A shot in the dark?

Taiga RIP

Lovely Taiga (pictured above - my Oscar's brother) is dead.
This gorgeous Beardie was not yet three years old.
His owner Lorraine Murphy is devastated.
A gentle, beautiful dog with a huge love of life.

Taiga died in November and Lorraine is still very upset, but feels that sharing her story may help someone else avoid similar distress.

Here's Lorraine's story in her own words...

For quite a few years, I've been concerned about vaccinations and boosters.

Taiga had his puppy vaccinations and his first booster 12 months later including Leptospirosis and that was going to be it. But I listened to the vet telling me that my family could be affected by Lepto, and through fear I let Taiga have the Lepto booster.

Thirty four days later, Taiga was off-colour, didn't want his food.

Day 37

Taiga started screaming, blood curdling screaming.
I took Taiga to the vets, and the vet thought he'd hurt his back and put him on antibiotics and painkillers, which seemed to work.

Day 42
We went back to the vets, the vet was happy with his progress, temperature had come down and Taiga seemed a little brighter. He told me to carry on with the antibiotics and painkillers, which I did.

Day 47

Taiga started vomiting, but so did my other Beardie Brock. I thought they'd both picked something up, Brock was better by the next day, but Taiga continued vomiting.

Day 48
Phoned the vet and was told to bring Taiga in the following morning. Was told not to give him anything to eat as they'd probably keep him in for tests.
Day 49 Vet decided to do blood tests first. Taiga was also given anti-sickness tablets. I was told to stop giving painkillers.

Day 52

Got a phone call from the vet to say Taiga had a problem with his liver and was jaundiced and he was being referred to Liverpool University as an emergency. The emergency appointment was two days later, in hindsight this was a blessing, but at the time I wanted to take him straightaway.

Day 54
5th November. Taiga had an appointment for 2.10pm at the University, at about 11.45am Taiga was laying at my side when he cried out, a few minutes later he cried out again and then he died. I just picked him up and ran, we arrived at the vets within five minutes but they told me it was to late and he'd gone.

54 days after having the Lepto booster Taiga died.

My heart has been broken since and I'm struggling to cope with the fact that I killed Taiga, after listening to the vet.
I know a lot of people would not have had a postmortem done, but I needed to know why a healthy dog can die in such a harrowing way. The postmortem, showed that all Taiga's cells were dying, where the cells died ulcers had developed. Taiga's heart, lungs, liver were all in a terrible state and his stomach had ulcers. Every part of him was dying.

The cause of death on the PM was listed as heart attacks, brought on by: Necrotising Granulomatious Inflammation of Multiple organs due to Systemic Histiocytosis. They say the cause of the Histiocytosis is unknown - idiopathic. The following is what is written in the comments at the end of the report: Granulomatious inflammation is a reasonably common reaction pattern in the dog and suggests the presence of a persistent antigen. Causes could be bacterial infections, fungal infections, mycobacterial infections and immune-mediated disease. No bacterial infections, fungal infections or mycobacterial infections were found, despite utilising immunohistochemistry.

When he cried out, Taiga was having heart attacks. I relive this continually, go over and over what has happened.
My vet has reported Taiga's death as a suspected vaccine reaction. The drug company have also been informed and they have asked for a copy of the postmortem and they are investigating.

I want to scream out, so other people are aware.
I don't want this happening to any other dog.

Taiga - a special dog

Taiga was such a special little fellow, he was small but full of character. He'd stamp his front paws when he wanted his own way, which was all the time. He could twist me round his little paw.

Taiga winning at Crufts

He won his class at Crufts last March, he was such a handsome lad. To help me I made a DVD of Taiga's life, a celebration of his very short but very happy and loved always and forever.

Taiga - much-loved

We need to make informed decisions.

Lorraine obviously links Taiga's death with the Lepto vaccine - felt by many to be the least effective and most reactive. Unlike other vaccines it is said to be unlikely to last more than six months and that it covers you for only 50% of the strains of Lepto.
Headlines in the Veterinary Times this week reveals a shortage of one of the other Lepto vaccines (not the one used on Taiga) meaning that only the most vulnerable dogs in the community will be boosted until this is resolved.

I emailed Linda Aronson DVM, a director of the excellent BeaCon Beardie health website.

Vaccinosis is not rare in Beardies. In other pastoral breeds, lines with autoimmune diseases were also the ones reporting vaccinosis reactions. In Beardies there are relatively few reports of anaphylactic type reactions. However, autoimmune diseases with onsets within four weeks of receiving a vaccine are suspect.

Of the vaccines commonly given to dogs the ones most likely to result in vaccinosis reaction are leptospirosis and rabies. I do not find the leptospirosis vaccination effective - coverage may be less than 6 months. Unlike most other vaccines which are protective against viral diseases, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. Ron Schultz, who has done most of the independent research on vaccines, does not recommend giving the vaccine, but if it is given it should never be given on the same side of the body as vaccines against viral diseases.

Elements of Taiga's illness do sound like leptospirosis. The depression, fever, vomiting, the pain - leptospirosis often starts with pain and aching all over the body. The response to pain killers suggests that Taiga's screaming was due to pain. The vet also gave antibiotics. This is the treatment for leptospirosis - depending on the antibiotic given but not for a hurt back, so I wonder why this was the vet's first line of treatment. Lorraine says his temperature had come down, which suggests it was elevated, and this would suggest infection and hence starting antibiotics. In leptospirosis the initial high temperature may fall below normal as the disease progresses. Liver failure is one of the three common presentations of leptospirosis which can also cause kidney disease and uveitis in the eye. Toxins from the liver could have caused secondary heart and lung lesions. The gastric ulcers were likely caused by the pain killers if he wasn't receiving any gastro protection with them. This is all speculative, but a microscopic follow up to the gross necrospy should be able to pinpoint the cause of death. I would be surprised if the drug company didn't request this. It is true that vaccination against any illness lowers circulating thyroid levels for about three weeks post vaccination and suppresses immunity against other diseases. Taiga's illness could have begun during this time.

I asked vaccine campaigner Catherine O'Driscoll from Canine Health Concern if Taiga had a vaccination reaction why there might have been a delay before symptoms showed ...
"Years ago, Chris Day (homoeopathic vet) told me that, in his clinical experience, if patients (dogs, cats, rabbits etc) were ill, 80% of them become ill within three months of a vaccine event. CHC tested Chris’s observation in practice and did a massive vaccine survey, involving 4,000 dogs. We found that, where dogs were ill, 66% became ill within three months of a shot.

The unfortunate thing about vaccines is that the side effects are not uniform. It’s not like the Thalidomide drug, for example, where you could see the children without limbs. Instead, vaccines can attack any system in the body. Some of the reactions are immediate, such as anaphylactic shock where the dog will die within minutes of a shot unless given adrenaline or antihistamine. Some take longer to develop, such as brain damage and arthritis, and especially autoimmune diseases.

Very little is shown up by a PM. The scientist might say, for example, this dog had kidney failure, or this dog had lesions in the brain – but they won’t say what it’s caused by if it’s a vaccine."

I must admit I've been looking at Oscar and worrying about him ever since hearing of Taiga's death. I do worry about in-breeding in Beardies. Could in-breeding have increased the chances of a vaccine reaction? There's some research being carried out about the differing levels of MHC in different breeds. I needed an idiot's guide to this subject as I do tend to struggle with the science... I am indebted to Jemima Harrison the Creator of Pedigree Dogs Exposed for making it all so clear...
"MHC – major histocompatability complex. Essentially, the part of the genome that deals with immune response.
"Think of the immune system as a company of sentinel soldiers, each trained to alert the body to recognise and respond to individual onslaughts (bacteria, allergens, virii etc) with a huge array of weapons at their disposal. In natural dogs (such as the Africanis) this area of the genome is very diverse. They have lots of sentinel soldiers with different skills and a vast array weapons at their disposal resulting in a fully-functioning, vigorous immune system – essentially a fit and well-trained army able to deal with anything that’s thrown at it by the enemy. But inbreeding causes homozygosity so you start to get a build-up of identically-trained soldiers with the same weapons – losing others that could have identified different enemies and fought the attacks with different weapons.
"This they think is what’s happened with the Tasmanian Devil – so much inbreeding that the animal simply doesn’t recognise the infectious cancer as an enemy.
"Just think of skin grafts and/or organ transplants in us. We recognise the graft as foreign and our immune system does its best to destroy it. This is the MHC at work. And then note that you can do a skin graft between cheetahs and they won’t reject the new tissue. This makes them very vulnerable – a bout of feline flu could wipe out an entire population because they will all respond (or not) identically.
"This diversity of immune response between individuals of the same species is what allows populations to survive. If we had all been as genetically similar as the Tasmanian devils and cheetahs, the Black Death wouldn’t just have wiped out 20 million (or however many it was). It could have wiped out the entire human population."

There's a lot to think about contained in this little blog today.

Whatever the cause of poor Taiga's death, what a terrible thing for Lorraine to have gone through.

Will we ever know definitively what killed him?

Hug your dogs and have a good think about all these issues.

If you are interested in finding out more about vaccine reactions, click here to be taken to Catherine O'Driscoll's Canine Health Concern website. (We had an article on vaccine reactions in our January edition.)

I am definitely not anti-vaccines - just pro informed decisions. One of my dogs nearly died of parvovirus many years ago, so I am concerned that someone might not vaccinate as a knee jerk reaction without clearly assessing all the risks. Another of my pups exported to Finland died of Leptospirosis despite being vaccinated.

These are terrible diseases. I would hate for someone to stop boosting or vaccinating without first investigating this subject fully.

Vaccines have saved many dogs lives. If we had a completely unvaccinated population many dogs could die in outbreaks. There are other options than totally giving up on vaccination.

You can look at how often you boost and you can blood test first to see if it's needed. And you use single vaccines rather than combined if the titre levels suggest it is necessary. Are there some diseases that you might simply choose not to vaccinate against if you have a dog you are already concerned about? Lepto doesn't last the full 12 months in any case and only covers half of the strains you could encounter.

Difficult decisions we have to make.
But hopefully you will now have your eyes wide open. Please do read widely and make your own mind up as the best thing to do.

Brothers: Taiga (second right) with brother Oscar (far right) and other brother - Homeward Bound (second left)

Catherine's website contains downloads of several Dogs Today articles on this subject. One in particular is ironically about the Lepto vaccine specifically - and the cover picture used on this area of the site is the one showing Taiga's brother Oscar as a pup.

Just had a fascinating conversation with Bill Knight, a very sensible Cavalier breeder who has featured on this blog before. He was very sad to hear of Taiga's death. He offers a suggestion for others concerned about vaccine reaction. Click here for a link to his website.

"We used to find that after their first vaccination our puppies would be very sleepy, off their food, often with an upset tum and with a painful lump at the site of the vaccination. About 14 years ago we changed our regime and we now don't have any of these problems. We now use Dog Combination 30c from Ainsworths in London when the pups are two and half weeks old. It contains homeopathic potencies of Hepatitis, Leptospitosis, Hard pad and distemper, Parvo virus and Kennel cough and it must be crushed - you can't touch it and it must be given without food. You need to ask for a leaflet that tells you how much to give and when. The dogs then get their traditional vaccine at eight weeks and since we've started using the Ainsworth Dog Combination we've not had any problems with reactions. We always insist on Nobivac and the other thing we do is keep all our pups until they are 10 weeks so they don't have any stress. There are four things we do that might otherwise be traumatic - the pups are jabbed, tattooed, chipped and litter screened before going to their new homes so we like to keep them for that extra two weeks to make this as untraumatic as possible. If anyone wants to know more I'd be happy to explain further. I'd just like to say how very sad I am about Taiga and send Lorraine all my sympathy."


bugs said…
My heart goes out to Lorraine, it must have been horrific to watch Taiga suffering in this way.
I have to admit, that I did not give my dogs their boosters last year, and will be doing some research into the pros & cons.
Anonymous said…
so sad for Lorraine,
I have never had boosters for my dogs,
I believe that once the antibodies are in the blood then injecting more of the vaccine which contains a small amount of the illness it meant to protect against doesn,t seem right to me,
maybe its just me but we didnt give a booster in years gone by,
Jane Ardern said…
Im so sorry to hear about Taiga, please let Lorraine and her family know we are thinking of them at this sad time :-(

from all of us at Elton Dog Club
cambstreasurer said…
Please, whatever you do, vaccinate against parvo. Every year we see dozens of young dogs with the disease whose owners didn't vaccinate, and nearly all of them die.
Mina said…
How awful for poor Taiga and Lorraine, I really feel for Lorrainse. :( My Buster had auto-immune flare ups for three or four years at around the anniversary of his vaccines before he finally died - around the time of his annual vaccines. The vet even held back treatment one year so we could give him his booster. :(

I stopped Beauty's boosters at 6, although Fred still has his. Now my work seems to indicate that I should keep both vaccinated as they mix with so many other dogs. What do I do? Greyhounds are prone to the same thing that Buster had.
vix said…
poor, poor,Taiga,It must have been heartbraking.This just reinforces my concerns of "over vaccination",Lepto concerns me enormously.For the first time I have had titre tests done on two of my dogs rather than routine boosters. we owe it to our dogs to research the effects of vaccines as thoroughly as possible.
Anonymous said…
Please pass our condolences on to Lorraine and her family, whatever the cause for his premature death it must have been a horrible shock for them to see him in such pain.
Instead of theory's about the best way to make the perfect cup of tea maybe these univeristies could do a completely independant study of vaccines, nosodes, reactions and immunity. With all the technological advances of the world its about time this area of canine and feline medicine was given a complete overhaul. I can't understand why the insurance companies aren't screaming for the same thing as they are paying out alot of money for auto immune conditions :(
Mutthouse xx
Anonymous said…
How awful for Lorraine. I can't imagine the pain of losing such a young and previously healthy dog.

I haven't vaccinated my two dogs since they had there puppy jabs. I've followed the many articles that Caroline Drisco has wrote about in Dogs Today and read up on the pro's and cons on the web. Thankfully my two have been and remain healthy dogs. They have not been to the vet since they were pups apart from when my bitch was spayed and when my dog burst a blood vessel in his eye.

The thing i find annoying is the fact that i HAVE to have my dog vaccinated for him to join training classes. I really am agaisn't this but they have said they will accept a Homepathic vaccination which i beleive is more natural then a normal vaccination.

Chapstaff said…
The whole vaccination thing is a complete minefield. No-one seems to know what to do for the best.
I had my pup jabbed & she had the 12 month booster, then I shall titre test to see what actually NEEDS doing.

Poor Lorraine, my deepest sympathy to you & your family.
My dogs have had full vacs every year. Being involved in rescue and having foster dogs, and also transporting dogs with an unknown background, I was not prepared to take any risks with my own.

This year though I am contemplating a titre test for my 9 year old.
Fiona said…
I have not used boosters for over 25 years, since having horrendous problems with them - I think this is why my dogs live long healthy lives now!

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