Vaccinations help protect your furry friend from a variety of illnesses and diseases that can be harmful or even life-threatening.
What we are preventing, and why.
Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. Puppies and dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months, and mother dogs can pass the virus through the placenta to their puppies. How is canine distemper prevented? Vaccination is crucial in preventing canine distemper. A series of vaccinations is administered to puppies to increase the likelihood of building immunity when the immune system has not yet fully matured. Avoid gaps in the immunization schedule and make sure distemper vaccinations are up to date. Avoid contact with infected animals and wildlife. Use caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, puppy classes, obedience classes, doggy daycare, and other places where dogs can congregate.
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk. The virus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments, or people. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection. Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolytes, protein, and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections. To reduce gaps in protection and provide the best protection against parvovirus during the first few months of life, a series of puppy vaccinations are administered. Puppies should receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to develop adequate protection.
Canine influenza (CI, or dog flu) is caused by the canine influenza virus (CIV), an influenza A virus. It is highly contagious and easily spread from infected dogs to other dogs by direct contact, nasal secretions, contaminated objects, and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. Dogs of any breed, age, sex, or health status are at risk of infection when exposed to the virus. Some infected dogs may not show any signs of illness but can still be contagious and able to infect other dogs. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks. However, some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections, which may lead to more severe illness and pneumonia. Anyone with concerns about their pet’s health or whose pet is showing signs of canine influenza should contact their veterinarian. Vaccines are available for both strains of the canine influenza virus. The CIV vaccination is a “lifestyle” vaccination recommended for dogs at risk of exposure due to their increased exposure to other dogs – such as boarding, attending social events with dogs present, and visiting dog parks. Your veterinarian can provide you with additional information about the vaccines and whether you should consider vaccinating your dog.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by infection with Leptospira bacteria. These bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water. There are many strains of Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be spread from animals to people. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties; exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs. Leptospirosis is generally treated with antibiotics and supportive care. When treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are good, but there is still a risk of permanent residual kidney or liver damage. Currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. Annual vaccination is recommended for at-risk dogs. Reducing your dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira bacteria can reduce its chances of infection.
CANINE LYME DISEASE
The best way to protect pets from Lyme disease is to take preventive measures to reduce the chance of contracting the disease. Even during the last weeks of summer, it’s important to remember that pets and people are at greater risk of being infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. People with pets should: Use reliable tick-preventive products. Speak with your veterinarian about what tick-preventive product is right for your pet. Work with your veterinarian to decide whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarian’s advice may depend on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and overall health, and other factors. When possible, avoid areas where ticks might be found. These include tall grasses, marshes, and wooded areas. Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors. Clear shrubbery next to homes. Keep lawns well maintained. As noted above, there are preventive Lyme disease vaccines available for dogs. Consult your veterinarian to see if the vaccination makes sense for your pets. If your veterinarian does recommend that your dog be vaccinated against Lyme disease, the typical protocol will involve an initial vaccination followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later and annual boosters after that.
CANINE INFECTIOUS TRACHEOBRONCHITIS
Kennel cough can be caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. It is very contagious, and your dog can become infected if it comes into contact with an infected dog. Dogs with kennel cough may not seem ill in the early stages of the disease, but they can still infect other dogs. Most commonly, dogs with kennel cough will have a snotty nose and a dry, hacking cough. There are vaccines for kennel cough, but not all dogs need to receive the vaccine. Consult your veterinarian about whether or not the kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccine is right for your dog.
Canine and Feline Vaccinations Yes, your indoor-only cat needs vaccinations, too!
FELINE PANLEUKOPENIA (FELINE DISTEMPER)
Feline panleukopenia (FP) is a highly contagious viral disease of cats caused by the feline parvovirus. Kittens are most severely affected by the virus. The names feline distemper and feline parvo should not be confused with canine distemper or canine parvo— although their names are similar, they are caused by different viruses. The viruses do not infect people. In the past, feline panleukopenia (FP) was a leading cause of death in cats. Today, it is an uncommon disease due in large part to the availability and use of very effective vaccines. The disease is also called feline distemper or feline parvo. Because the FP virus is everywhere in the environment, virtually all kittens and cats are exposed to the virus at some point in their lives. Cats that survive an infection develop immunity that likely protects them for the rest of their lives. Mild cases that go unnoticed will also produce immunity from future infection. It is also possible for kittens to receive temporary immunity through the transfer of antibodies in the colostrum — the first milk produced by the mother. This is called “passive immunity,” and how long it protects the kittens from infection depends upon the levels of protective antibodies produced by the mother. It rarely lasts longer than 12 weeks. Prevention is vital to your cat’s health. Today, there are vaccines that offer the best protection from feline parvovirus infection. Vaccination is equally important for strictly indoor cats as well as indoor/outdoor cats because the virus is everywhere in the environment. Most young kittens receive their first vaccination between six and eight weeks of age, and follow-up vaccines are given until the kitten is around 16 weeks of age. Adult vaccination schedules vary with the age and health of the cat, as well as the risk of FP in the area. Consult your veterinarian for advice on an appropriate vaccination schedule for your cat(s).
FELINE HERPESVIRUS/FELINE VIRAL RHINOTRACHEITIS
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an infectious disease caused by feline herpesvirus type-1. As with other herpes viruses, the virus is very species-specific, and is only known to cause infections in domestic and wild cats. The virus can infect cats of all ages. Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis is a major cause of upper respiratory disease in cats and is the most common cause of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eye, especially the lining of the lids and the third eyelid). A cat becomes infected with this virus by direct contact with virus particles. The virus is excreted in saliva and in discharges from the eyes and nose of an infected cat. Therefore, an infection occurs when a susceptible cat comes into direct contact with an infected cat or comes into contact with inanimate objects that have been contaminated with viral particles. All cats can become infected with FVR infections, but infection tends to be more severe in young animals or animals that have another chronic disease. Kittens born to a cat that is carrying a latent FVR infection may become infected after birth. In these kittens, symptoms usually develop several weeks after birth, and the infection can be very serious. The standard ‘core’ vaccines that are given to cats include a vaccine against feline viral rhinotracheitis. The FVR vaccine will not completely prevent an infection from occurring if your cat is exposed to the virus, but it will significantly reduce the severity of the infection and will shorten the length of the illness. Solid immunity to these viruses is not long-term and may be overcome by exposure to a high dose of virus. Therefore, the FVR vaccine needs to be boostered on a regular basis – your veterinarian will advise you on the recommended booster schedule for your individual cat based on its lifestyle and risk of disease.
Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a virus that is an important cause of upper respiratory infections and oral disease in cats. This virus infects cats throughout the world and can cause disease in both domestic and exotic species of the cat family. There are at least 40 different strains of FCV, and the virulence or severity of the disease caused by different strains may vary significantly. Although several different viruses and bacteria can cause respiratory disease in cats, calicivirus is one of the more common infectious agents isolated in cats with a respiratory infection. Calicivirus is highly contagious, and infected cats can shed viral particles in saliva or secretions from the nose or eyes. If an infected cat sneezes, airborne viral particles can be sprayed several meters through the air. It is speculated that the virus may also be shed in urine or feces, but this is not considered to be a major source of infection. The virus may survive for up to one week in a contaminated environment. Susceptible cats can get an infection by direct contact with another infected cat or by environmental exposure to objects that have been contaminated with infectious secretions. People that have touched contaminated objects or an infected cat can also spread the virus to susceptible cats. The standard ‘core’ vaccines that are given to cats include immunization against calicivirus and will help reduce the severity of disease and shorten the length of the illness if your cat is exposed. Kittens require several boosters of this vaccine between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks and at least one other booster a year later. After this initial series, the vaccine will also need to be boostered on a regular basis every 1-3 years. It is particularly important to give your cat a booster vaccine before he or she is placed in a high risk situation such as boarding, grooming, going to a cat show, or otherwise being exposed to cats that could be potential carriers of calicivirus. Your veterinarian will advise you on the recommended booster schedule for your individual cat.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most important infectious viruses in cats. It was first discovered in cats with a form of leukemia, hence its name. FeLV is the cause of a variety of diseases, not just leukemia. Like all viruses, FeLV is a tiny microorganism consisting of nucleic acid and a few proteins and glycoproteins in a simple structure. Viruses can only replicate themselves inside living cells. FeLV is specific to members of the cat family and does not pose a risk to other species of animals or people.
CANINE & FELINE RABIES
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is secreted in saliva and is usually transmitted to people and animals by a bite from an infected animal. Less commonly, rabies can be transmitted when saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with an open cut on the skin or through the eyes, nose, or mouth of a person or animal. Once the outward signs of the disease appear, rabies is nearly always fatal. Vaccination programs and control of stray animals have been effective in preventing rabies in most pets. Approved rabies vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle, and sheep. Licensed oral vaccines are also being used for mass immunization of wildlife, particularly raccoons. Although the most common signs of rabies are behavioral changes and unexplained paralysis, rabies should be considered in all cases of unexplained neurological disease. There is no treatment once the clinical signs of rabies appear. Rabies infection in an animal can only be confirmed after death through a microscopic examination of the animal’s brain.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP CONTROL RABIES?
Remember that rabies is entirely preventable through vaccination. Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, and ferrets, and select horses and livestock. Your veterinarian will advise you on the recommended or required frequency of vaccination in your area. Reduce the possibility of exposure to rabies by not letting your pets roam free. Keep cats and ferrets indoors, and supervise dogs when they are outside. Spaying or neutering your pet may decrease roaming tendencies and will prevent them from contributing to the birth of unwanted animals. Don’t leave exposed garbage or pet food outside, as it may attract wild or stray animals. Wild animals should never be kept as pets. Not only may this be illegal, but wild animals pose a potential rabies threat to caretakers and to others.