Homeopathic physicians may recommend nosodes instead of conventional vaccinations. Nosodes are simply homeopathic"vaccines" that are prepared from various infectious organisms. As an example, a nosode for panleukopenia (cat distemper) would be prepared from infectious panleukopenia virus, possibly from respiratory secretions from an infected cat. A variety of nosodes are available, both for the treatment of infectious diseases (for example, the staphylococcal nosode is used as part of the treatment of staphylococcal dermatitis).

Veterinarians who practice homeopathy often recommend nosodes in place of conventional vaccines as part of the annual immunization regimen. In some sense, conventional vaccinations are somewhat "homeopathic." Conventional vaccines are made from altered infectious organisms, and they are administered in diluted form. By administering these infectious organisms, doctors attempt to stimulate the pet's immune system to prevent against infectious diseases.

Recently, several concerns with conventional vaccines have surfaced. First, it appears that many pets many not need vaccinations each year against every infectious organism. Some may have immunity that lasts longer than one year after vaccination with some of our current vaccines. These particular pets would probably not benefit from additional immunizations.

Second, doctors do know that conventional vaccinations can cause both short-term and long-term side effects. Some side effects are not serious, such as mild swelling or pain after the vaccination. Other reactions can be more severe or even fatal, including inducing immune-mediated diseases such as anemia and low platelet counts. In cats, we are now seeing vaccine-induced cancers. While not common, certain studies suggest that vaccine-induced tumors may be seen in anywhere from one in 10,000 cats up to one in 1000 cats.

Homeopathic doctors therefore may recommend the administration of homeopathic nosodes in place of conventional vaccines. Since the nosodes do not contain measurable amounts of infectious product, they may be administered without any side effects.

While nosodes are very safe, are they effective? Some doctors seem to prefer nosodes manufactured by specific homeopathic pharmacies, as they feel there is a definite difference in the ability of nosodes to stimulate the immune system. In their opinions, the manufacturer of the nosodes is important and some vaccination nosodes work better than others.

Nosodes are supposed to work in the same manner as conventional vaccines, namely by stimulating antibodies to fight off infections. However, while nosodes may be a safe alternative to conventional vaccinations, many doctors question how effective they might be when compared to conventional vaccination protocols.

One way to see whether they work is to subject them to the same testing vaccine companies use. After vaccinating a number of pets with nosodes, we would then expose these dogs and cats to the infectious organisms to see whether they become infected or remain protected. While this technique may be acceptable in the laboratory, most owners do not want to subject their pets to potentially fatal doses of infectious organisms just to see whether nosodes work.

Currently, there are few controlled studies showing the effectiveness of nosodes as an alternative to conventional vaccines despite their use by homeopathic physicians. The use of nosodes in place of vaccines is a personal one to be made after consultation with your veterinarian.

While some veterinarians recommend nosodes as a substitute for vaccinations, other homeopathic veterinarians do not believe nosodes are designed for this purpose. Rather, they use nosodes in two other ways.

First, in the face of an outbreak of disease, they use the nosode to strengthen the pet's immune system with the idea this will make the pet less susceptible to infection.

Second, some doctors use the nosodes to minimize vaccine reactions that may occur in some vaccinated pets.

Nosodes, and particularly the homeopathic remedies Thuja and Lyssin, can be used along with conventional vaccinations in an attempt to minimize any reactions or side effects from the vaccinations. Once again, controlled studies are lacking despite this widespread practice.

One final thought: in place of traditional vaccines or nosodes, have your doctor run a simple and inexpensive vaccine titer test. This test will determine if your pet needs a vaccine or nosode, or has adequate protection against infectious diseases.

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