By Dr. Gary Borgman, Kissimmee Animal Hospital
It is always distressing to veterinarians when we diagnose preventable infectious and potentially fatal diseases of dogs and cats. Unfortunately there is always a significant population of un-owned and unvaccinated animals in Osceola County who periodically contract infectious diseases. These sick animals then contaminate the environment and other animals and the diseases are spread, sometimes to household pets. My goal in writing this article is to increase awareness of protective immunization measures that can be taken to prevent infectious pet diseases.
The “core vaccines” recommended for all dogs are rabies, distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus 2), and parvo. It is common knowledge that rabies can be transmitted by the bite or scratch of an infected animal to dogs, cats, many other mammals and of course humans. Since rabies is an untreatable, always fatal disease, it is essential that all dogs are vaccinated beginning at 12-14 weeks of age, with a booster at one year of age and then a regular booster every three years for the remainder of their life. Cats also need to be vaccinated at 12-14 weeks of age with annual boosters for the rest of their life. While a 3-year vaccine has been approved for cats, we stopped using it in our practices about ten years ago, when it became evident that three year rabies vaccines could cause a very aggressive and dangerous category of cancerous tumors termed fibrosarcoma in feline patients. The one year feline rabies vaccine does not have this problem.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious, viral, respiratory/central nervous system infection which can easily be transmitted by direct and indirect contact in kennels, animal shelters, animal hospitals, grooming shops, or just about anywhere. In advanced stages, the virus affects the central nervous system and cause twitching of body limbs and eventually seizures and death. We begin vaccination of puppies as early as six weeks of age, finishing up at 16 weeks of age and then give regular boosters every three years.
Adenovirus, type 2 is a contagious, relatively mild upper respiratory disease. If we vaccinate puppies for adenovirus 2, we also prevent infectious canine hepatitis which can be very serious and sometimes fatal. We finish up vaccination for adenovirus at 16 week of age and then boost it every three years.
Parvo virus, another of the core vaccines for all dogs, is highly dangerous, easily transmitted, and often fatal. Early symptoms include fever, lethargy, vomiting and anorexia; followed by severe hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, with resulting dehydration, overwhelming toxicity to the body and death in a high percentage of cases. This too is entirely preventable with an appropriate vaccination protocol beginning at 6-8 weeks of age and ending at 16 weeks of age with booster vaccines every three years.
The non-core vaccines for dogs include leptospirosis, lyme disease, bordatella and Influenza. The recommendation for vaccination of dogs for these diseases is based on a risk evaluation for each individual pet.
The veterinarians and staff at Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are available to answer any of your questions concerning the prevention of infectious diseases or any other pet health concerns. We are here to help and to serve.