Preventive care is the foundation of your pet’s health and wellbeing, and vaccinations are an essential component. By following your veterinarian’s guidelines and ensuring your pet’s vaccines are up-to-date, you can protect them from many dangerous diseases. Vaccinating your pet also helps protect other pets by reducing their exposure to disease. Our Homestead Animal Hospital team explains your pet’s vaccination options, and how these preventive measures protect them.
All pets should receive core vaccines to protect them from diseases with high fatality rates, commonly found in the environment, and easily spread among animals and potentially to humans. Dogs’ risks differ from those of cats, but your veterinarian will recommend the vaccines your pet—whatever their species—should receive.
Core vaccines for dogs
Dogs are social creatures, and often thrive on interacting with other dogs. However, you never know whether an unfamiliar dog your pet encounters has been vaccinated, and may be infected with a viral disease that could sicken your dog. Prevent your pet from contracting an infectious disease by ensuring the have received their core vaccines for viruses such as:
- Rabies — Although the rabies virus is well-known, you may wonder why the disease is so dangerous. Rabies is a neurological disease that spreads through an infected animal’s bite, and is zoonotic (i.e., can be passed from animals to humans). Once clinical signs appear, rabies is nearly always fatal, because no treatment exists. This virus poses a significant threat to humans and animals, and many states, including the State of New York, require the rabies vaccine by law.
- Parvovirus —One of the most highly infectious and often fatal diseases affecting young puppies and unvaccinated dogs, parvovirus is easily passed through fecal contact. Parvo affects the infected dog’s gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.
- Canine hepatitis — Canine hepatitis is a viral infection that affects the liver, and is spread through contact with an infected dog’s feces, urine, or saliva. Canine hepatitis can lead to acute or chronic liver inflammation, and can be fatal to young puppies.
- Canine parainfluenza — This highly contagious respiratory virus is one of the most common causes of infectious tracheobronchitis (i.e., kennel cough). Canine parainfluenza often spreads in close quarters, such as kennels, through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing dogs.
- Canine distemper virus —The canine distemper virus affects the respiratory and nervous systems. Puppies and dogs often become infected through airborne exposure (e.g., sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus is often fatal, and dogs who survive will likely have lifelong neurological issues.
Core vaccines for cats
Although cats are selective about interacting with other pets, they are vulnerable to contracting infectious diseases from infected cats. Your cat may not come face to face with an infected animal, but they can come in contact with their infective urine or feces in your yard. Prevent your pet from contracting an infectious disease by ensuring the have received their core vaccines for viruses such as:
- Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) —While this viral infection is not contagious to people or dogs, the disease is highly contagious among cats. FHV-1 (i.e., feline viral rhinotracheitis) spreads through contact with an infected cat’s saliva, mucous, or other secretions, and can cause serious health problems, including upper respiratory infections and conjunctivitis. The infection can be fatal to kittens and cats who have a compromised immune system.
- Feline calicivirus (FCV) — Feline calicivirus is one of the most common causes of feline upper respiratory infections, and spreads through contact with an infected cat’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, mucus, or blood. This disease can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects, such as food bowls, bedding, or toys. FCV can survive in the environment for several days, potentially threatening unvaccinated cats in the area. Signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, and lethargy.
- Feline panleukopenia (FPV) — Feline panleukopenia (i.e., feline distemper) is a viral infection caused by a feline parvovirus. FPV is most commonly spread through contact with an infected cat’s feces or saliva, but can also spread through contact with contaminated objects, food, or water. The virus can survive in the environment for long periods, making it difficult to prevent the disease’s spread. Virtually all kittens and cats are exposed to FPV at some point, but young kittens, ill cats, and unvaccinated cats are most susceptible to infection. Young kittens have the highest FPV mortality rate, but with an early diagnosis and supportive care, an infected cat’s prognosis greatly improves.
- Rabies —Most people associate rabies with dogs, but the virus can affect any mammal—including cats. Infected wild animals usually transmit rabies to cats through a bite, and an infected cat can pass the virus to humans. New York State requires cats to be vaccinated against rabies.
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) — The feline leukemia virus suppresses the immune system, and can cause anemia, lymphoma, and other deadly infections. FeLV is passed
through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as saliva or nasal secretions. Kittens can also contract leukemia from their mother if she has the infection. FeLV has no treatment, and most infected cats die within three years of diagnosis.
Additional vaccines for pets
Your pet may benefit from additional non-core vaccines (i.e., lifestyle vaccines) based on their exposure risk, including age, where they live, and lifestyle. Non-core vaccines prevent diseases that are common in certain geographic locations, and may not pose a threat to all pets.
Your dog’s infectious disease risk will vary depending on many factors. Your veterinarian will help prevent your dog from contracting specific infectious diseases for which they are uniquely at risk by recommending non-core vaccines for viruses such as:
- Lyme disease
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Canine influenza
Your cat’s infectious disease risk will vary depending on many factors. Your veterinarian will help prevent your cat from contracting specific infectious diseases for which they are uniquely at risk by recommending non-core vaccines for viruses such as:
- Chlamydophila felis
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
Having your pet vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect them from infectious diseases, but vaccines only maintain their effectiveness when they are current. Contact our Homestead Animal Hospital team to discuss your vaccine-related questions, or schedule an appointment to ensure your pet’s vaccinations are current.