Risk Versus Reward

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There needs to be enough reward giving something to warrant the risks that giving it may have.

Risk versus reward is something that should be taken into account in all aspects of life, including how we look after our pets and what we give them.

A classic example I use is the use of raw bones in the feeding regime. Clients ask me, ”Is there any chance one might get stuck?” My answer is “Yes”. However the risks have to be balanced against the rewards, nothing in life is risk free.

Every year we see at our clinic dozens of seriously ill pets secondary to rotten teeth. Also these same pet owners complain of the stench that comes from their pets mouths, and they haven’t been able to “kiss” them for years. However bones were not offered because they might get stuck.

In 15 years I’ve seen raw bones cause serious illness twice! Many times per year we see many seriously ill patients secondary to dental disease, cats and dogs living for years with painful mouths due to severe gingivitis.
So I ask my clients, “Although there is a risk, it is extremely minor, but the risk of not giving bones are much, much higher. Which risk would you like to take?”


So it is the same with the medicines we give our pets. Let’s start with vaccinations.

Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus: These are the potentially fatal diseases. Traditionally we have vaccinated them 3 times as pups then every single year for the rest of their lives. With these good vaccination practices, Distemper and Hepatitis are very rare and Parvovirus still common but not nearly so common as it used to be. Now, whether proven or not, it makes sense to any logical thinking person that these unnatural substances put into our bodies may have the potential to cause harmful side effects, and the more often we give them, the greater the chance of causing harmful side effects. Already there are suggestions with numerous pet diseases such as auto immune heamolytic anaemia, and chronic active hepatitis, that inappropriate reactions to vaccinations may be partly responsible.

For many years vets have considered that it may not be necessary to vaccinate annually as we just don’t see these diseases in pets that have only missed a few years of vaccinations. Now 2 companies have actually done the studies to demonstrate that immunity to these 3 diseases lasts at least 3 years, if not more. These vaccinations are not really any different to the “traditional” yearly ones, just that the companies have done the studies to demonstrate that immunity lasts a minimum of 3 years. If the “yearly”companies did the same tests, I dare say they might find the same thing!

So right now, it is still important to vaccinate, as the “risk” of parvovirus is still significant. There has been an out break in Melbourne in the past year alone killing many unvaccinated pups. However, the advantage of continuing to vaccinate adult dogs, that have already had all their juvenile boosters, every single year now carries zero advantage. That only leaves us with the “risk” that excessive vaccinations may potentially cause our pets harm.

The same risk versus reward equation should be individually balanced by every pet owner so that you can make your own decision regarding what you want your pet to have. Use our website to help you make those decisions. If confusing, we are happy to advise what we recommend. I tell my clients exactly what I do with my own cat and dog, but I don’t begrudge somebody making their own decisions. For example, I don’t routinely treat my pets for fleas, however some clients tell me they would prefer to because they can’t stand the idea of getting a flea occasionally. That’s ok. My personal opinion is that the occasional flea doesn’t really worry me or my pet, so long as I treat it then, but a lifetime of unnecessary flea treatments, and the wasted expense that goes with it, might worry both me, and my pets health.

Heartworm is another good example. In Melbourne this disease is rare and takes 2 years before it causes a problem anyway, however, it is fatal if contracted. I treated my dog until she was getting old, then I stopped in her last few years, there was no longer enough reward to warrant treating a rare and slow disease once she was toward her last expected few years. However some clients tell me they would rather not have the expense of a yearly treatment for a rare disease. That’s OK, they accept a small risk only that their dog may contract this disease.


There needs to be enough reward giving something to warrant the risks that giving it may have. (Including the costs associated!)