What are vaccines?
Vaccines contain viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms that have been killed or altered so that they can no longer cause disease. When given to an animal, vaccines will stimulate the body’s immune system to form disease fighting cells and proteins (known as antibodies) to protect against the disease.
Although the protection from vaccines can be reduced by poor health and poor nutrition, most vaccinated animals will be resistant to the disease for which they are fully vaccinated.
How Vaccines Are Given?
Most vaccines are given by injection, either under the skin or into the muscle. Some vaccines may be administered as drops into the nostril.
Most commonly, pets will feel tired, may run a fever for 24 to 48 hours after vaccination, and may not eat. In some pets, a small, non-painful lump may form at the site where the vaccine was injected, usually disappearing 4 weeks later. Rarely pets develop facial swelling or a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties and collapse. Intense facial itchiness may also occur. Anaphylactic reactions are rarely fatal if treated immediately and appropriately.
Which Vaccines Does My Dog Need?
Dogs should be vaccinated against those diseases that are widespread, cause serious illness, and/or are highly contagious (core vaccines). In addition, other vaccines may be recommended based on the risk they pose to individual dogs (non-core vaccines). These may include: Leptospirosis, Bordetella (Kennel Cough), or Lyme Disease.
This disease causes respiratory, digestive, and nervous system signs in affected dogs, and can be fatal in about half of unvaccinated dogs. Recovered dogs may have permanent damage to their nervous systems. The chronic form of the disease can lead to thickening of foot pads, and encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Some dogs that acquire the virus show no signs or very mild signs, but can easily infect other susceptible dogs. Unvaccinated dogs are at a 350 fold increased risk of contracting this highly contagious disease which is spread by discharges from the nose and eyes of infected dogs.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
This virus is spread through infected urine. It may cause liver failure, eye damage, respiratory problems, and can be fatal. Commonly encountered clinical signs are vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and, occasionally, coughing.
Infection is both serious and widespread in dogs. Signs, which include severe vomiting and diarrhea with blood, result from the virus damaging the gastrointestinal tract. The disease is spread via infected feces. Death in as early as 48 to 72 hours can occur in some dogs, although sudden death can also occur. This virus is very resistant in the environment and is easily carried around on people’s shoes and other objects, leading to virus transfer. For this reason, even indoor hi-rise apartment dogs that never go out require protection. Vaccination is the most effective protective strategy for all dogs, young and old.
Canine Parainfluenza Virus
Characteristic features of kennel cough are a hacking cough, discharge from the nose, and occasional fever. While the parainfluenza virus on its own produces mild symptoms, it is frequently present as a co-infection with other kennel cough agents.
All mammals, including humans, are at risk of contracting rabies, which is almost invariably fatal. Rabid dogs may display a “dumb” form, characterized by listlessness, weakness, and paralysis, or the “furious” form of rabies characterized by abnormal aggression. Less commonly, dogs may just have signs of drooling with their tongue hanging out. Vaccination of dogs and cats is mandatory in our area. Even dogs that do not go outside much should be vaccinated: rabid bats or other wildlife such as skunks and raccoons can enter a fenced yard. Research shows that animals with rabies can shed the virus (infect people) before the signs are obvious, so avoid close contact with a stray. Instead, contact the appropriate authorities to rescue it for you.
Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs
Dogs become infected with the Leptospira bacterium when they come into contact with wet grass, soil, puddles, streams or ponds that have become contaminated by the urine of infected animals, such as raccoons and skunks.
The bacterium attacks the liver and kidneys and can lead to organ damage or failure. It can also spread from dogs to humans.
The best way to protect your dog is to vaccinate against Lepto.
Bordetella (Canine Cough)
This is a disease of the upper respiratory tract of the dog. It is spread through coughing and sneezing. Your dog can catch the disease simply by being in close proximity to an infected dog. Training kennels, humane societies, pet shops, boarding kennels, dog shows, veterinary hospitals, grooming salons or your local park are just some the places where your dog may come in contact with this disease.
Which Vaccinations Does My Cat Need?
All cats should be vaccinated against those diseases that are widespread, cause serious illness, and/or are highly contagious (core vaccines). In addition, other vaccines may be recommended based on the risk they pose to individual cats (non-core vaccines). These may include: Feline Leukemia Virus or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Feline Panleukopenia (distemper)
Panleukopenia is a potentially fatal viral disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration, fever, and sudden death. Kittens born to infected queens may suffer permanent brain damage. This disease is easily prevented through vaccination—vaccination is considered highly effective.
Feline Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and Calicivirus
These organisms infect the airways of cats, causing runny eyes and nose, sneezing, mouth ulcers and poor appetite. Although vaccines may not prevent infection altogether, they often greatly reduce the severity of the disease. Spread is usually by cat-to-cat contact, aerosols from sneezing cats and infected surfaces. High risk kittens may be vaccinated early for these agents, and all cats should receive the vaccinations for these infections. Mild clinical signs may be noted post-vaccination.
All mammals, including humans, are at risk of contracting rabies, which is almost invariably fatal. Rabid pets may display a “dumb” form which is characterized by listlessness, weakness and paralysis, or the “furious” form of rabies characterized by abnormal aggression. Newer vaccines have safe formulations, and are specially designed for felines. Even indoor cats should receive this vaccine as they can sneak out, and wildlife may unexpectedly enter the home.
Non-Core Vaccines for Cats
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
FeLV can cause leukemia (cancer of white blood cells), anemia, and immune suppression leading to susceptibility to other diseases. FeLV is usually spread through catfights, but also through sharing food/water bowls, cats grooming each other, and kittens born to infected mothers. Even healthy cats may harbour infection and spread it to others. If your cat goes outside then they may be at increased risk of exposure.