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Dog Vaccines 101

As a dog owner, you hear a lot about vaccinations and how your four-legged friend has to have them. But what are vaccinations? And what vaccinations should your dog have?

Simply put, vaccinations are given to protect your pet against disease. During vaccination, a modified bacteria, parasite or virus is administered to your pet by injection or intra-nasally. The vaccination triggers an immune response within your pet’s body to protection against a specific disease.

It is important to remember that not all vaccines are 100% effective; a vaccinated pet may not develop adequate immunity and can become ill. However, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

The most commonly administered core vaccine in dogs is typically given as a single injection which contains vaccine against canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

According to the 2011 guidelines developed by the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Task Force, dog vaccines can be divided into those that are essential (Core vaccines) and nonessential (Noncore vaccines).

Here is a breakdown of what the vaccines are and what they protect against:

Distemper

Infection with this virus can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal illness in the early stages and progress to neurologic disease. Many dogs who are infected may recover from the illness but may be left with long-term neurologic side effects. This disease is highly contagious between dogs.

Parvovirus

Infection with this virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea as well as bone marrow problems. Infection can be deadly if left untreated and is highly contagious between dogs.

Adenovirus

Vaccination against adenovirus provides protection against canine infectious hepatitis (liver disease) as well as respiratory illness that can also sometimes be involved in the development of “kennel cough”.

Parainfluenza

This is a viral infection which affect the respiratory system and may be involved in the development of “kennel cough”.

Rabies is given as a single vaccine and is considered a core vaccine (required by law in many areas). The rabies virus is carried by warm blooded mammals and infection with the virus can cause progressive neurologic disease which can be fatal to all mammals, including humans.

The need for other, noncore vaccines will be determined by where you live and what your dog’s lifestyle and potential risk of exposure is. These include:

Leptospirosis

This disease is caused by a bacterial infection and is most prevalent in moist climates. It can result in damage to the liver and/or the kidneys and severe infection can lead to organ failure and respiratory disease.

Influenza

Infection with influenza causes severe upper respiratory signs similar to the flu in people. Dogs that are not treated can go on to develop pneumonia and, in some cases, the infection can lead to death.

Bordetella

This is a bacterial respiratory infection commonly referred to as “kennel cough”. The vaccine and is typically given to lessen the risk of upper respiratory infection in dogs while boarding or those who are frequently exposed to other dogs (e.g., dog shows, dog parks).

Lyme disease

Caused by a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks, vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for pets who live in or travel to areas where there is a high incidence of the disease.

The recommended vaccines for your dog as well as how often they are needed will vary. As always, feel free to discuss any questions or concerns that you have regarding your pets vaccines with your family veterinarian.

 

Cat Vaccines 101

According the 2013 American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel, vaccines for cats can be divided into those that are essential (core) vaccines and those that are noncore but may be recommended based on risk of exposure.

Here is a feline vaccine primer to help you understand what these vaccines are and what they protect against.

The most commonly administered vaccine is typically given as a single injection and contains vaccine against herpesvirus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.

Herpesvirus

Infection with this virus causes an upper respiratory illness known as rhinotracheitis. This infection can be severe and symptoms may become chronic.

Calicivirus

Similar to herpes virus in its ability to cause upper respiratory disease. Infection can also result in oral and ocular (eye) ulcerations.

Panleukopenia

This is sometimes called “feline distemper” and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and bone marrow suppression. This disease can be fatal, especially in younger cats.

Rabies is given as a single vaccine and is considered a core vaccine (required by law in many areas). The rabies virus is carried by warm blooded mammals and infection with the virus can cause progressive neurologic disease which can be fatal to all mammals, including humans.

The following are considered nonessential but may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your cat’s lifestyle and risk or exposure.

Feline leukemia virus

This virus is transmitted by close contact with other cats and infection can cause a variety of problems including anemia and suppression of the immune system. Vaccination against this infection is often recommended for cats who live outdoors or go outdoors frequently.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Similar to human immunodeficiency virus, infection with FIV will result in suppression of the immune system and leave cats more susceptible to other infections. Often recommended for cats who live outdoors or go outdoors frequently.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)

This disease is most common among feral cats or cats in shelters. FIP infection is almost always fatal however, vaccination against this disease is generally not protective and is not recommended.

The recommended vaccines for your cat as well as how often they are needed will vary. As always, feel free to discuss any questions or concerns that you have regarding your pets vaccines with your family veterinarian.

 

What To Expect During An Annual Exam

An annual examination is an important part of total care for your pet. Your pet ages at a much faster rate than the average human. So, a year in a dog’s or a cat’s life is equivalent to about 3-8 years in a human life, depending on the breed.

Annual Vet Exam

Imagine yourself not visiting your family physician for that many years and imagine having an underlying disease that goes undetected for 3-8 years. Your pet cannot speak to you about his or her pain and discomfort. So, would you be observant enough to always be able to tell when your pet is sick? Even the most astute owners can rarely pick up on the subtle early signs of illness. In general, the earlier a disease is detected and treatment initiated, the better the potential outcome. Cats are even more enigmatic when it comes to showing signs of illness, making the annual examination even more valuable for this species.

An important part of the annual examination visit is a physical examination. Your family veterinarian will check your pet for any obvious external signs of dental disease, ear and eye infection, heart and lung disease, abdominal pain, musculoskeletal pain, skin infection, and anal gland problem etc. Diagnostic testing might be needed depending on the physical exam findings. An annual blood test for internal organ functions and blood cells might be needed especially if your pet is older. An annual exam will allow for early detection of potential life-threatening disease such as heart disease, liver disease, and kidney disease, just to name a few.

Your family veterinarian will also go over some history with you such as any clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and sneezing, activity level, appetite, water drinking and urination habit and any obvious signs of discomfort at home that might be a clue into your pet’s physical condition. It is important to have a list of your pet’s current medication, food, treats, and heartworm, flea and tick prevention to go over with your veterinarian during the annual visit.

Part of the annual examination includes your pet’s annual booster of vaccines. By law, every pet requires a rabies vaccination for public health reason. However, there are other vaccinations needed based on geographical location or risk due to your pet’s life style. The American Animal Hospital Association vaccination guidelines listed rabies and canine distemper/parvo virus combo as core vaccination for dogs and rabies and feline distemper combo as core vaccination for cats. However, if your dog is routinely subjected to exposure to other pets, it is recommended for your pet to receive canine Bordetella vaccine and recently, also canine influenza vaccine. If you live in tick states, your dog may also need a Lyme vaccination. Leptospirosis vaccination is also important if your pet frequents areas where wildlife visits. Your pet (and humans) can get infected with leptospirosis through contact of urine via a cut or skin wound, resulting in liver and kidney failure. For outdoor or indoor/outdoor cats, a feline leukemia vaccination is recommended due to increased risk of exposure.

For more information about pet vaccinations, contact your local Best Friends hospital.

Steve C. Chen, DVM

 

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