Look what I found when cleaning out yesterday – in a file of old vet records for Daisy (who passed away in July 2014) – a brochure for Periovac. With February being Pet Dental Health Month – I thought this blog post was entirely appropriate.
Periovac, marketed by Pfizer with some fanfare in 2006, the vaccine was touted as the latest and greatest thing that dog owners could do to support dental health in their dogs. On a routine visit to a vet for a lump on Daisy’s side, he handed me this brochure when he noted that she had some tartar buildup recommending both a dental cleaning and vaccination with this product.
“It’s quite new,” he said.
I remember that this statement raised some alarm bells for me because animal medications have a much lower threshold for testing and approvals before they hit the market. In fact, most pet owners are unaware that the newest medications on the market are often being sold with fairly limited research behind them, often under limited or conditional licenses.
At that time, I was also of the view that dental health in people is managed through dental care such as regular brushing of the teeth and professional cleanings. I thought that the same would apply to dogs (and still do!). I couldn’t imagine a vaccine for my dental health – so why one for my dog?
I remember emailing Angell Memorial Animal Hospital’s advice line about use of the product. The response is one I vividly remember, “Has she tried everything else?”
That answer spoke volumes for me. I didn’t vaccinate Daisy.
Pfizer withdrew the product from the market in 2011. They said after a 4-year study, use of the vaccine could not be linked to a long-term reduction in periodontal disease. The company stood by the product’s safety, however. I wonder how many dog owners had paid to use the vaccine in good faith – possibly stopping other care methods like brushing of the teeth – I bet they weren’t told that the vaccine turned out to be ineffective!
So my advice for Pet Dental Health Month remains – brush your dog’s teeth. Everyday.
And my other advice – for dog health in its entirety – is be careful about being an early adopter of new medications. Make sure you understand how the medication works and what research has been done into both its efficacy and its safety.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand