Veterinarian Comes Clean About Vaccines and Dog Food


Is your dog constantly itching? Want to know more about caring for your older dog? Interested in feeding your dog a natural diet? Vaccines and what to give when got you all baffled and confused? Good, reputable, solid healthcare information that can be trusted is hard to come by, as anyone with a keyboard and a mission can write whatever they want online. Not everything we read is to be taken as gospel.

Thankfully there are websites like petMD and Pet360 where solid, reputable information on our pets and their healthcare can be found. Being a solid ally for your dog in conjunction with the care they receive from a veterinarian is crucial to your pet’s overall well being. I can count on two hands the vets and online healthcare resources I consider to be trusted and well-researched. Other than my dog’s veterinarian, Dr. Steven Gloates of Vetcetera, three of my favorite online resources for information come from Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Dr. Jean Dodds, and Dr. Laurie Coger.

Dr. Coger is the founder of The Wholistic Vet Blog and a practicing veterinarian. I sit here with her guide to vaccines book on my desk. Over the years I have learned so very much from her teachings and information.

For example, I recently asked Dr. Coger about lumps that tend to appear on the skin of Cocker Spaniels. In fact, dogs of any age or lineage can be affected with a variety of lumps and bumps. Any lump, bump, or new growth found on a dog should be examined by your veterinarian. As a wise friend shared, lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets.

Missing my little girl forever.

The breed with which I am most closely aligned is Cocker Spaniels. Cockers have more sebaceous oil than many other breeds. Our Puppy Relations (PR) Manager, Dexter, eats what we consider to be a  Dex gets a very good semi-raw diet (The Honest Kitchen) and Dr Harvey’s veggies along with rotating salmon oil and coconut oil (the latter of which eliminated his itching 90 percent) I recently noticed that as Dexter has ebbed into the ripe young age of five,  notice a bump here, a skin tag there. All are checked diligently and aspirated by the vet, but I am just a nervous Nellie.


When you have a dog who gets mast cell cancer – a lump that resembled a pimple – at the site of then “yearly vaccines,” a dog mom’s life never stays the same after that. So I asked Dr. Coger about the lumps and if I could change anything with Dexter’s diet or nutritional needs.

“I think people forget that the ears and anal glands are part of the skin, and problems affecting those parts have repercussions for the rest of the skin,” Dr. Coger told me. “In humans you can check saliva, I don’t think as reliable in dogs. Google up alkaline foods — even the human charts will give you the idea of how to promote “alkalinity.” Basically, feed meats and veggies (like you already are doing), and avoid grains.”

She also says that dogs on this sort of diet typically have a urine pH of 7.0 – 7.5, so I could continue to use urine pH as a monitor. Dog food dogs run 6.0 – 6.5 in their pH. One of the things we are never without in our “dog must have items/first aid kit” is a box of fresh pH strips. I highly recommend all pet parents monitor their pet’s urine with a weekly or even twice-a-month dipstick from a free catch first thing in the morning. Problems can be detected a lot sooner and a lot of heartache saved. Here’s more info on urinary pH strips and dogs.


I consider myself a pretty well-versed dog mom with more than average knowledge in the pet healthcare and nutrition space. I have a background working behind the scenes in medicine for a number of years, so the terminology and healthcare aspect of caring for our dogs is mega important to me and information disseminated in this blog.

With great joy then, I found out that Dr. Coger is hosting a fabulous three-hour seminar in New York on Saturday, March 1st, which is this Saturday.


In this seminar, Coger will share how she manages and cares for her own dogs.


“And believe me, after a day of treating the health issues of my clients’ dogs,” she says, “the last thing I want to do is have to treat my own! Coger’s dogs do not suffer from anything on the “top 10″ list of reasons dogs go to the vet (ear infections,  skin infections, GI upsets, allergies, hots spots, dental disease, etc). Why? She says their health is supported, rather than challenged, by the food they eat and the veterinary care they receive. In other words, a natural diet, minimal and appropriate vaccines, minimal and appropriate chemicals and drugs.

To register for the seminar, please call Shawna’s Dogs at 518-937-2544. You can also learn more about Dr. Laurie Coger by visiting


By the way, my dog, Brandy, went on to live one week shy of 15 years of age. She never had another mast cell tumor in her life, but we visited the vet for lump aspiration with each new occurrence. Sometimes, they turned out to be lipomas and benign, other times they were sebaceous cysts (one needing to be surgically removed).

 What healthcare topics do you wish you knew more about as a pet parent?



  1. Great article. I am going to order that book on vaccines. I never used to think about it until my cocker Buffy had a major stroke 2 days after 3 vaccines were given at once. He was 12 and very healthy. He never recovered and after watching him suffer for 2 more days, I chose euthanasia. I realize that some vaccines are very necessary-like rabies-but I am still leery of the whole process.

    1. We are with you on that, Stealth Spaniel. I am so sorry to read about what happened to your dog after the vaccines.

  2. I feed raw, and do a staggered, minimal vaccination schedule. The only thing required by law here is Rabies, and Indiana recognizes a three year Rabies vaccine. My vet offers titers, and I am strongly considering have these drawn the next time a pup is due for a vax other than Rabies.

  3. I am very cautious about what I feed my dogs and their vaccines. Where I live, there’s a list of required vaccines and it stresses me out. Plus, my older dog just turned five and he’s super picky. I want to feed him grain free, but I’ve watched him refuse that food for days (literally).

    1. MK – for the mast cell tumor, she was sedated, yes. They had to laser it and get clean margins. Cockers have so many lumps and bumps as they age – I keep a chart and images. Is the skin tag suspicious looking?

  4. All really interesting – I wish I could participate in that seminar! I’m especially interested in understanding more about vaccinations. I always get all of Kayo’s vaccinations right on time but I’ve definitely wondered if they’re all necessary.

    1. We wrote a great piece about vaccines. Check out the teachings of Dr. Jean Dodds, BoingyDog. We follow her protocol.

  5. Thanks for all this great information. I never thought about a PH strip before. I’ll definitely have to look into that more. Dogs can’t tell us if there is something slightly off about their health, so monitoring things like this can help us find things before they get out of hand.

    1. Glad this helped. I love the urine pH strips and they have served me (and my dog) well on more than one occasion.

  6. I’ve heard a lot about the alkalinity theory of pet foods and even seen some commerical pet food diets that are formulated based on that idea. I contacted that company to try and get access to the data they are basing their food on they weren’t able to provide any for me.

    There are some diets out there that support decreasing carbs in the diet to decrease easy food for cancer cells if a pet actively has cancer and there is some data for that, but I haven’t seen data supporting alkalinity specifically. Do you know if Dr. Codger could provide any data on this theory?

    Personally I’ve had a couple patients who had problems with bladder stones and bladder infections get worse on alkaline diets. A high pH to a pet’s urine makes them more likely to form Struvite crystals and stones. There are some over the counter supplements to stop urine scald in yards that will increase urine pH and can also make pets more likely to get bladder stones. That’s why I’m a bit cautious about widely recommending a major nutritional theory change without having some good data to back it up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.