Vaccination concerns are rampant in human medicine, and those worries are naturally mirrored in pet health care. Pet owners want to do what’s best for their beloved companions, but they worry about the potential harm. So, what’s a concerned pet owner to do? Here’s the scoop on the vaccines we recommend for your furry friend.

What is a vaccine?

Vaccines are the weakened or dead forms of the bacteria or virus we are trying to protect your pet against. These weakened strains stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that will fight off future disease. The vaccination type determines the length of immunity and the need for a booster to keep your pet safe.

Vaccinations are an essential component of a healthy immune system, so refusing to vaccinate  is unwise. Veterinary medicine vaccinates pets based on lifestyle, preventing unnecessary vaccination. When your pet visits us for a routine wellness exam and is due for her vaccinations, we will evaluate her lifestyle and judge her disease risk level based on her activities. The disease severity, public health concerns, and treatment response help us classify a vaccination as core or non-core. A core classification means all pets need that vaccination, whereas a non-core classification means the vaccination is only necessary for pets who lead a certain lifestyle.

Vaccinations for your dog

We follow the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) guidelines for vaccinating your pet. According to AAHA, all dogs require the following vaccinations:

  • Core vaccinations
    • Distemper — This virus is spread through coughing, sneezing, contaminated objects, direct contact with infected animals, or from mother to offspring. The first signs are red, watery eyes, nasal discharge, and sometimes fever. The virus then spreads to the gastrointestinal tract, causing appetite loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Prompt supportive care is the only treatment, and the pet may still suffer from lifelong neurological issues, such as seizures, tremors, and nerve damage, if she survives.
    • Parvovirus — Parvo is a hardy, highly contagious disease spread through contact with infective feces. Parvovirus attacks dividing cells and white blood cells, commonly focusing on the gastrointestinal tract, but sometimes the heart. Distinctive diarrhea that may become bloody due to the shedding of the intestinal lining, vomiting, inappetence, and lethargy are also commonly seen with a parvo infection.
    • Adenovirus — This disease, which is spread by body fluids, has two strains—one that causes respiratory issues and one that attacks the liver. Signs can include coughing, corneal edema, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased thirst.
    • Parainfluenza — This virus is part of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex. Parainfluenza is transmitted by aerosolized viral particles and spreads easily in areas with high dog populations. Signs include a dry, hacking cough, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, and pneumonia.
    • Rabies — This virus is transmitted through contact with infected saliva, usually from a bite. Signs include loss of appetite; change in voice; behavior changes; hypersensitivity to light, touch, and sound; disorientation; staggering; paralysis of the throat muscles; and death.

We may recommend the following vaccinations based on your dog’s risk of exposure:

  • Non-core vaccinations
    • Bordetella — Spread by coughing, sneezing, barking, or even dander, this bacterium easily spreads to other dogs, especially those housed in close quarters. Signs are a dry cough, fever, lethargy, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
    • Canine influenza — The two strains of canine influenza in the U.S.—H3N8 and H3N2—are spread through coughing, sneezing, barking, and direct contact. Signs of the dog flu include a persistent cough, nasal or eye discharge, lethargy, and decreased appetite.
    • Lyme — Transmitted when a black-legged tick bites, Lyme disease signs commonly include shifting leg lameness, fever, inappetence, and lethargy.
    • Leptospirosis — This bacterium is found in contaminated soil or water and the urine of infected mammals. Lepto can lead to kidney and liver failure, causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but will appear in the beginning stages as soreness, shivering, weakness, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Vaccinations for your cat

Vaccination guidelines also have been developed to keep cats safe. The following vaccinations are necessary for all cats:

  • Core vaccinations
    • Feline viral rhinotracheitis or herpesvirus — This virus causes severe respiratory illness, shown by sneezing, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers, and pneumonia. Transmission is through contact with secretions from the mouth, nose, or eyes, or from contaminated objects.
    • Calicivirus — This disease is one of the main causes of respiratory illness in cats,  and spreads easily through sneezing and direct or indirect contact. Signs include mouth sores, sneezing, fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, and appetite loss.
    • Rabies — All species, including cats and dogs, exhibit the same signs.
    • Panleukopenia — This feline parvovirus is transmitted through contact with contaminated feces. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and anorexia.

We may recommend the following vaccination based on your cat’s risk of exposure:

  • Non-core vaccination
    • Leukemia — This virus is transmitted through body fluids, usually through sustained close contact, such as fighting, grooming, and sharing the food and water dishes and litter box with an infected cat. As the infection progresses, signs may include anemia, lymphoma, or another disease caused by a weakened immune system.

Are your pet’s vaccinations due? Schedule an appointment at our hospital for vaccine boosters to protect your furry friend from deadly diseases and help ensure she lives a long, healthy life.