One of the major reasons pet owners bring their fur-babies to the vet is for “routine shots.” More and more often there are stories on the news about “overvaccination” or disease
outbreaks. It can be difficult to determine what is best for a beloved pet—to vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? Fortunately, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick MD is here to weigh in on this important topic: what are vaccines, which ones are available, and which are best for a pet?
Vaccines are substances that stimulate an immune response to
bacteria or a virus in a pet or person. They do this by tricking the immune system into thinking that the human or animal who received the vaccine has been infected. The immune system prepares a response to that bacteria or virus, and then saves that information in case of “reinfection.” If the immune system is already familiar with an infection, it responds quickly and strongly. This is how vaccinated pets/people are able to fight off things like the flu so much better than those who are not vaccinated. Think of it like knowing there is a pop quiz coming—the immune system is “studying” when it is vaccinated, so it will perform much better on the test than one that is unprepared.
- Rabies is a zoonotic (will spread to people) virus that causes neurologic complications in affected animals, and it is fatal. For these reasons, rabies vaccination is required by law, even for pets who don’t go outside often. This is because a pet who slips out the door can easily encounter an infected animal—or an infected bat can quickly fly into a home. Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and several other species. Rabies is a
- Distemper is the name given to a virus that attacks the respiratory system. For dogs, the distemper vaccine is often combined with parvovirus and adenovirus vaccines (DAP), and for cats it is combined with calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP). All of these viruses are most likely to attack very young or more elderly pets, but they are very easily spread between members of the same species and can quickly cause an outbreak. Distemper is a core vaccine.
- Leptospiriosis, or “lepto,” is a type of bacteria that attacks the kidneys, nervous system, and liver. Like rabies, it is both zoonotic and fatal. It is spread through the urine of infected animals; in rural areas/suburbs, it is most often found in deer, squirrels, moles, skunks and rabbits, while in more urban areas rodents like mice and rats are the major carriers. Here in Frederick, Lepto is a core vaccine
since we have several documented cases.
- Lyme is a bacteria that is spread by ticks. It can affect people and dogs but cannot be spread from one to the other without tick involvement—this means that ticks are vectors for Lyme disease. Here in Frederick, the Lyme vaccine is a lifestyle vaccine, because not all dogs may be at risk for Lyme. Those that are not at risk are indoor-only dogs who are current year-round on flea and tick preventative. Remember—only a week-long temperature of -10°F will kill ticks during the winter, otherwise they are just looking even harder for a warm body!
- Bordetella is better known as “kennel cough.” It spreads very quickly from dog to dog and causes a slight fever along with its hallmark hacking cough. Environments with lots of dogs in tight
quarters, such as day cares and grooming facilities, are where most infections are likely to occur—so this vaccine is a lifestyle vaccine recommended for dogs who board, groom, or go to dog parks or day care.
- Feline Leukemia, or FeLV, is a virus that is spread from cat to cat via saliva and causes symptoms very similar to leukemia in humans. Also a lifestyle vaccine, FeLV is reccomended only for cats who go outdoors or interact with other cats who do.
That is a lot of information! It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the options out there. Please talk to your veterinarian at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital with any questions or concerns.