Proper and timely immunizations are extremely important to the well-being of your pet. Vaccines, given at the proper time, will help strengthen your pet’s immune system to fight off deadly diseases.
So what exactly are vaccines and why should my pet get them? Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If your dog or cat is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.
Essential Vaccinations for Your Dog
- Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (DHPP): Commonly called the “distemper shot,” this combination vaccine actually protects against all four diseases.
- Rabies: Rabies virus is fatal and all mammals, including humans, are susceptible to infection. Rabies vaccinations for dogs are required by law in most states.
Other Vaccines for Dogs
Your veterinarian may also recommend other vaccines for your dog depending on where you live and your dog’s lifestyle:
- Leptospirosis: Often included as part of the distemper combination vaccine (making it a DHLPP), this bacterial infection is most prevalent in moist climates where there are areas of standing or slow-moving water. This disease can also be spread from animals to humans.
- Bordetella (commonly called “kennel cough”): The bordetella virus causes an extremely contagious upper respiratory infection. Your veterinarian may recommend this vaccine before your dog goes to a dog park, groomer, boarding kennel, doggie daycare or dog show.
- Lyme Disease: A bacterial infection carried by ticks, this disease is extremely prevalent in certain parts of the country — in particular, the east and west coasts and the areas around the Great Lakes.
- Canine Influenza: This viral upper respiratory disease originated at a Florida racetrack in 2004 and has quickly spread across the country. Outbreaks are prevalent in animal shelters and boarding kennels.
- Corona Virus: This virus infects the intestinal tract and is more prevalent in the southern United States.
Essential Vaccines for Your Cat
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP): Commonly called the “distemper” shot , this combination vaccine protects against three diseases: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (sometimes called “feline distemper”).
- Rabies: Rabies virus is fatal and all mammals, including humans, are susceptible to infection. Rabies vaccinations for cats are required by law in most states.
Other Vaccines for Cats
Your veterinarian may also recommend other vaccines for your cat depending on where you live and your cat’s lifestyle:
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis, and the vaccination for it is often included in the distemper combination vaccine (making it an FVRCP-C).
- Feline Leukemia (Felv): Felv is a viral infection that is only transmitted through close contact, and this vaccine is generally only recommended for cats that go outdoors.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): FIV is a viral infection that is only transmitted through close contact, and this vaccine is generally only recommended for cats that go outdoors.
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): A viral infection most common in catteries and feral colonies, FIP is almost always fatal. Most house cats do not have a significant risk of contracting this disease.
- Bordetella: This bacteria causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. Your veterinarian may recommend this vaccine before your cat goes to a boarding kennel or groomer.
Bottom line – vaccines are very important in managing the health of your pet. That said, not every animal needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian vaccinations that are right for your companion. Factors that should be examined include age, medical history, environment, travel habits and lifestyle. Your veterinarian can determine what vaccines are best for your pet.
For more information about protecting your pet from parasites, please visit our website or contact our hospital at 619-378-4009 to set up an appointment to talk to our veterinarians.
by Jagpal S. Deo, DVM