and I just took Bella out for a short walk to the park and back. She's not her normally bouncy self yet, but she's moving much better. She can make it up a few stairs without any help, and she doesn't struggle to get up after she's been lying down and asleep for a while. Yesterday, she was quite stiff, and just standing for any length of time was an effort.

She's also much more interested in what's going on around her. While on the walk, she wandered into a neighbour's open garage to look around and then came trotting (trotting!) back to me when I called her. Things are looking up.

Jim and the boys are going up to the cottage tomorrow. I think I'll stay here with Bella for another day and see how she does, and then maybe drive up with her on Monday. The hill from the cottage down to the lake is quite steep in places, so I want her to be mobile enough to tackle it and pain-free enough to be carried up if she gets tired. I'll also bring her lifejacket so that she can go swimming without over-exerting herself.


Bella looks a little bit perkier this morning. I got her up and took her out for a pee around 4 am--I've been mixing quite a bit of water into her food, so I figured she might need to go. Also, she's stiff, so once she lies down, she tends not to move much. After four hours lying on one side, I thought it would be good to rotate her.

When we went out this morning, she perked up when she saw the cat and a bird. Then Belle next door came out (Bella could see her through the fence), and Bella started moving towards her like she wanted to go and play. There's life in the old girl yet.

She still grunts when going up stairs, but she's walking faster. She even managed a trot a couple of times. And she snarfed back a watered-down patty for breakfast--there's definitely nothing wrong with her appetite.

9:30 am: 39.3C

1:30 pm: 38.9C Yay! That puts her in the range of "normal."

The vet clinic called this morning to see how she was, and I asked about metacam. The vet I spoke to was a different one (I think she's an older woman who owns the business), and she seems to think that the underlying cause of all this is pyometra, a uterine infection. She didn't want Bella to have metacam because it might mask some symptoms. Oddly, she simultaneously implied that keeping Bella intact was a bad thing to do because it increased the risk of pyometra and that the most important thing to protect was not Bella but the viability of her uterus so that she could be bred in the future. O_o


The vet that actually saw Bella was of the opinion that pyometra was unlikely in a such young dog and that it was more or less ruled out by the x-ray and lack of discharge.

The vet I talked to today was going through her chart and told me that Bella had been tested for Lyme disease when she went in last week for her vaccination. It came back negative, but she'd put a note in saying that she should have a snap test in three weeks' time to make sure. I don't think Lyme is particularly common around here--I've only seen a tick once or twice in my life--but it would be good to make sure.

So one vet thinks it's pyometra, the other vet thinks it's lepto, Liz thinks it's a passing virus like Bounty seemed to have, and Carolee--who is PADOC's equivalent of Toller-L's Deena Mottola--thinks it's all the fault of the vaccination. That's a lot of opinions, and any one of them could be right. I'm just glad that, whatever it is, Bella seems to be getting better.


More Bella Watch

Her temperature at this afternoon was 40.1C.

8:45 pm: 39.9C.

At least it's going in the right direction.

Liz just called me--I sent her an email telling her about Bella this afternoon. Bounty spiked a fever last week for a day, and then it went away on its own. She suggested getting some Metacam from the vet if Bella is still feverish and sore tomorrow--it'll make her feel better, if nothing else.

I'm quite touched that she phoned me. Liz is really, really nice. :-)

11 pm: 40.2C ::sigh::

She ate lots of dinner, so that's gotta be a good thing. She's walking a little better, but stairs are a challenge.

I hate this.


Bella's home. She had a shot of amoxicillin around 1 pm, and I have a three-week supply of pills to give her. Her temperature is about the same, but the vet said that she looked perkier at the end of the day than in the morning. She was "vocalizing" at the cat in the kennel above her. :-) Hopefully, the amoxicillin will do what needs to be done.

She's still very lethargic, and she needed help getting into the car. I think her joints are sore because when I bumped against her elbow, she gave a little yelp. When we got home, she made a beeline for the back door--she really had to pee. Now she's lying on her pillow by the couch and moving as little as possible. In a little while, I'll mix her dinner with some water (to keep her fluids up).

I'll be taking her temperature several times a day for the next few days and keeping track of pees and poops. The vet is going to send a urine sample off for culture and DNA analysis to test for lepto. If it comes back positive, it means that there's lepto in her system, but it won't prove that that's what made her sick. For that, you need to do two blood titres two weeks apart. The vet saved some serum from today for the first sample and will collect a second one if we need to. Analysis of the blood titres is really expensive, but if the urine analysis indicates lepto, I want to know for sure. It'll be useful information for me and for other people in the area who struggle with the question of whether to vaccinate for lepto or not.

Poor Boo. She was happy to see me, and I think she's glad to be home, but between feeling sick and losing a lot of her coat lately, she looks rather woebegone.


I'm sitting here at work and getting NOTHING done. Except fretting. Oh yes, lots of fretting is being accomplished.

The vet just called. Bella's RBC count has actually gone up slightly since last night, so that rules out internal bleeding or anything chewing up her red blood cells (such as an autoimmune reaction to last week's vaccine). The x-ray didn't show anything, and there's still no vaginal discharge, so her uterus is probably fine. Her white blood cell count has increased since last night, which suggests that her body is mounting a defense against some kind of inflammation or infection. Her temperature is 40.1°C.

She fed Bella a soupy mixture of tinned food and lots of water, so she's gotten fluids into her that way. She obtained a urine sample and said that there are more casts in it than she would have expected. A "cast" is apparently kidney cellular debris. Some dogs naturally have more in their urine than others, but Bella had enough that there might be something going on with her kidneys.

The most likely cause is some kind of infection, so she's going to start Bella on amoxicillin. Amoxicillin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is effective against Lyme disease and, yes, leptospirosis. I haven't seen any ticks on Bella, but I suppose she could have picked one up on a pack walk, and we were up at Jim's cottage for an hour two weekends ago. There's a plastic kiddy pool there that had a puddle of leaves and muck from over the winter. I caught Bella drinking from it, pulled her away, and showed her where her water dish was. The vet is going to initiate tests for Lyme and lepto, but it takes a couple of weeks to get the results back. I gather that lepto is hard to diagnose definitively anyway.

Linus was at Jim's cottage several times and never got sick. Katie has been going there regularly for years (Doug owns one-third of it) and hasn't gotten sick. Bella's been up twice and was there for less than a hour the second time. After all my agonizing, if it turns out to be lepto...


At least it's doesn't look like an autoimmune issue. If it is Lyme or lepto, it can be cured, and I whisked her into the vet within an hour of getting home and discovering that she wasn't well. Jim thought I was overreacting a little, but he knows how attached I am to her: she's my best girl ever...

Anyway, the vet said that Bella is comfortable and alert, she still has an appetite, and hopefully she'll respond to the amoxicillin. Barring any unforeseen complications, I'll pick her up at 5:30 tonight and hear what else the vet has learned by then.


I just talked to the vet again, and I'm going to bring Bella in for some more tests. She's going to repeat the bloodwork, see if she can get a urine sample, and maybe take an x-ray to see if her uterus is swollen. Bella's not drinking, so she may put her on an IV to keep her hydrated. She may also put her on a broad-spectrum antibiotic and see if that helps.

Bella's not vomiting, she doesn't have diarrhea, and there's no discharge from her vulva. I offered her a liver treat this morning, and she ate it. I was going to lift her up on the bed, and she whimpered a little, so I left her on her pillow. She might be sore from the fever (my joints always hurt when I have a fever), or something inside might hurt. She's quite reluctant to move.

I called doggy daycare, and no other owners have reported sick dogs. So at the moment, Bella has a "fever of unknown origin."



Bella Watch Continued

7:45 am: 40.2 °C

She's even more lethargic this morning. Urine looked normal, as far as I could tell. I'll be calling the vet as soon at the office opens.


Bella Watch

The normal temperature for a dog is 37.2°C–39.2°C.

9:30 pm: 39.6°C

10 pm: Followed her outside with a flashlight when she went for a whiz. Urine looked normal, what I could see of it in the dark. Gave her a liver treat, which she snarfed back happily. Definitely nothing wrong with her appetite.

10:30 pm: 39.8°C. ::sigh::

Kristina (holding Vaselined thermometer): Come here, BellaBoo!

Bella (looking apprehensive): I already feel icky! Why do you keep shoving that thing up my butt???

Bed now.


When I come home after work, I can usually hear Bella whining softly in her crate as I walk up the hall towards my room. After I open the door, she explodes into a frenzy of delight and careens around the house, sliding on the hardwood floors and bouncing (literally) off the walls because she can't put the brakes on. Eventually, she pinballs herself to the back door and runs and jumps and spins like a happy crazed thing in the backyard for another several minutes.

Tonight, though, there wasn't a sound as I walked down the hall. She was sitting up and waiting for me, but it looked like she'd just woken up. She bounced for a few seconds after I let her out of her crate, but then followed me out into the backyard at quite a sedate pace. She ate her dinner without any hesitation, but she's been very quiet and lethargic all evening, and she seems just a little shaky when she walks.

The last time a dog of mine did this was when Linus's hemangiosarcoma tumour started bleeding out. Twenty-four hours later, he was gone.

I'm pretty sure Bella doesn't have hemangiosarcoma (she's not old enough, for one thing), but after watching her acting just not Bella-like for an hour, I called the vet and took her in. Her nose is running a little--just clear fluid--and she's on the brink of having a fever. The vet listened to her heart and lungs (both normal), and checked her lymph glands (normal) and her vulva (also normal) in case she had a uterine infection related to her false pregnancy. Her muscous membranes are a normal colour (unlike Linus's; his were a very pale pink from the internal bleeding). The vet took some blood and is going to do several tests, like red and white blood cell counts.

Jim and I stopped by the drugstore on the way home and picked up a thermometer. We're on Bella watch now and will take her temperature in a while to see if it's gone up.

The vet's best guess was that she has the start of a doggy cold, possibly picked up at daycare yesterday.


Ooops, the phone just rang--it was the vet with the results of the blood tests. Most of the parameters, including her electrolytes, platelets, and white blood cell count, were normal. The only ones that were off were one of the proteins, and her red blood cell count is at the low end of normal, meaning she's very slightly anemic. I have to keep an eye on her urine and feces in case there's any blood in them. The vet doesn't think the low RBC count is a bone marrow problem because other cells (like white blood cells) would be affected by that too, and they're fine. So I'm going to take her temperature a few times tonight and tomorrow morning, and if she's not better tomorrow, bring her back in the afternoon for a repeat blood test to see if anything's changed.

Amazingly enough, I emailed myself a copy of the report I'm editing to my home account, so I can work at home tomorrow. Technically, tomorrow is my day off anyway, although I was going to go in and finish this thing before leaving for the cottage. But I can do that here, so I can stay home tomorrow if I have to.

Bella doesn't seem uncomfortable or anything--she just doesn't have much energy. She's alert and interested in what's going on around her, but she's lying down and watching instead of getting up to investigate things. She still follows me when I get up and move around, though.

Don't be sick, Boo. Please just have a doggy cold, and have it go away really soon.


I work for the Ontario government at the Ministry of Natural Resources. MNR is the ministry that tracks rabies, and it runs a pretty aggressive rabies eradication program (vaccine-filled baits, distributed by airplanes, are used to vaccinate wild animals over a large area). For the curious, it's worked pretty well in controlling the fox and raccoon strains of rabies in Ontario. It doesn't work so well with bats since they eat insects in the air, not bait on the ground.

I thought I read on one email list or another that MNR also tracked leptospirosis, which was news to me. As this is the disease that has been most on my mind lately, I figured I'd look into it. I sent out enquiring emails from my work account, got passed around a fair bit, and finally learned that lepto is not tracked in Ontario.

My email eventually got forwarded to Dr. John Prescott at the University of Guelph, a vet who researches lepto, among other things. I have a pretty broad scientific background, but it unfortunately does not include things like immunology and whatnot. So although Dr. Prescott did his best to answer my questions, I confess that I don't fully understand what he wrote. Still, I will put it here for the record and so that I can reference it later on.

He wrote his answers to my questions in all caps, which I find hard on the eyes, but I'm not going to retype everything he wrote just to change it to lower case.


Kristina: I know that lepto vaccines for dogs cover only four lepto serovars, and I've read that there are many more serovars than this, some of which are on the rise in Ontario.



Kristina: I'm interested in finding out how many cases of diagnosed lepto are caused by the serovars covered by the vaccine and how many are caused by the others.


Kristina: I'm particularly interested in the Peterborough/Bancroft area, but I know many folks who would be interested in this sort of information from anywhere in Ontario (or even Canada, for that matter). Does the University of Guelph collect data of this sort? (MNR apparently does not.) If yes, has it been published or is it shareable?


[Note from Kristina: The Canadian Shield is predominantly granite, which would make the soils acidic, not alkaline. He's a vet, not an environmental chemist.]




Not understanding all of that, I sent him a second message for clarification:

Kristina: Thanks so much for your message. My questions come from both professional and personal interest. I work for MNR, and I know that rabies is tracked here. I was wondering if lepto was as well, since it can be transmitted to humans, but apparently it's not. Do you know if there are many cases of people contracting lepto from their infected pets? In your opinion, do you think it should be tracked?



Prescott, J. F. 2008. Canine leptospirosis in Canada: A veterinarian's perspective. Can Med Assoc J 178:397-398.

Brown, K., Prescott, J. F. 2008. Leptospirosis in the family dog: A public health perspective. Can Med Assoc J 178: 399-401.

Kristina: The personal interest side comes from being an owner of a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. Tollers seem to experience more autoimmune disorders and adverse reactions to vaccinations than other breeds, so many Toller breeders recommend a limited vaccination protocol that doesn't include lepto. Lepto vaccines have a reputation (at least, within the Toller community) for causing more adverse reactions than most other vaccines, and they only provide immunity for several months and must be repeated annually, so it's regarded as not worth the risk. My mother's dog, a Sheltie/Corgi mix, had a terrible autoimmune reaction to Fort Dodge's lepto vaccine when it first came out several years ago and now can't be vaccinated against anything at all. (Fortunately, she's a fairly inactive older dog, and the thing she's most likely to pick up is a case of frostbite in winter.)


Kristina: On the other hand, my vet here in Peterborough has had several cases of lepto in the past few years, and I recently heard of a Toller in this area who died from leptospirosis.


Kristina: What is "hyperacute lepto" in dogs?



Die in one day of septic shock? Gah! How am I supposed to weigh that against Jilly's very bad autoimmune reaction to Fort Dodge's vaccine?

Increased interaction between raccoons and dogs in this area? You could say that. We came home from the cottage one weekend last fall to discover five raccoons on our roof. Jim climbed up there and knocked one off with a shovel. The others fled.

I wonder if I can convince Jim to move out of the Peterborough area? To Mars, maybe. I bet there's no lepto at all on Mars! :-/

I guess my next step is to read the two papers he referred to (and hope I can understand them), and then call some local vets to find out how many cases of lepto they've actually seen and what the outcomes were. I'll also talk to Liz about it on Sunday. She lives in Bobcaygeon, which isn't far from Peterborough, and has lots of dogs in the field. I'm pretty sure she doesn't vaccinate against lepto.