Pet owner spreading vaccination awareness after senior pet’s death

A photo of Lexy, a 14-year-old Austin dog who died after a pet visit. (KXAN Photo)
A photo of Lexy, a 14-year-old Austin dog who died after a vetrinary visit. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Joann Saathoff’s 14-year-old Pomeranian, Lexy, died on Sept. 24, and she believes the round of vaccinations Lexy received 12 days earlier led to her death.

Now Saatoff is trying to raise awareness about the options owners of senior pets have when it comes to getting shots for their furry friends.

It all started when Lexy went in for her annual check up. She was evaluated by the vet first, who said Lexy was in good health. Then Lexy received five shots, the same exact group of shots she’d received the year before. Within a few hours, Saathoff said her active dog had grown lethargic.

She took Lexy back to the vet the next day and they said her reaction was common, so they gave her an antibiotic and fluids. But Lexy’s condition continued to decline, the six pound dog threw up everything she ate. When she died, she weighed only three pounds. Saathoff said the cause of Lexy’s death was starvation, but the veterinarian told her that it started with the vaccinations which were “too much for her system.”

Saathooff began researching.

“I found out there’s a lot of senior dogs out there that can’t handle the full regimen of vaccinations,” she said.

She says she doesn’t blame her vet, she just wishes she knew about other options. Now she’s urging other pet owners to ask about what is best for their pets.

“My message to the community is you have options with your senior level dogs,” she said.

The rabies vaccine is required by law and others like DHLPP and Bordatella are recommended for dogs.

Jenna Mize,  associate veterinarian at the Firehouse Animal Center in Austin, explained that while many pets have mild symptoms after vaccinations, most of those disappear after a few days. It is rare to see pets die after vaccinations, though it is more common in smaller dogs, Mize said. In most cases, the potential benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the costs, she added.

She said the best bet for any pet owner is to have a conversation with their vet about how vaccinations may affect their animal.

“In any animal old or young, there’s always consideration for their age, lifestyle and also geographic location,” she explained.

Mize recommends getting a vaccination plan that is individualized to your pet’s needs and the diseases that are common in your area.

One option for pet owners who are not comfortable with vaccinating their dogs, running a test called a “titer” Mize said. The titer is a blood sample pet owners have to pay for which measures antibody levels, which could show the veterinarian whether a vet’s previous vaccinations are still protecting them.

Some vaccinations can last five to seven years and others need to be updated annually, which is why it’s all the more important to work with your vet on a plan that is tailored to your animal, Mize said.

Mize hopes that in the future, the veterinary and academic worlds invest more in looking into the health issues older dogs may face with vaccines.

“The problem is there isn’t data on vaccines and older dogs, the science isn’t there, the research isn’t there,” she said.

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