The story of Rose

jenniferAs veterinarians, we see many cases on a daily basis. These may include wellness exams and updating vaccines, surgeries, herd health checks, and treating sick patients. In practice, there are some unique cases we come across that impact us in a way that we never forget.

About two years ago, I treated a sweet little dachshund named Rosie for both parvo virus and pneumonia. She required a lot of intensive care and late night treatments. Over the course of her stay at our hospital, I grew very attached to her, not only because she was a dachshund but because her personality was so endearing. She was a sweet girl that always showed  grattitude by looking directly into your eyes. With a week of hospitalization, she got better and was able  to return to her family. I was so happy to have a successful outcome and see such a sweet girl get a second chance.

Later that year, I recieved a phone call from Rosie’s family saying that they were no longer able to care for her and needed to find her another home. She was timid in their household and had some behavioral issues that they did not have time to work through. They remembered that I had dachshunds and wanted to call me for help before listing her on Craigslist. I was grateful they contacted me, and without hesitation my husband and I became Rosie’s foster parents.

Having three dachshunds of our own, we knew that we could only foster Rosie until we found her a new forever home.  Rosie was our first foster dog. We grew to love her just as our own and she became a part of our every day life. Being around other dachshunds helped her develop into a more confident individual. She became very close with the others and learned from them. Over the next few months, we knew Rosie would be traveling to her new home in Montana. She would be the only dog and get a lot of love and attention.

As the departure date grew near, my heart ached. My mom and sister met me half way to take Rosie to her new forever home. It was apparent how attached we both were to one another, and I felt so guilty she would have to re-enter into a state of unknown. As I handed her to my sister, she stared deeply into my eyes as if she knew I was leaving her. It broke my heart. I literally felt like I was giving away my own child. I sobbed the entire way home, feeling as if I did the wrong thing. Knowing how broken I was over the situation, my mom (who also has three dachshunds) decided that she would keep Rosie with them until we could be reunited at Christmas.  I felt bad to have to call the the family that had agreed to take Rosie, but at the same time I coud not have been more relieved. I am what you may call a failed foster mom. I never knew how difficult it would be and do not think it is in my best interest to do it again.

It was hard knowing it would be several long months before I was reunited with Rosie, but I knew she was in good hands. They love dachshunds or “bear dogs” as my dad has nicknamed them, and Rosie was no exception. As Christmas grew near, I was so excited to see Rosie, as we were planning on having a permanent addition to our family. The one thing I hadn’t planned on or expected was for my family to grow as attached to Rosie as I had. Seeing how much she loved my mom and dad and how comfortable she was with them, I could not take her. She had found happiness again and in my heart that was all I wanted.

So over this process, I have learned that I am a failed foster parent, and my parents were also failed foster parents while fostering Rosie for me. It is a hard job, and I give props to those that can do it successfully. Rosie melted my heart, and she is a patient I will forever remember and love.

West Nile Disease in Horses

brentI am frequently asked “Doc, do we still need to vaccinate our horses for West Nile?”  The short answer is yes, and I will discuss that further, but first lets talk about the disease.  West Nile is caused by a virus that is spread to individuals by mosquitos.  Horses, Birds, and people are primarily affected by the virus.  Not all horses, birds and people that are exposed to West Nile Virus will become sick.  Dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, goats etc. may contract the virus but do not get sick.  West Nile Virus (WNV) causes encephalitis or swelling of the brain.  A horse sick with WNV will be ataxic (walk like they are drunk), depressed, have muscle tremors, and lethargy.  They may act colicky or lame.  The disease is progressive and affected horses will eventually go down and be unable to get back up.  In my experience, unvaccinated horses that show clinical signs of WNV do not recover, even when treated.

WNV generally occurs later in the summer, beginning in July or August.  We have already had mosquitos in Payette County test positive for WNV and also have a reported human case.  Canyon county has also reported one horse positive for the disease.  Young horses and unvaccinated horses are most at risk.

The good news is that we can vaccinate for WNV.  Although not 100% effective (it is about 97% effective), along with mosquito control, it is the best way to protect horses. Vaccinated horses can become sick with West Nile but the prognosis is much better if treated when compared to unvaccinated horses.   In my experience, unvaccinated horses with WNV do not survive while vaccinated ones that get sick do survive.

There are many vaccine products available.  We recommend a vaccine for WNV all by itself.  In addition, we recommend a 5 way combination in most horses.  Five way combination vaccines contain protection against Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus, Influenza, and Rhinopneumonitis.  Not all combination vaccines contain protection to all of these diseases.  Don’t just ask for a “combination shot” for your horse.  Know exactly what you are getting.  Your veterinarian can tell you exactly what is in the vaccine and make sure you are using the correct one.  I know that giving a 5 way combination with West Nile in it is very convenient, one shot and your done, but recent research shows that it does not provide the same level of protection as giving WNV by itself.  The veterinarians at Snake River Veterinary Center are now recommending WNV by itself for that reason.

In most horses, we recommend administering WNV vaccine in the spring along with a yearly five way.  This will provide protection through the summer.  Don’t worry, if you have not vaccinated your horse this year , it is not too late.  We can still protect your horse through the peak of the season.  If your horse has never been vaccinated, an initial dose and one 3 weeks later are required for maximum protection.  WNV vaccine is safe in foals and pregnant mares, as well as geldings and stallions.  You don’t have to worry about giving your horse the disease by vaccinating.  It is not possible to give your horse WNV through a vaccine.  It is however, possible to create adverse reactions or other problems by incorrect administration, vaccine storage, and product handling.  When in doubt, have a veterinarian administer the vaccine for you.

This brings up some other good news.  We are currently using vaccines produced by Zoetis.  They have an Immunization Support Guarantee that says if you use one of their products to protect your horse against WNV, Eastern and Western Encephalitis Virus, Tetanus, and Influenza, they will pay for diagnostics and treatment up to $5000 should your horse get sick with one of those diseases.  The vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian.  That’s pretty cheap insurance for horse owners.  You can learn more about this program by searching Zoetis Immunization Support Guarantee on the internet.

So, bottom line, WNV vaccine is relatively inexpensive, it is safe, and it is effective.  Unvaccinated horses do not generally do well if they contract the disease and we have WNV cases in the area.  Once again, my answer to the question is “yes, why wouldn’t you vaccinate your horse against West Nile Virus?”.

If you have any questions about your horse and his or her vaccination status, call us at (208) 452-7950.  We can help you determine the proper protocol for your horse.