Vaccines are an important part of a pet’s wellness plan, because unprotected pets can contract serious, potentially life-threatening, diseases. Our team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic wants to provide information about protecting your pets from certain diseases by keeping their vaccines up to date.
Core vaccines in dogs
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines core vaccinations as “those that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, highly infectious, and those posing a risk of severe disease.” Core vaccines are recommended for all pets. For dogs, they include:
- Rabies — Rabies is a viral disease, typically transmitted through an infected animal’s bite. In North America, important infection sources are skunks, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and bats. When the virus enters the body, the pathogen reproduces in the peripheral nerves, and spreads to the salivary glands, allowing the virus to shed in the saliva. The incubation period is typically about two weeks to four months, and the closer the bite is to the brain and spinal cord, the quicker signs will show. Signs include paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and aggression. Humans are also susceptible to rabies, which means an infected pet can pass the disease to their owner.
- Canine distemper — Canine distemper is a viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system of puppies and dogs. The virus is most commonly transmitted through airborne droplets, but also through shared food, water bowls, and equipment. Foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, mink, and ferrets can also transmit the virus. Signs include ocular discharge, fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and vomiting. As the disease progresses and attacks the nervous system, signs include circling, head tilt, muscle twitches, and convulsions.
- Parvovirus — Parvovirus is a viral disease that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies and dogs, and is spread by infected fecal matter, environments, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, or a person’s hands or clothing. Signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, bloating, fever, vomiting, and severe, bloody diarrhea. Death typically occurs 48 to 72 hours after clinical signs begin.
- Infectious hepatitis — Infectious hepatitis is a viral disease caused by an adenovirus that attacks the liver of puppies and dogs, and is transmitted by urine, or ocular or nasal discharge from an infected dog. In mild cases, signs include decreased appetite, lethargy, and mild fever. Some dogs develop cataracts, which make their eyes look cloudy, and some have respiratory problems, including a cough, and ocular and nasal discharge. In severe cases, usually in puppies, signs include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice.
Optional vaccines in dogs
Depending on your dog’s lifestyle, our veterinary professionals may recommend additional vaccines, including:
- Lyme disease — Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that causes signs including lethargy, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and joint swelling and pain.
- Leptospirosis — Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria shed in an infected animal’s urine. Signs include fever, muscle tenderness, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and jaundice.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica — B. bronchiseptica is a bacterial disease that causes kennel cough, with signs that include a dry, hacking cough, nasal discharge, and lethargy. The disease can be transmitted through direct contact and airborne transmission.
- Canine influenza virus — Canine influenza is a viral infection spread by direct contact, nasal secretions, and contaminated objects and people. Signs include fever, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy.
- Parainfluenza virus — Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious viral infection and another pathogen commonly isolated in dogs affected by kennel cough. Signs include coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy.
Core vaccines in cats
Vaccines recommended for all cats include:
- Rabies — Rabies signs in cats include behavioral changes, aggression, drooling, and loss of muscle control.
- Feline herpesvirus — Feline herpesvirus 1 (i.e., feline viral rhinotracheitis) is a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory infections in cats and kittens. Transmission occurs through direct contact, inhaling respiratory droplets, sharing food bowls and litter trays, and contaminated environments. Signs include conjunctivitis, ocular discharge, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite, and fever.
- Calicivirus — Calicivirus is a highly contagious viral disease that causes mild to severe respiratory infections and oral disease in cats and kittens. Transmission most commonly occurs through direct contact and inhaling respiratory droplets. Signs include sneezing, nasal congestion, fever, and drooling. In severe cases, the cat’s mouth lining and tongue will be inflamed and ulcerated.
- Panleukopenia — Panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease caused by the feline parvovirus that attacks rapidly growing cells in the bone marrow, intestines, and the developing fetus. Transmission occurs when a cat contacts infected urine, fecal matter, or nasal secretions. Signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and nasal discharge.
Optional vaccines in cats
Depending on your cat’s lifestyle, our veterinary professionals may recommend additional vaccines, including:
- Feline leukemia (FeLV) — FeLV is a virus that attacks the cat’s immune system and is most commonly transmitted through direct contact. Infection increases a cat’s cancer risk and suppresses the immune system, making the cat more susceptible to infection. Other common issues include anemia, abortion, intestinal inflammation, and neurological and ocular diseases.
- Feline immunodeficiency (FIV) — FIV is a viral infection that attacks the cat’s immune system and is most commonly transmitted through an infected cat’s bite. FIV-infected cats are at higher risk for secondary infections. The skin, eyes, urinary tract, and upper respiratory tract are commonly affected.
- Chlamydophila felis — Chlamydophila felis is a bacterial infection that causes conjunctivitis in cats and is transmitted through direct contact. Signs include swollen and inflamed conjunctiva, and ocular discharge.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica — Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection that causes respiratory disease in cats, and is transmitted through direct contact and inhaling infected respiratory droplets. Signs include sneezing, fever, and nasal and ocular discharge.
Ensuring your pets remain up to date on their vaccinations is the best way to protect them against these dangerous diseases. If your pet is due for their vaccinations, or you have questions about which vaccines they need, contact our team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic to schedule an appointment.