Vaccinations.  The whole world is talking about vaccinations so it seems only fitting that we take a moment to discuss vaccines for our pets.  Almost daily this summer, our isolation room has seen puppies and kittens (and even some adults) suffering with a virus that could have been so easily prevented with a simple vaccine. Many people know that puppies and kittens are susceptible to these viruses but not all realize that adult dogs and cats are as well if they are not properly vaccinated. 

Our pet’s vaccinations protect them from a variety of illnesses/diseases.  There are two types of vaccines: core and lifestyle based.  All pets need the core vaccines and your veterinarian will recommend any necessary lifestyle based vaccinations. We are going to focus two very serious viruses that proper vaccinations can protect our pets from: parvovirus in canines and panleukopenia in felines.  

These viruses cause similar symptoms, internal damage and subsequent complications in both cats and dogs. These viruses destroy rapidly dividing cells lining the intestinal tract and in the bone marrow. Particularly white blood cells are targeted, rapidly lowering the cell count and greatly increasing the chances of secondary infection. 

The most common clinical signs are:

  • vomiting and diarrhea, often hemorrhagic (containing blood)
  • lethargy
  • fever
  • decreased/absent appetite

Treatment of parvovirus and panleukopenia is supportive and symptomatic.  The patient is given the tools they need for their bodies to heal and recover. There is no definitive treatment for these viral infections. Aggressive intravenous fluids, anti-nausea medication, and broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy are key. A hospital stay of several days to a week should be expected. 

Parvovirus and panleukopenia are highly contagious and spread through direct contact with an infected animal, feces or saliva from an infected animal, or by indirect contact with a contaminated object (called a fomite), or a person who has handled a sick pet. These viruses live in the environment for at least a year so until your pet is fully vaccinated, it is better to assume the virus is everywhere. 

So what does being properly vaccinated mean? Your regular veterinarian will be able to guide you through the process of fully vaccinating your pet.  The proper vaccine protocol can vary depending on the age of your pet when you first vaccinate, and what you are vaccinating against.  Some people choose to maintain a yearly vaccination schedule for their pets while some choose to lessen the number of vaccines for indoor only pets.  This is a decision that should be made with your regular vet.  If requested, most veterinarians will run a titer test that checks for the presence of antibodies in the blood stream and determine from there what, if any, vaccines are needed at the time.

It is easy to remember the food, the fresh water, the cozy beds and fun toys when we bring a new pet into our family.  It is vital to begin the vaccination series, too, and maintain booster vaccines throughout your pet’s life, as recommended by your veterinarian.  

We are honored to work with many local veterinarians to help keep your pets healthy and happy!  As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

By Shana D Richardson, PhD