Most pet owners are familiar with vaccinations in the sense that they are something their pet needs to see the veterinarian for each year. However, many owners may not know exactly what their pet is being vaccinated for and why. Here at Bit and Spur Animal Hospital, we follow a protocol recommended by the American Association of Animal Hospitals (AAHA).
Puppies and kittens require a series of 4 sets of vaccinations, spaced 3 weeks apart, starting at 6 weeks of age. This allows us to help build up their immunity to diseases gradually while the immunity they gained from the antibodies in the mother’s milk is decreasing. Puppies are vaccinated against the Distemper virus, Parvo virus, Adenovirus, Corona virus, Leptosporosis, Bordetella, and Parainfluenza. Kittens are vaccinated against feline distemper, which includes Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Once finishing their series of vaccinations, puppies and kittens will need their annual vaccinations one year later. They will be considered an adult and follow the adult schedule.
Recently changes have been made to the adult dog vaccination schedule. Rabies, distemper, parvo, and adenovirus are recommended every 3 years. During this transition period, all dogs will need to receive their first “three year vaccine.” Leptosporosis is still recommended to be given annually. The kennel cough vaccine is recommended every 6 months. While we are decreasing the vaccinations given each year, it is still recommended to get annual physical examinations, heartworm testing, and fecal checks.
All feline vaccinations are still recommended each year. This is due to the difference in the type of vaccines given to dogs versus cats. Cats should receive vaccinations for rabies, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia yearly. Bordetella is recommended every 6 months. The leukemia and FIV vaccines are given annually based on risk of exposure. Each cat’s risk will be assessed by your veterinarian.
Below is a brief description of each of the diseases your pet is vaccinated against:
Distemper – Dogs are affected with this virus by coming in contact with another infected dog. It attacks the mucous membranes lining the respiratory tract. Dogs infected with this virus start showing signs of a respiratory infection, which then progresses to pneumonia. Over time the virus begins to affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting and diarrhea, and may eventually reach the brain and cause seizures.
Parvo – The parvo virus is passed in the feces of other infected dogs and is able to exist for long periods of time in the environment. The virus first attacks the cells of the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea, which is potentially fatal. It can also attack the cells of the bone marrow. Puppies are extremely susceptible to this disease because they have not been exposed to it in order to build up immunity.
Adenovirus – This virus exists in the environment and infects multiple areas of a dog’s body. Some strains can cause respiratory disease, while other strains may lead to hepatitis, or liver disease.
Corona – This virus infects the gastrointestinal tracts and usually leads to diarrhea. Typically, only puppies are susceptible to this disease, so older dogs are not vaccinated against it.
Bordetella / Parainfluenza – These highly contagious organisms cause respiratory disease, characterized by a hacking cough. It is also known as “kennel cough.” Dogs and cats are infected by being around other infected animals, especially in boarding or grooming situations. This vaccine can be given as an injection like the other vaccines, but is routinely given in the nose because it is effective faster.
Leptospirosis – Leptosporosis is a bacteria that thrives in wet, warm areas. It is typically ingested and spreads throughout the body. It usually leads to kidney and liver failure in dogs.
Rabies – The rabies virus is the most well-known disease we vaccinate against. Dogs and cats are required by law to receive this vaccine. Young animals receive their first rabies vaccine at 3 months of age. Rabies is a fatal neurologic disease that is contagious to humans and is spread through bite wounds.
Rhinotracheitis / Calicivirus / Panleukopenia – These viruses cause upper respiratory infections in cats and are typically included together in a single vaccine, which is sometimes referred to as the “feline distemper” vaccine.
Feline Leukemia Virus – This virus is spread by close contact or from the mother to her kittens. The virus attacks the bone marrow and causes immunosuppression. It can also lead to lymphoma, or cancer of lymphatic system.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – This virus is similar to HIV in humans, but it is not contagious to people. It is spread through bite wounds. Much like HIV, it causes immunosuppression in the cat.
Vaccinations are a very important part of preventing diseases in our pets. Many diseases are rarely seen anymore due to the vaccination protocols used at most veterinary clinics. By following vaccination recommendations, we can help our pets to live long, healthy lives! Call us today to schedule your pet’s wellness and vaccination appointment!