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Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia - A really tragic case - Can anyone enlighten us!

This is an email we have received after puppy owners have come back to us! Is it due to over-vaccinations? Can anyone enlighten us and the dog owners everyone needs to be aware of this! We are not to blame as breeders but just really upset for the owners.


Hi, Daniel has asked me to email you to tell you about Scarlett.
I took Scarlett to the vets as she had been very lethargic the day before & would only eat if I hand fed her.  By the time we got to the vets at 10am she could/would hardly move and she was jaundiced.  They admitted Scarlett to the surgery and ran a series of tests and scans on her and later that day I was told that she was suffering from auto immune haemolytic anaemia.  The vets started the treatment of high levels of steriods to suppress the immune system.  When I went to visit Scarlett the next morning, she was completely unresponsive and I was very concerned.  I spoke to the nurse and the vet who were both hopeful that the treatment had a good chance of being successful as Scarletts PCV had increased from 15 to 23, so it seemed as though the steriods were having the desired effect.  The vet phoned us that evening at 9pm to say that Scarlett had gone downhill very rapidly and was now fitting.  The vet then said that there was little to no chance of the treatment working and we made the decision to have Scarlett put to sleep.
Having never heard of this condition before, I spent a lot of time researching this on the internet.  Some sites suggest that there may be a link with the vaccinations - when the body fights the vaccine, it triggers the immune system to react. http://home.comcast.net/~joan.ogg/aiha_info.htm   Scarlett was vaccinated at the end of August, so in my mind, this seems the most likely trigger, but the reality is that no-one knows why some dogs get it and some don't, much like most human diseases.
Scarlett was a beautiful girl in every way.  She had a lovely nature and has been a much loved part of our family for the last (nearly) 6 years.  We miss her very much.
Rose (the puppy) seems to be settling in very quickly.  She's met the other dogs and cats and the rest of the children, who are all besotted with this little whirlwind.  Hopefully being part of a busy household will stop her feeling homesick for her brothers and sisters.
With best wishes
Lynette Brown
Can I say a big thankyou to everyone who has contributed to this discussion it has been most enlightening thanks Maggie Mazan

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So sorry for the loss of Scarlet. I lost my Poppy the same way back in July, she was only 22 months. the vets were very good but as you say no one can say why they get it. I feel devastated by how quickly she went down and cheated i suppose with the lack of knowledge to this illness.
Thanks Carol - I haven't lost her but I bred her. It is the first I have heard of it but I personally only vaccinate my own stock very sporadically as they never go to kennels. My own vet has similar views to me that to over vaccinate is not good - he would rather blood test to see what immunity the dogs have. I just would like to know more about the condition - I know there was a lot about vaccines in the UK dog papers some years ago as to how often they should be given! We as humans only have a handful of vaccines and we are suppose to live 6 times longer than a dog!!
This another email I have from a very good friend in Rottweilers!! Also make interesting reading too

Hi Maggie,

Actually, I have seen something very like this with one of my young Rotties - many years ago. She survived the initial onset but was left badly damaged for the rest of her life - but she did make it to 11! Shortly after her second vaccination at 12 weeks she developed all sorts of allergic reactions to things - in particular she couldn't tolerate any sort of gluten in her diet and would nearly gnaw her feet off it she ate anything with wheat in it. She also had problems with her ears and her eyes ( mucous membranes) - and frequently had to have steroids to keep the allergic reactions down. She was also very susceptible to any infections doing the rounds. In short, her immune system was almost totally destroyed at 12 weeks old, poor lass. The cause, which I am fairly certain about, was vaccine damage - even my vet 'sort of'' agreed with me about that- so I now only vaccinate every third year. There was a very small article in one of the dog papers quite some time ago which reported that yearly vaccination was not necessary and once every two or three years is sufficient to protect our dogs. I talked to my vet about this and he had to reluctantly agree that he knew about this and had seen the clinical evidence that supports it but, of course, he was worried about the drop in income which comes from the yearly shots they give our dogs.
Aside from vaccinating every three years, I'm afraid I don't have any answers to offer. We have to vaccinate our puppies against hard pad, distemper, parvo and all the other nasties but dogs, just as in humans, gain immunity from certain things for some time after vaccination (up to 3 years in some breeds of dog) and yearly vaccination can 'overload' the immune system of 'sensitive' dogs - how you determine which is the 'sensitive' dog I don't know - perhaps having a blood titre level done would show which dog is going to be susceptible and which needs 'topping up'.
We are not sure what caused it in Poppy. she had her first vaccinations plus the next at 1year but lost her at 22 months so it probably nothing to do with them.
I lost my Tammy with this dreadful thing. I have only heard of about 4 in the last 40 years, but seeing what you have written Carol and Margaret, it is more common that one would think.
I lost my girl very quickly too, I was getting ready to book her in for a mating on the Monday and she was dead by the Friday, her blood count was 12 and dropping and her heart rate was over 200 bpm. (because she was just pumping water), her body had stopped replacing red and white cells, it makes you feel so helpless, there really isn't anything that can be done for them, my vet suggested bone marrow transplants etc, but that it probably wouldn't work, so I decided not to even try putting her through all the pain that this kind of treatment would have. When they came to put her down they couldn't believe that she was still standing let alone walking around, it shows just how strong these dogs are, Tammy was one of the sweetest animals you could ever meet.
I suppose the only thing that you can say about it is, that it is very quick, so they don't linger on and on..
I am so sorry for the loss of Scarlet and Poppy.
One thing I do know, that for me, we do vaccinate our dogs too often, we do not need to do this each year. I vaccinate every 2-3 years, there is a test (teata test) that you can have, to find out if your dogs immune system is actually working, and if it isn't for one of the diseases or another, then you can have some of the vaccine separately. This is one of those really good discussions that this site is good for, people helping each other and trying to find out about these dreadful things...knowledge is a good thing. and so is sharing.
Just got back from having Jenson 2nd jabs. Having spoken to my own vet he only annually vaccinates for Leptospirosos and every 3 years for the others, One thing he did say was that when a pup is over 10 weeks before there first vaccination - as Jenson was at time of his first jab - they only need Lepto as the second injection and not the distemper etc which is given only at the first vaccination. He also seems to think that when something like this Auto Immune Hemolytic Aenemea in at least 40% of cases an unlying cause can be found if looked for ie cancer of the spleen or other issues
Very sensible, there are more vets saying that we vaccinate far too much...lets face it no one here has said DO NOT vaccinate just do it less...
So sorry to hear this tragic news. I now feel I need to share my experience of I M H A with Paige. She had a severe cancer at 4 years old and went into the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket and had a massive operation. Robert her surgeon removed 5 ribs and part of her sternum after a very long and slow recovery we finally got the all clear from Robert I was so relieved. Then about 18 months later she collapsed no warning nothing we carried her into the vets noone had no idea what was wrong with her.Within 2 hours she was diagnosed with I M H A . Shock horror had never heard of it in the 30 years of having Irish.
They put her on a drip with a concoction of drugs after one week of intense nursing I brought her home. I was scared not sure where this was going she came out of the hospital on massive doses of steroids and other meds for stomach lining etc.
She remained on steroids for th best part of a year these took there toll on her weight increase and very laboured breathing. Blood tests every 2 weeks. As her blood count increased to a decent level,[ it had initially gone down to 16]
the steroids were started to be decreased.

That was over a year ago Paige had her 7th birthday in May and I can honestly say I now have my dog back.

One very interesting thing which came out of all this was quote "there will be no more vaccinations for Paige as she has had too many steroids.

The moral of this story is I M H A is a terrible illness a very expensive illness and I cannot help but think the vaccinations are just purely the vets bread and butter as is spaying and neutering and we quite willingly have it done because we have been told it is the road we must go down.

No more vaccinations for my dogs but testing for immune system is working is a definite yes for me.

Hope this helps some of you
This is a very ineresting topic. I didn't expect to hear about this many cases!
I also had never heard about a connection to vaccines before, but i guess it makes sense, if you think of it.
In Portugal you are required by law to vaccinate for rabbies every year. There are no other requierd vaccines so yu can work around them. My vets adviced me to do lepto every year and do "the rest" every two or three years, which goes with what has been said here.
It is true that some vets try to take advantage of vaccines, and people should be aware of it! I was once advised to vaccinate my dogs every six months!!! Luckily I knew better by then, because the guy made some pretty convincing points - that is if you are not informed. This kind of missinformation and decieving is bound to have consequences!
I'm very sorry to read about Scarlett. It is a terrible ordeal for dog and owner to go through.

But before laying blame on vaccinations (that have prevented many deaths from dangerous disease) may I suggest reading this excellent article about AIHA.
We are not blaming vaccines, as my last post indicated my own vet is of the opinion that there other unlying causes. I personally feel that it is easy to over vaccinate, in particular the pet owners who are not always to well-informed. Often brain washed by vets on all kinds of stuff including spaying/neutering which seems that they are out to make money however they can. A vet like mine is a rare find that does think about the well-being of the animal first at least to us as breeders - maybe different with pet owners.
The reason we posted on here was to make people aware that it is not neccesary to vaccinate annually for every vaccine and that there is a real possibility of some animals being affected by over vaccinating. It is also very important too that we do vaccinate against the nasties that are out there but not more than is neccesary - whatever level that is. We as humans are only vaccinated a handful of times and we are supposed to live to 6 or 7 times longer than a dog!!
This is a difficult one because it is true that vaccines can cause bad reactions in some dogs. I know a few that have never been boostered since their primary inoculations because they have reacted so badly. However non of them have gone on to suffer from IMHA. I have known dogs develop IMHA from tick infestation, trauma and leukemia. A bitch I bred years ago died of this at 4 years old. Had never been boostered, was very healthy, no underlaying infections and not on any medication. She had, however, been playing rather roughly one day and had banged herself very hard. A few days after this she started to develop signs, was diagnosed, put onto steroids but they could not stabilise her and she died. They could not find any other cause.
I personally do not give primary vaccinations to a puppy younger than 12 weeks old. Rightly or wrongly I think that IS need to be given a chance to develop their immune system. My vet has never argued with me on this.
The drug companies themselves agree that it is not necessary to vaccinate against distemper and Parvovirus more than every 3 years, hepatitis, once is enough. Leptospirosis, as we all know, is the only one that should be given yearly. However, it is more expensive to manufacture these vaccines separately, which is why they are provided as an 'all in one'. It all boils down to economics.
There are dogs and people who cannot take certain medications....penicillin being the most common example. We know this can produce very violent reactions.
There are many causes of IMHA, vaccines are accepted as being one of them but there are millions of dogs who are inoculated and boostered every year who never suffer any adverse effects. Yes, if a dog has a predisposition and a very sensitive immune system it can happen and it is a tragedy when it does. It is certainly not a disease that I ever want to experience in any of my dogs.




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