What Are My Pet’s Vaccines Preventing?

Vaccines are the mainstay of your pet’s preventive care program, which is the best way to help keep them healthy. Vaccines contain non-infectious pathogen versions that stimulate the immune system to fight off disease should your pet become infected with the real thing. Most pet owners acknowledge the need for vaccines, but may be unfamiliar with the diseases they can vaccinate their pet against. The team at Madison Street Animal Hospital creates customized vaccine protocols for each pet based on their individual lifestyle. Here is an explanation of commonly vaccinated-against diseases, so you can better understand our recommendations.

Pet vaccination protocols

Puppies and kittens are highly susceptible to infectious diseases because of their immature immune systems. Their mother’s milk contains antibodies that offer short-term protection, but can also interfere with new antibody creation, so young pets need the core vaccines every few weeks until they are 16 weeks old—when we’re sure mother’s antibodies are no longer effective. Some vaccines are given at a slightly older age, and require only one or two doses. All vaccines are boostered after one year, and then every one or three years to maintain protection.

We recommend core vaccines for all pets, and non-core vaccines for some pets, based on their lifestyle. Rabies vaccination is a shared core vaccine for dogs and cats, while most others are species-specific.

Rabies in pets

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and almost always kills the infected host, which can be pets and people, so vaccination is required by law for all pet dogs and cats. Many wildlife carriers can contract rabies and spread rabies to your pet—or you—through a bite wound. Staying up-to-date on rabies vaccination can save your pet’s life, and keep the community safe. 

Canine core vaccine diseases

The core vaccine for dogs is the distemper combination (i.e. DAP, DHPP), which protects against multiple diseases, including:

  • Distemper virus — Distemper affects the nervous and respiratory systems, often causing death. Dogs who survive infection are usually afflicted with permanent neurological disorders.
  • Adenovirus — Also known as infectious canine hepatitis, this virus causes respiratory infection, eye problems, and liver or kidney failure.
  • Parvovirus — “Parvo” is a highly contagious gastrointestinal infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, systemic infection (i.e., sepsis), and fever, and can be fatal without prompt treatment.
  • Parainfluenza — Parainfluenza is a common respiratory pathogen, but can become serious, or cause pneumonia in some pets. Parainfluenza may be included with a bordetella (i.e., kennel cough) or distemper vaccine.

Canine non-core vaccine diseases

Dogs with exposure to natural water sources, wildlife, ticks, or other pets may require additional vaccines, including:

  • Bordetella — Bordetella is one of many agents that cause contagious respiratory disease in dogs (i.e., kennel cough). The vaccine doesn’t provide complete protection, but may reduce severity and spread in dog-dense facilities like daycare or boarding kennels.
  • Canine influenza — Canine influenza causes coughing, fever, and lethargy, and is highly contagious. Most pets clear influenza on their own without complications, but some may develop life-threatening pneumonia.
  • Leptospirosis — Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread through infected urine that can also infect humans. “Lepto” can contaminate water sources, and has also been found in urban environments hosting a large rodent population. Lepto most often causes kidney or liver failure.
  • Lyme disease — Spread through tick bites, Lyme disease causes joint inflammation, fever, and general illness. The initial infection may go undetected and lead to chronic disease, including kidney failure.

Feline core vaccine diseases

The feline core vaccines are also combined into one product, similar to dogs. The cat combination vaccine is often referred to as “feline distemper,” or its acronym, FVRCP. The diseases included in this combination are:

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis — Also known as feline herpesvirus-1, this disease causes chronic, recurrent problems with sneezing, coughing, conjunctivitis, and eye ulcers. Vaccination can reduce severity or prevent flare-ups in an infected cat, but doesn’t completely prevent infection.
  • Calicivirus — Calicivirus causes respiratory infection and can lead to chronic, painful, oral ulcerations. Severe cases can progress to liver failure or death. 
  • Panleukopenia — Similar to parvovirus in dogs, this virus causes vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, and destroys white blood cells, leaving infected cats susceptible to secondary infections. Panleukopenia can be fatal for kittens.

Feline non-core vaccine diseases

Cats who go outside or live with an infected housemate may benefit from vaccination for feline leukemia virus (FeLV). An initial FeLV vaccine series is recommended for all kittens, but is optional for adult cats. Feline leukemia virus can affect the immune system, and may lead to leukemia or other cancers. Cats with FeLV can live many years without problems, while others will become chronically ill. 

A note about pet vaccine titers

Some people prefer to minimally vaccinate their pets, and some pets have autoimmune conditions that preclude frequent vaccination. Adult pets who have completed their puppy or kitten series may not require the core vaccines every year or three years, and they can be blood tested with a titer test to measure their antibody levels and determine when they need boosters. If your pet cannot receive regular vaccines, ask your veterinarian for more information on vaccine titers.

Vaccines keep your pet safe from disease, and your veterinarian can help you craft the individual protocol best for your pet. If your pet is due for vaccinations, or you have questions about which vaccines your pet needs, call and schedule an appointment with the Madison Street Animal Hospital team.

By |2023-01-19T04:42:51+00:00January 19th, 2023|News, Vaccinations, Vaccinations|0 Comments

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