Health Care


 In this section, I want to address some of the philosophies we follow in caring for our Aussies.

     I spend a lot of time reading and studying the latest information pertaining to vaccination protocol, as well as other topics relating to the health care of our dogs.   I follow a minimal vaccine schedule, where I do the more "core" vaccines instead of vaccinating for everything possible.   Since my dogs have a fenced in area and don't roam the woods or other areas with a high density of other animals (wild or domestic), I don't feel the are at as great a risk for contracting some disease as some dogs may be.   I use a 5 way vaccine, rather than a 7 or 8 way one as they are commonly called. I  use the Duramune Max 5 for vaccines.   I want to caution people to especially avoid the vaccines sold at farm stores and other local outlets, as they may not have been handled properly, and the quality of the brand may be lacking.   Either have your dogs' vaccinations done by a licensed veterinarian, or if you do order them, have them shipped over night in a cooler, and buy good brands from reputable sources.  Of course the rabies vaccine must be given by a licensed veterinarian in most states.  

    The vaccine formula I typically use includes protection from Parvo, Distemper, Adenovirus Type 2, and Parainfluenza.  It does not include coronavirus or leptospirosis.   Corona virus tends to be more mild and self limiting, but the vaccine seems to cause problems at times, so for me the risk is not worth it. In 20+ yrs of having dogs, none have contracted coronavirus.   The vaccine for Leptospirosis is also more risky for causing reactions, and I don't feel the risks outweigh the benefits. Also, the vaccine only covers a couple of the many strains of leptospirosis.   You can discuss your dog's risk of contracting it with your vet.  If you and your vet DO feel your dog is at risk of contracting leptospirosis, by all means vaccinate for it, but not for the first puppy shot. Only have it given after the puppy is 12 wks of age.

  Other things a vet may want to vaccinate for include kennel cough (Bordatella) and lyme disease.   From my research and experience, neither vaccine is one I'd want to use with my own dogs.   Kennel cough is rarely life threatening and dogs recover with no medical intervention, and the lyme vaccine often causes symptoms as bad as the disease itself.    So I choose not to use either.   The only time my dogs ever had kennel cough was over 15 years ago, when I did vaccinate all of them with the intranasal formula.  They came down with it shortly after.  I have never used the lyme vaccine since it's not high risk in my area and my dogs don't pick up ticks often.  I check them over for ticks whenever we go for a walk in an area they may be exposed to ticks.

       You have to assess your dog's or dogs' lifestyle and potential risk for each disease, and make and informed decision as to what vaccines he may need.

  I also start the pups' vaccinations a little later than some, at about 7 weeks.   I have them boosted every 3 to 4 weeks until they have had a total of 3 of the combo vaccinations.   I then wait another month to get the rabies vaccination.   That way their systems have a chance to process the vaccines better.    I think getting too many things at once, such as a combo shot, rabies shot, worming, application of topical pesticide and such can really go a long way toward overloading a dog's immune system, setting him up for a lifetime of immune related health issues.   By spacing things out, I think it's a safer way to boost immunity and support/protect the dog's immune system at the same time.  

   Something else to consider is how immunity is built.   When a pup is born and nurses, it receives colostrum from it's mother.   That starts the immunity building process.    Starting the vaccination process too early not only does not override the maternal immunity, it unnecessarily stresses the immune system while providing no benefit.   Starting the pups on their vaccine schedule just a bit later can help start the process more safely.    By spacing out the boosters, you are trying to time the vaccine to where the maternal antibodies are wearing off, but not so late there is a period of time the pup is at risk and is unprotected.   For this reason I also caution owner to be careful in what their younger pups are exposed to.   I recommend avoiding areas such as dog parks or pet stores where lots of pets visit, unless the pup is carried in and not put down.   Same for early vet visits, it's better to carry your young pup in.   You can practice leash training at home or in less high traffic areas, where the pup is far less at risk of being exposed to illness.   Until the pup has had the series of puppy vaccines, be aware the risk is higher of contracting a serious illness.   I cannot stress this enough.   The first vaccine does not fully protect a pup, and even after the second one, it's not totally safe.  Use caution in exposing your pup to other dogs at this point.

      I worm my pups with a mild wormer, usually Nemex-2, following the directions on the label.    I start them on Interceptor for heartworm prevention, at about 7 weeks of age.   Heartworm preventative works to kill what the dog may have been exposed to in the month prior, so this should cover anything a pup may be exposed to as he starts to go outside.   

    When it comes to using any of the topical pesticide products such as Frontline Plus (TM) or Advantix (TM), I use them sparingly.    Any products designed to kill parasites are poison, and I try to avoid casual exposure or use of such things.    So with my dogs, I only use such products if I actually suspect or see fleas.    Here, that may be every few years, probably when a visiting dog introduces them.   We tend to not have a problem with fleas or ticks here, thankfully.   I think part of it is that my dogs have very healthy coats and skin, due to their diet and lifestyle, and from what I read this can make the dog less attractive to fleas especially.  It does not make them totally protected from parasites of course,  but I think it does help reduce the risk of infestation.

   One thing I do use regularly is heartworm preventative.   It is very common in my area and dogs who don't receive protection are at great risk for contracting life threatening heartworm disease.    Since Aussies are one of the breeds who could have a bad reaction to some of the drugs commonly used in heartworm preventative, it's wise to have your Aussie tested for the MDR1 mutation.   See my Heath Testing page for info on this test.   If you haven't tested your Aussie for the MDR1 mutation, the safer brand of heartworm preventative is Interceptor.    In my area, I feel safe using it from about the beginning of April to November or even December, if we have had a warmer fall.    Most vets recommend annual testing for heartworm infestation before starting the product in the spring.  

    In closing, I want to make each owner aware that he or she is the pup's health care advocate. It is up to the owner to be educated on the issues involved in health care and to make sure the vet is doing what the owner wants.  While veterinarians have animals' best interests in mind, not all are of the same opinion with regard to vaccination protocol.  Some veterinarians will push for a lot more than I would want done to my own pups or dogs, such as doing multiple vaccines in one visit, and I would politely decline and say why.  I would not mind making an extra trip to space things out.    My puppy is depending on me to make informed decisions!   So is yours!!


   Here is a link to some GREAT vaccine articles from Dogs Naturally magazine:





These are good sites about VACCINE info. A must read!  I personally don't agree with waiting until 12 weeks to vaccinate a pup as it states on the first one, but the overall info is great and is important to read and understand.  The big message is do your homework and be proactive in your dog's health so you can make informed decisions.








     As I always do, I try to stay abreast of the latest information pertaining to all aspects of dog care.  I have long felt that doing the early spay/neuters that so many rescues and shelters push is SO harmful to the animals to which it's done, and here is some documentation. I have long tried to get folks getting puppies to let them mature before having them spayed or neutered, even if this goes against the push by many in the veterinary community.  I am all for using surgical sterilization to control the breeding of unwanted or mix breed pets, and purebred puppies sold to "pet" homes, but I urge people not to rush to have this done too early.  It may cause more harm than good.

The info below is taken from an article I just read in The Journal (AKC Australian Shepherd parent club USASA publication).  It first appeared in the AKC magazine The Family Dog (Jan/Feb 2012).  The information comes from summaries of published research from the American College of Theriogenologists, The National Animal Interest Alliance, the Third International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods for Control, The Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals.

   The Benefits of Spay/Neuter:

Male and Female:

    - Surgery and anesthesia times are shorter
    - Faster recovery from anesthesia and healing
    - Fewer surgical complications


  Male and Female:

- 3 to 4 times higher risk of bone cancer if sterilized before maturity (dog finished growing)
    - greater risk of hip dysplasia if sterilized before 5 months of age
    - greater risk of ALC ruptures if sterilized before maturity
    - Risk of uneven bone growth that may lead to altered conformation and increased stress on bones and joints if sterilized before maturity.


    - 2-5 times greater risk of blood-vessel cancer of heart or spleen (hemangiosarcoma)
    - Greater risk of urinary tract infections caused by immature genetalia
    - Greater risk of urinary incontinence, especially if spayed before 3 months


    - Nearly doubles risk of blood-vessel cancer of heart (hemangiosarcoma)
    - 2-4 times greater risk of prostate cancer (yes, you read that right!)

  In reading this chart and the article that goes along with it, I will really urge puppy buyers and all dog owners to wait to neuter males until they are at least a year of age, and 18 months is better.  I know it's not always feasible, but letting a female go through one heat cycle gives her vulva a chance to mature, and drastically cuts the risk of urinary issues.   But at least waiting to spay them until maturity helps so much.  For females with small, recessed or inverted vulvas, it is VERY important to wait to spay until they have had one heat cycle.  This gives the vulva a chance to enlarge and stay bigger, making the dog more comfortable and reducing the risk of infections. 

  I know some folks feel pressured to neuter unruly young dogs, thinking that will somehow make them "magically" well trained or behaved, but new information shows it is possible it does the opposite. Removing hormones certainly does nothing to calm a dog or make it more well trained, and may only remove the hormonal cause of certain behaviors.  However, I have had several intact males at the same time as house pets with no marking or male hormone driven poor behavior. It's all about the training! 





     "And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
     Philippians 4:19