Furry family members mean almost as much to you as their human counterparts – if not just as much! Therefore, why not give them all the same tools to live long, stay strong and experience maximum health?

Vaccines are an inescapable part of any preventative health care for pets. They help animals fight disease before it takes hold, and keep pet populations as a whole safe from infection. To see exactly why vaccines are so important and how best to ensure your pet’s safety, it’s critical to understand how they work.

Here are some of the most common questions, and their answers.

Cat getting a vaccine

How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines administer a very low dose of a pathogen to a pet, so that their immune system can “learn” to fight it. When a virus or bacteria enters the animal’s body for the first time, they will not possess an immunity, but introducing the disease prompts their system to manufacture antibodies to help fight it, explains the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Those antibodies then live in their bloodstream from then on, so should they encounter that pathogen in real life, full-strength, they will already have the tools to fight it.

Will My Pet Be 100 Percent Immune?

This is a tricky question. Some animals who receive vaccines do develop total immunity. Others only develop partial immunity. Still others, if they don’t receive booster shots regularly, may lose part or all of their previous immunity.

That’s why the concept of “herd immunity” is so important. When the entire population susceptible to a particular disease is vaccinated, the disease can’t find a foothold. Therefore, even if an animal didn’t have 100 percent immunity, it wouldn’t matter, because other animals couldn’t get infected and pass it on.

However, today’s reports show that not nearly enough animals are getting vaccinated. Let’s all work to change that.

Which Vaccines Does My Pet Need?

Your pet needs “core” vaccines and may need “non-core” vaccines. Core vaccines for dogs include canine parvovirus, canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis and rabies. Core inoculations for cats include feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, feline rhinotracheitis and rabies.

Depending on your individual dog or cat, your vet may recommend other vaccines as well. For instance, if your cat is at risk of developing feline leukemia, we may advise a vaccine to help combat the chance. If your dog is a lover of tall grass and woods, we may recommend a Lyme or leptospirosis vaccine.

Are There Side Effects to Vaccinating?

Typically, no. Vaccines are safe and well-vetted. We, in veterinary medicine have been using the same vaccines on dogs and cats for years. It is very rare but some pets may experience a bit of mild fever or discomfort associated with the low dose of the disease they’ve received. Extremely rare but noted, you may notice a serious allergic reaction: itching and swelling of the skin and face, vomiting and diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of this, please seek veterinary assistance right away. 

Vaccinations are a routine part of any pet’s life to help keep them healthy and protected against anything that they may come in contact with. 

Want to learn more about vaccinating today? Feel free to get in touch with us at (508) 252-3608!

Which Vaccine is for What? 

Feline FVRCP: 

For cats, a combination vaccine (abbreviated FVRCP) covers rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Your cat will only receive one shot but will be vaccinated against all three viruses.

Feline Rabies:

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require regular rabies vaccinations. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws and requirements in your area.

Of course, your veterinarian should weigh in and can always provide more information and guidance if needed on necessary and optional vaccinations.

Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1; Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis):

Feline herpesvirus causes upper respiratory infections and eye infections. It is extremely contagious between cats, and once infected, cats can be asymptomatic carriers for their lifetime.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV):

Feline leukemia virus is not leukemia, nor is it cancer. It is a virus. However, because the virus suppresses a cat’s immune system, it can cause a cat to develop cancer as well as other infections and illnesses.

Canine Bordetella Bronchiseptica:

This highly infectious bacterium causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, often proof of this vaccination will be a requirement.

Canine Distemper: 

A severe and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals, distemper spreads through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. It causes discharges from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. This disease used to be known as “hard pad” because it causes the footpad to thicken and harden.

There is no cure for distemper. Treatment consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections, control symptoms of vomiting, seizures and more. If the animal survives the symptoms, it is hoped that the dog’s immune system will have a chance to fight it off. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months.

Canine Hepatitis:

Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of the affected dog. This disease of the liver is caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill. There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza:

One of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.

Canine Coronavirus:

The canine coronavirus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people. COVID-19 is not thought to be a health threat to dogs, and there is no evidence it makes dogs sick. Canine coronavirus usually affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems, though it can also cause respiratory infections. Signs include most GI symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors can keep a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable, and help alleviate nausea, but no drug kills coronaviruses.

Canine Heartwormm Prevention:

When your puppy is around 12-to-16 weeks, talk to your vet about starting a heartworm preventive. Though there is no vaccine for this condition, it is preventable with regularly administered heartworm medication that your veterinarian will prescribe.

The name is descriptive — these worms lodge in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries (that send blood to the lungs), though they can travel through the rest of the body and sometimes invade the liver and kidneys. The worms can grow to 14 inches long and, if clumped together, block and injure organs.

A new heartworm infection often causes no symptoms, though dogs in later stages of the disease may cough, become lethargic, lose their appetite or have difficulty breathing. Infected dogs may tire after mild exercise. Unlike most of the conditions listed here, which are passed by urine, feces, and other body fluids, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Therefore, diagnosis is made via a blood test and not a fecal exam.

Canine Kennel Cough:

Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza, and often involves multiple infections simultaneously. Usually, the disease is mild, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing; sometimes it’s severe enough to spur retching and gagging, along with a loss of appetite. In rare cases, it can be deadly. It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels. Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Cough suppressants can make a dog more comfortable.

Canine Leptospirosis:

Unlike most diseases on this list, Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, and some dogs may show no symptoms at all. Leptospirosis can be found worldwide in soil and water. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and lethargy, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, infertility, kidney failure (with or without liver failure). Antibiotics are effective, and the sooner they are given, the better.

Canine Lyme Disease:

Unlike the famous “bull’s-eye” rash that people exposed to Lyme disease often spot, no such telltale symptom occurs in dogs. Lyme disease (or borreliosis) is an infectious, tick-borne disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. Transmitted via ticks, an infected dog often starts limping, his lymph nodes swell, his temperature rises, and he stops eating. The disease can affect his heart, kidney, and joints, among other things, or lead to neurological disorders if left untreated. If diagnosed quickly, a course of antibiotics is extremely helpful, though relapses can occur months or even years later.

Canine Parvovirus:

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age are at the most risk to contract it. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until his immune system beats the illness.

Canine Rabies:

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require regular rabies vaccinations. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws and requirements in your area.

Of course, your veterinarian should weigh in and can always provide more information and guidance if needed on necessary and optional vaccinations. Each vaccination schedule may vary for every pet. Speak with your veterinarian today to set one up for you beloved companion. 

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