Why Vaccinate My Pet?
Vaccination is the most effective method to prevent several dangerous infectious diseases, but your pet will not be protected if you don’t keep their vaccinations up to date.
Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants to provide information about pet vaccines to ensure your four-legged friend is safeguarded from infection.
Pet vaccine protection
Vaccinations contain weak or partial versions of pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, that trigger your pet’s immune system to produce antibodies that will identify and destroy the disease-causing organisms. If exposed to the disease, your pet’s body can recognize and fight the infection more effectively. However, this protection gradually declines, and periodic revaccination is necessary to stimulate the immune system to continue to produce protective antibodies. Certain vaccines can also protect you and your family against diseases you could potentially contract from your pet.
Rabies vaccinations for pets
Colorado law requires that dogs and cats 4 months or older be vaccinated against rabies, which helps protect your pet and your family against this deadly disease. In the United States, rabies is most commonly found in wildlife, such as bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks, but your pet can be infected if they are bitten by a rabid animal. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means your infected pet can pass the disease to you and your family. Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system, and once signs manifest, the disease is almost always fatal. Nearly all pets who get rabies are not vaccinated or not up to date on their rabies vaccination. After your pet’s initial rabies vaccination when they are a puppy or kitten, they need a booster at one year and, typically, should then receive a rabies vaccine every three years to remain up to date.
Core vaccinations for dogs
Core vaccines are those recommended for all pets. In addition to rabies, core vaccines for dogs include:
- Parvovirus — Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that commonly causes severe gastrointestinal (GI) illness in puppies. Immunocompromised adult dogs are also at risk. Signs include lethargy, high fever, inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhea, which may be bloody.
- Distemper — Distemper is a viral disease that affects a dog’s respiratory, GI, and nervous systems. Puppies younger than 4 months of age and unvaccinated dogs are at highest risk. Signs include ocular discharge, fever, nasal discharge, cough, lethargy, inappetence, and vomiting. As the disease progresses to the nervous system, signs include circling, head tilt, muscle twitches, and convulsions.
- Infectious hepatitis — Infectious hepatitis is a viral infection that targets a dog’s liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, blood vessel linings, and potentially other organs. In mild cases, signs include mild fever, decreased appetite, nasal discharge, and cough, plus affected dogs may also develop corneal opacity one to two weeks after infection. In severe cases, signs include fever, inappetence, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and jaundice.
Non-core vaccinations for dogs
Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, they may benefit from additional vaccines, which are considered non-core. Non-core vaccinations for dogs include:
- Parainfluenza virus — Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is commonly identified in dogs who have kennel cough. Dogs who frequent boarding kennels, doggy daycare facilities, and dog parks are at higher risk.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica — B. bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection that is commonly identified in dogs with kennel cough. Dogs who frequent boarding kennels, doggy daycare facilities, and dog parks are at higher risk.
- Lyme disease — Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmitted by infected blacklegged ticks. The disease is most common in the northeast United States, but tick vectors are expanding across the country.
- Leptospirosis — Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is most commonly transmitted by ingesting or swimming in urine contaminated water. Dogs who frequent rural areas and enjoy swimming in natural water sources are at higher risk.
- Canine influenza virus — Canine influenza virus is a respiratory disease seen most commonly in dogs who frequent boarding kennels, doggy daycare facilities, and dog parks.
- Western diamondback rattlesnake — The rattlesnake vaccination can help your dog if they are bitten by a rattlesnake by reducing the severity of the bite’s effects. Dogs who commonly encounter rattlesnakes are at higher risk.
Core vaccinations for cats
In addition to rabies, core vaccinations for cats include:
- Panleukopenia — Panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease most common in kittens and unvaccinated cats. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells, such as those found in the bone marrow, intestine, and the developing fetus. Signs include depression, inappetence, fever, vomiting, nasal discharge, and severe diarrhea.
- Calicivirus — Calicivirus is commonly identified in cats with a respiratory disease. Signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and ulcerations on the tongue, hard palate, lips, gums, or nose.
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis — Rhinotracheitis in cats is caused by a herpes virus, and the disease is characterized by respiratory disease and conjunctivitis.
Non-core vaccinations for cats
Non-core vaccinations for cats include:
- Feline leukemia — Feline leukemia is a viral infection that inhibits a cat’s ability to fight infection—and the most common cause of cancer in cats. Cats who live with an infected cat or who are allowed outdoors are at increased risk.
- Chlamydophila felis — C. felis is a bacterial infection that causes conjunctivitis and respiratory signs, and cats in shelters, boarding facilities, and those allowed outdoors are at increased risk.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica — B. bronchiseptica is a bacterial disease that causes respiratory signs in cats, who are at increased risk in shelters and boarding facilities, and if they are allowed outdoors.
Keeping your pet’s vaccines updated is essential to protect them against dangerous infectious diseases. If you would like your pet vaccinated, contact our Fear Free team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, so we can determine an appropriate vaccination regimen that will keep them protected.