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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Alternative insurance?

Dear Dogs Today

Like many animal guardians now, I only use homoeopathic nosodes for my dogs {Cavalier King Charles Spaniels}.

Two of my boys were insured with the Kennel Club - like several companies, if you had not given the dog conventional vaccine, they would not offer cover if the dog developed the disease for which a vaccine was available but would cover for everything else. The renewals are through and I note that they have changed their wording so that you now have to vaccinate. This seems to be the industry standard now.

I know you have several holistic vets writing for the magazine and wonder if they have any suggestions of companies who will offer lifetime cover and do not require the dog to be vaccinated.

Other readers must also have come across this problem - I know I'm not the only one in this position!! Can anyone offer any advice please?

Thanking you in advance

Mrs Nicki Hughes

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, advises:
This is a very thorny issue. First I'd like to tell you where I stand on the vaccine issue, then have a look at the Kennel Club vaccination policy and finally look at your vaccination options.
I don't think nosodes can be equated with vaccinations. I don't think they were ever designed to give lifelong protection from infectious disease and so I don't advise their use in this way. I do use them to treat specific animals with specific problems, but this is very different from trying to prevent disease for life.
I always quote the work done with children in the slums in India where they use remedies to protect from diseases that they will never ever be vaccinated for as they are so poor and outcast. The results from a Dr. Banerjea, of the Bengal Allen Medical Institute, are as follows -
Polio - Not reliable
Tuberculosis - Wonderful
Diphtheria – 40 per cent success rate
Whooping Cough – 95 per cent success rate
Mumps – 70 per cent success rate
Typhoid – 90 per cent success rate
These, as far as I can find, are the most reliable large scale tests in the world on remedies protecting against disease. I say to my clients that this type of study has not been done on animals anywhere in the world. I follow with 'if you are happy to have 'unreliable' or only 40 per cent cover for your animal, then use a nosode, but I'm not.' I have seen animals die of Parvo who were only covered with nosodes. (I also know of animals who died of Parvo who were fully vaccinated, come to that.)
I am not happy that we have a truly logical and rational approach to conventional vaccination in the veterinary world in this country, but I feel there is a middle road between over-vaccination and under-vaccination. This is the road I try to find with each patient, on an individual basis. I use optimal nutrition, herbs, homeopathic remedies, titre testing and minimal vaccination with single vaccines, where possible, to reduce the effect of vaccine insults to the immune system and maximise immunological cover.
The Kennel Club state the following on their website:
You must keep your dog vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus or as advised by your vet. All vaccinations must be administered under veterinary supervision. Homeopathic vaccines are not acceptable. Furthermore there is no cover provided for these conditions in the event that the required vaccinations have not been carried out.
The first line allows your vet to minimally vaccinate, but maximally protect your animal as they see fit - using titre testing etc. There is no such thing as a 'homeopathic vaccines' in the third sentence, but I'm sure the Kennel Club assessors would contest if you made a claim for Parvo if you'd only used Parvo nosode as a preventative. The final line is not very precise as it does not state when the vaccines should be given and makes no allowance for titre testing (which is actually the only way you can ensure your dog has ‘taken up’ the vaccines administered by your vet).
As to your options, Pet Plan state you must keep your animal vaccinated, but do not specifically forbid homeopathic nosodes. The same is true for More Than, NFU and Direct Line, as far as I can see. Your other alternative would be to put £20-30 in the bank each month when they’re young and by the time things start going wrong, when they get older, you’ve got a fighting fund.

Catherine O'Driscoll, from Canine Health Concern, advises:
This is a common problem, and it's interesting that the Kennel Club insurance scheme now insists upon dogs being vaccinated annually, when once it did not. This can't be for any scientific reason, because veterinary bodies around the world (the American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, and the Australian Veterinary Association) have announced publicly that we should vaccinate our dogs no more than every three years. World experts, such as Dr Ronald D Schultz, have actually stated publicly that we shouldn't need to re-vaccinate after the initial puppy shot. It makes you wonder about the financial ties between vaccine companies, insurance companies, and organisations such as the Kennel Club. It’s shocking that insurance companies should insist upon an unscientific revaccination policy, and especially puzzling when it’s known (and stated by the above bodies) that vaccines are not without harm, and should be administered as infrequently as possible.
Nevertheless, if you look around, there are some companies that will insure non-vaccinated dogs, although, naturally, they won’t cover against the diseases you might otherwise have vaccinated against. These include Tesco Pet Insurance (tel 0845 300 200), and Direct Line Pet Insurance (0845 246 8705). I called both companies just now to confirm that they still don’t insist upon annual shots.
Another option is to open a deposit account at the bank when you get a new puppy, and place the premium you would otherwise pay to an insurer into your account. If you are not vaccinating, and feeding biologically appropriate food, the likelihood is that by the time your pup reaches old age and starts to need to see the vet more frequently, there will be plenty of funds in the account to cover it – without the insurance company finding a reason not to pay out.


  1. Have you actually called them to check? I thought most of the reputable companies would cover you for all other problems.

  2. Although it is standard wording I think if you check by phone you will find you have the same cover. We had KC insurance for a previous dog and although premiums were high the service was truly brilliant through a very distressing time. We have now gone for a cheaper company who offer a multipet discount, but have noticed the difference in service!