“What vaccines does my pet need?”
“Are vaccines and annual boosters necessary?”
“What does each vaccine prevent against?”
“Are there adverse side effects?”
These are just a few of the questions we get on a regular basis regarding vaccines. With the high cost of vet visits and emotional discussions regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, you may wonder if it’s worth vaccinating your pet at all. Well, we’re here to tell you it is! We want to cut out all the confusion and give you the facts about vaccines and why they are an essential part of your pet’s preventative wellness care, helping your furry companion lead a long and healthy life!
Rabies is an extremely serious (most-times fatal) virus that infects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals (including humans!). Rabies is spread through the saliva of mammals, most commonly by wildlife such as foxes, bats, raccoons, skunks, cattle, wild dogs and feral cats. Your pets would most likely get rabies by getting bit by a wild animal infected with the virus. Symptoms include seizures, aggression, depression, excess salivation, weakness, coma
Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the transmission of the disease in animals. Vaccinating animals is the best safeguard to prevent the spread of rabies to human as well. Because of the serious health risks to both pets and humans, the rabies vaccine is required by law in most areas of the country, including Florida. Florida law states that all domesticated dogs and cats must be rabies vaccinated by four months of age by a licensed veterinarian and licensed. This license runs concurrently with each pet’s rabies vaccination schedule, therefore if a dog does not receive their rabies booster, they will not be lawfully licensed in the county. There are very few cases where we would not keep an older pet updated on their rabies vaccine. Of course, every pet’s medical history and conditions are different. Your veterinarians will determine the best option for your pet.
DHPP is a combination vaccine. When not named using the acronym above, it is commonly referred to as just canine distemper. The vaccine also protects against hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Along with rabies, DHPP is considered a “core” vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association. Core vaccines are recommended for all pets because they protect against serious, highly contagious, and oftentimes fatal diseases.
D = Distemper
A life-threatening virus that attacks the respiratory, digestive, and brain/nervous system of dogs. Distemper is highly contagious, spread from one dog to another through respiratory secretions from coughs, sneezes, and eye discharge. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, and seizures.
H = Hepatitis
Caused by canine adenovirus-2 and adenovirus-1 and transmitted among dogs by contact with secretions such as saliva, urine, or feces. Hepatitis causes liver failure, eye damage, and respiratory problems. Symptoms are like those in the early stages of distemper.
A highly contagious and life-threatening virus that attacks the digestive and immune systems and is spread through infected feces. The disease is more commonly seen in puppies. Symptoms include severe vomiting and diarrhea and usually requires several days of hospitalization to treat.
P = Parainfluenza
A highly contagious viral respiratory infection that is a contributor for “kennel cough” in dogs. We’ll go into kennel cough in greater detail when we discuss its other contributing virus, Bordetella.
Leptospirosis is a contagious bacterial disease carried by wild animals such as deer, raccoons, mice, and cows. It is spread through an infected animal’s bodily fluids (urine, specifically) or by drinking contaminated water from lakes, streams, etc., and is absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes. Leptospirosis can be passed from pets to humans.
Severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, weakness, liver, and kidney failure
Pets exposed to potentially contaminated water such as streams or ponds, go walking on hiking trails or community dog walks, or swim in our local rivers and lakes are at risk for leptospirosis.
Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
An infection of the trachea (windpipe) and the large air passages of the lungs. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica, and the virus, parainfluenza. Kennel cough is highly contagious and earns its name because it is easily transmitted through direct contact or through the air and rapidly spreads where dogs are confined together, such as kennels, dog parks, pet stores and grooming facilities.
A harsh, dry cough, sneezing, retching, gagging, vomiting
Vaccination is the best preventative measure against kennel cough. We recommend the kennel cough vaccine for all dogs that have the potential to meet potentially infected dogs in public places, such as walking outdoors, beach and groomers.
Are there risks associated with vaccination or adverse side effects to vaccines?
Vaccinations are one of the best tools we have in preventive veterinary medicine. Vaccines have protected millions of animals from illness and death caused by infectious diseases. The key to using vaccines appropriately is to determine which diseases your pet may be at risk for and then vaccinate for those diseases no more than necessary. As we mentioned above, the vaccines your pet needs depend on their age, health status, lifestyle, and what diseases are present in our area.
Vaccines work by mildly stimulating an animal’s immune system to create protection from specific infectious diseases. Because of this, pets may experience mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. This includes:
Discomfort or localized swelling at the vaccination site
Decreased appetite and activity
Sneezing, mild coughing, runny nose, or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after an intranasal vaccine
These symptoms should last no longer than a day or two. Many pets experience no symptoms at all.
Far less common, more serious allergic reactions may occur. These reactions usually occur more quickly, within minutes or hours of vaccination and require immediate veterinary care. These symptoms include persistent vomiting and diarrhea, itchy skin that looks bumpy (like hives), swelling of the muzzle, face, neck, or eyes, severe coughing, difficulty breathing.
With that in mind, we believe the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks and are vital in keeping your pet healthy against infectious diseases. More importantly, we believe strong communication between you and your veterinarian is the key to getting your pet on the appropriate vaccination schedule. With the facts in hand, you can now feel prepared to discuss the various vaccines or ask questions at your next vet appointment!