Vaccinations: Your Pets’ Best Defense Against Disease

Vaccinations are solutions that contain dead, live or modified live forms of viruses or bacterium called antigens. These solutions are injected into an animal to stimulate an immune system response that creates antibodies to protect against a particular virus or bacterium, without actually causing the disease. Antibodies provide immunity to disease by acting as a line of defense, if an animal encounters a particular disease in an active, infective state in the future. When peak immunity levels of these antibodies are present within an animal’s body they provide protection by fighting infection when they attach themselves to the invading antigen causing it to weaken and be destroyed.

Your veterinarian will assess the disease risk level of your dog (depending on where you live, what daily interaction your dog will have, and the immediate risks of disease in your area) and devise a vaccine protocol to suit your dog’s specific needs. Your puppy’s vaccine protocol will include “core” vaccines that will provide protection against diseases that are known to have a high fatality risk. Your puppy may also receive supplemental “non-core” vaccines for diseases that may be encountered due to their lifestyles (i.e. use of grooming salons or boarding kennels, hiking in known tick endemic areas, and exposure to wildlife latrine areas etc.)

Common Core Vaccines

  • Distemper – An often fatal viral disease causing respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms.
  • Adenovirus Type 2 –  Infectious Canine Hepatitis – Acutely fatal disease that destroys the liver.
  • Parvovirus – A serious disease that causes destruction of intestinal cells leading to gastrointestinal symptoms and suppression of the immune system.
  • Rabies – A fatal virus that can be transmitted to all mammals and affects the central nervous system. Rabies vaccinations are required by law.
  • Parainfluenza Virus –  Contagious virus that causes moderate to severe upper respiratory infections

Non-Core Vaccines

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica – Bacterial cause of a respiratory condition called Kennel Cough.
  • Lyme Disease – Bacterial disease, transmitted by deer ticks, that can cause fever, behavioural, and neurological symptoms.
  • Leptospirosis – Bacterial disease that may cause kidney and liver failure and can be transmitted to humans.

What Diseases Should My Cat Be Vaccinated Against?

All cats and kittens should be vaccinated, whether they leave the house or not as you can bring some diseases home to your cat. Your veterinarian will help you decide the diseases for which your cat is at risk, and what to vaccinate against, but here is some general information.

All three of these viruses can be spread indirectly, meaning that you can bring them inside on your shoes, hands or clothes from touching another cat, or even being wherever another cat has been.

  •  Feline leukemia is a virus that affects the immune system and is always fatal. Although Feline Leukemia Virus is most often spread by direct contact with an affected animal, there have been cases where it has been spread through items in the environment (food bowls, water dishes, etc.) when shared with an infected animal.
  • Rabies is a neurological disease that is spread by bite wounds and is fatal to both animals and humans. Rabies Virus is only spread by direct contact with an infected animal; however, because rabies is a human disease as well, all cats and kittens should be vaccinated, regardless of their risk.

Ask your veterinarian about which vaccines are right for your pet, and when!

With files from Kristina Cooper, RVT (Cooper Kennels, Ancaster, ON) and Dr. Christina McRae (King Street Cat Hospital, Whitby, ON).

PETS Magazine.