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‘Pukka’s Promise’ book review

The new book Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs is so important because it will encourage dog owners to ask questions such as:

Does my dog really need to be vaccinated every year?

Is it really in the best interest of my dog to remove her ovaries?

And are there really more homeless pets than there are available homes?

Author Ted Kerasote interviewed experts from around the world for “Pukka’s Promise” as he asked the question, Why do our dogs die so young?

If you loved his beautiful stories from Merle’s Door, you will appreciate his new adventures with Lab pup, Pukka.

Ultimately, Kerasote seems to want dog owners to make appropriate choices for their own dogs by gathering as much information as possible. Below are some of the book’s topics I found most interesting.

This post may contain affiliate links. That Mutt may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

*I received a free advance copy of Pukka’s Promise for review purposes. You can order your copy here.

Over vaccinating

You may want to think twice about following the advice of your dog’s vet to give the “core vaccines” annually or even every couple of years.

Researchers now understand the duration of immunity for the distemper vaccine is typically nine to 15 years, wrote Kerasote. For both parvo and rabies, it’s typically seven years.

Not only are annual vaccines unnecessary, but they may even be harmful, he wrote.

Potential side effects include cancer at the site of the vaccine and an increased chance of autoimmune diseases such as hemolytic anemia.

Hemolytic anemia is a disease that destroys the body’s red blood cells, and it’s what my family’s 7-year-old golden retriever was diagnosed with and died from in 2005. Although I don’t know if her disease was linked to a reaction to vaccinations, I can’t help but feel both guilty and betrayed.

Heartworm prevention

Those monthly beef-flavored Heartgard tablets we give our dogs are filled with neurotoxins designed to kill larvae, Kerasote wrote. We are giving our best friends a toxic chemical every month.

Instead, Kerasote recommends dog owners calculate when the local temperature consistently remains above 57 degrees Fahrenheit and also when it dips below 57. Dogs only need treatment during those warmer months in order to remain safe. Even then, a tablet every three months should be effective.

For many areas, that would mean dogs wouldn’t need any heartworm prevention for half the year and in some areas ” no heartworm treatment at all is required,” he wrote.

Flea prevention

Should we really place toxic chemicals on our dogs to prevent fleas and ticks?

In 2008, there were 44,000 reported cases of adverse reactions to spot-on flea prevention drugs, according to Kerasote. Six hundred of those cases were fatal.

A safer flea-prevention option is to sprinkle a bit of food-grade diatomaceous earth on your dog, according to Kerasote. This is a sedimentary rock that is benign to dogs, cats and people but deadly to fleas and ticks. You can also use cedar oil as a flea prevention.

Spaying and neutering

Those in the veterinary industry typically recommend a sterilization surgery for nearly all dogs – removing a female’s ovaries and uterus and removing a male’s testicles.

Most vets will say these surgeries are best for all dogs because of the “health benefits,” Kerasote wrote. If a dog’s ovaries are removed before her first heat cycle, she will have a reduced risk of developing mammary cancer in her lifetime. And with no ovaries, she will be safe from developing ovarian cancer just as a male with no balls will not develop testicular cancer.

OK, but do dogs have high risks of developing these diseases in the first place?

The overall risk of an intact female developing mammary cancer in her lifetime is 3.4 percent, according to Kerasote. For dogs spayed before their first heat cycle, the risk decreases to 0.5 percent.

The chance of an intact male developing testicular cancer is just 0.09 percent, and almost no dogs get testicular cancer before age 6, according to Kerasote. Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable cancers in dogs. Survival rates with early detection are 90 to 100 percent.

Plus, there are plenty of health reasons to consider keeping your dog intact.

Neutered dogs are more likely to develop prostate cancer than intact males, according to Kerasote. Some vets report that neutering prevents prostate cancer – it doesn’t.

Spayed females are more likely to have urinary incontinence compared to intact females, Kerasote wrote. They are more likely to be prone to obesity and more likely to develop cancer of the blood vessels.

Spayed and neutered dogs have a higher chance of developing bone cancer and hip dysplasia, he wrote. They are more likely to tear their ACLs, and their rear ends are more likely to become weaker as they age.

Kerasote also wrote how spayed and neutered dogs are more likely to develop bladder cancer and more likely to have adverse reactions to vaccines. If they develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s, their symptoms are more likely to progress more rapidly.

The point is to weigh the pros and cons of spaying and neutering.

Pet ‘overpopulation’ and no kill

The animal sheltering world needs more people to address the “pet overpopulation” myth, and I was so excited to read Kerasote’s view on this issue. He visited different animal shelters and talked with different leaders in the industry.

Why are some shelters able to save 90 percent or more of their animals while others kill more than half?

Factors such as the community’s unemployment rate, the shelter’s budget or the shelter’s intake numbers do not consistently predict whether or not a shelter saves more lives, Kerasote discovered. What matters is leadership, communication, compassion and marketing – important pieces to the No-Kill Advocacy Center’s no-kill equation.

In other words, a shelter can’t blame “pet overpopulation” as an excuse to kill pets if it’s closed to the public on weekends or if it refuses to start a fostering program or if it refuses to work with rescue groups. The shelter itself is to blame.

You will definitely learn something from ‘Pukka’s Promise’

I hope you will pick up a copy of Pukka’s Promise. It covers additional topics such as dog breeding and genetics, raw dog food diets and the effects of environmental toxins.

You certainly don’t have to agree with the author on anything, but what he wants is for people to make appropriate decisions based on their circumstances.

We all want what is best for our dogs.

Have you read ‘Merle’s Door’ or ‘Pukka’s Promise’?

Order your copy of Pukka’s Promise here.


Sunday 3rd of February 2013

I can't wait to read this! I'm in the middle of "To Your Dog's Health," but will put this on the list with the Monks of New Skete and "Feed Your Best Friend Better!"

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 3rd of February 2013



Saturday 2nd of February 2013

and yes I have read Merle's Door. Loved it and how free Merle lived his life.


Saturday 2nd of February 2013

I've had two dogs die of cancer, one at 13 1/2 yrs with osteosarcoma, & one at 12 1/2 of fibrosarcoma. I strongly believe that we don't need to vaccinate pets as often as is done, but what do you do when your vet will not do any procedures (ie: teeth cleaning) unless your dog has been vaccinated yearly-and the city requires your dog be vaccinated for rabies every three years.My two cats are indoor cats and I do not have them vaccinated as much as is recommended by my vet.I try to limit the toxin exposure as much as possible even not giving heart worm preventative (which I know may be a mistake) and not putting weed and feed on areas my dog spend most of their time in.

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 3rd of February 2013

Sorry to hear you lost two dogs to cancer. It is hard to work around the vaccination "system" when vets won't even do a routine exam unless the pets are "up to date" on vaccines. I don't take my cats to the vet for a routine exam every year because I don't want them to have to get certain vaccines that often. Is that the right choice? I think it is, for my particular cats.

I think you will find "Pukka" very interesting.