Why Immunization is so Important for Your Pets
There are six serious, highly contagious canine epidemic diseases that are frequently fatal, but happily all can be prevented by vaccination and prompt Veterinary attention. If your dog is healthy and you give him normal care, including regular immunization shots, chances are you will never have to deal personally with any of these dread diseases.
Rabies is an ancient virus disease, transmitted by the saliva of afflicted animals such as horses, wolves, squirrels, raccoons, bats, goats, pigs, cattle, skunks, rabbits, cats, rats, and dogs. This virus affects the nervous system, resulting in two possible kinds of reactions: the "mad dog" type, with foaming mouth, a change in voice, biting, snapping, and roaming, and the "dumb" type, in which the dog seems to be in a state of shock, his jaw hanging open, his throat muscles paralyzed and an inability to swallow.
Distemper, unlike rabies is more apt to effect puppies than adult dogs. They are believed to be protected from it during the first 6 weeks of life thanks to the colostrums in their mothers milk, but after that "puppy shots" are essential. Immunization is vital at 4 to 6 weeks of age, with follow up shots and regular booster shots thereafter. The earliest symptoms resemble those of a cold: runny nose and eyes, coughing, diarrhea, lack of appetite and fever. Later, nervous disorders appear, including fits and convulsions. There is no cure and treatment consists of dealing with the symptoms as well as with the secondary infections that occur.
Infectious Hepatitis is not the same as human hepatitis. This is a viral disease that effects the dog's liver and is transmitted through saliva and urine. It starts with symptoms such as high fever, immoderate thirst, vomiting, sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of weight, and a humped posture, which eases the pain, caused by the inflamed liver. It may accompany or follow distemper, it develops fast, and the mortality rate is high, especially in puppies.
Dogs are routinely vaccinated against the following diseases:
Distemper, a virus disease which causes chest and gastro-intestinal damage from which some dogs may die and, more unpleasantly, causes brain damage in about half the dogs which get the virus. This develops over 2-3 months and cannot be prevented or treated. Dogs which get this brain damage have fits or become paralysed and need to be put to sleep.
Viral hepatitis is a highly fatal disease affecting the liver.
Two type of Leptospirosis, which are bacterial diseases. Leptospira canicola affects dogs only and damages the kidneys. Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae can affect many mammals, including humans, and causes severe liver and kidney damage. It is carried by rats and presents a definite human health hazard. Up to date protection (which needs annual boosting) is therefore important.
Parvovirus causes a severe gastro-enteritis which is fatal in almost 50% of cases. It affects dogs only.
Parainfluenza is one of several infections causing a cough and is one of the group of infections causing 'Kennel Cough'.
For cats there are two main vaccines which we use routinely. One is against Cat flu, Colds and Viral enteritis, the other is against Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).
Flu and Colds used to be very common before vaccination, especially in catteries. Flu is a serious illness, but is rarely fatal. Cats with flu will need nursing and treating with antibiotics for about 10 days and usually refuse to eat during that period. Colds are less serious in themselves, but after both Flu and Colds there can be troublesome complications such as chronic catarrh (pus from the nose) or very unpleasant chest infections.
Feline viral enteritis is a highly fatal disease but, thanks to vaccination, is rare these days. Very few cats which develop the disease will survive.
Feline Leukaemia Virus is, in my view, badly named as it suggests only leukaemia which, whilst a very serious disease, is very rare. FeLV is a virus spread between cats in saliva so that hissing, grooming or sharing food bowls between cats can allow it to spread. The virus can cause MANY disease processes and true leukaemia (cancer of the blood) is by far the rarest. The commonest problems caused by the virus are cancer of the lymphatic system (which can take many forms), immuno-depression (AIDS) major bone marrow disease and infection by several other organisms which will normally not affect the healthy cat. There is no treatment which will get rid of the virus.
Preventative Care for Pets:Vaccinations
All puppies and kittens require vaccinations starting between ages 6 to 8 weeks old, and carried out usually every 3 weeks until age 16 weeks (4 months of age). Vaccinations are then usually done on an annual basis. Rabies vaccine is available as a one year (annual vaccine) and a three year vaccine (which can be administered every three years). Check with your veterinarian on the type of rabies vaccine used in your area.
Vaccines help prevent diseases in puppies and adult dogs such as distemper,, parvo virus infection, adenovirus A and B (hepatitis),, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. These vaccines are sometimes known as "5 or 6 or 7 in one" vaccines, as one vaccine covers the dog for all of these diseases.
Corona virus and Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccines are administered as an option in those dogs exposed to a large group (such as a kennel, dog training class, or dog show). Of these diseases, parainfluenza, hepatitis (viral liver disease), and some varieties of leptospirosis are rarely seen because of routine vaccination. Make sure your veterinarian is using the newer vaccine for leptospirosis containing all the strains of the bacterial organism.
Vaccination for Rabies is usually done when the dog and cat are over 3-4 months of age. Rabies vaccination is repeated in one year after the initial vaccine, and then annually or every 3 years depending upon the rabies vaccine used in your area by your veterinarian. Vaccination is also available for Lymes disease. This condition is usually seen in the northeastern United States. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations regarding lymes disease incidence and vaccination in your area.
Kittens and adult cats are vaccinated against diseases such as feline panleukopenia (parvo), feline viral rhinopneumonitis, Chlamydia, and calicivirus in an all in one vaccine. Feline Leukemia virus and FIP (Feline infectious peritonitis) are other available vaccines.
Leukemia vaccination is highly recommended in cats that go outdoors, and are in potential contact with other cats. Cats allowed only on the screened in porch, may also be exposed to outside cat saliva and/or urine if an outside cat urinates through the screen, or decides to spit or sneeze through the screen at the inside cat.FIP vaccine is now a controversial vaccination, and rarely used unless in a breeding facility or cattery (multiple cat facility/household).Recently, some vaccinations have been shown to be effective beyond the one year period, some up to three years. This is true for the 3 year rabies vaccination. Check with your veterinarian on which type of vaccines are being used in your area, and the recommended frequency of administration.