Creating a Vaccination Schedule for Your Pet
So much has been said lately about the (very real) risks associated with vaccinations, that I wanted to take a minute (or a month) and remind us all, myself included, of the amazing things that vaccines, when used wisely and appropriately, are capable of accomplishing.
Vaccines contain modified antigens (germs) whose purpose is to safely expose the immune system to a specific disease. The immune system responds by creating antibodies and other immune components that “remember” the disease and protect the pet if exposed in Real Life.
Deciding on a Vaccination Protocol
The following recommendations are fairly standard, but reflect my own opinions regarding vaccination schedules and are tailored to pets in
Core and Non-Core Vaccines
- Core vaccines - vaccines that are recommended for all pets.
- Non-core vaccines - vaccines that are chosen based on a pet’s age, lifestyle, overall health, region, and future traveling and relocation plans.
Core Dog Vaccines
Rabies - Rabies is a highly infectious viral disease that invariably causes neurological signs and death. All mammals, including humans, are susceptible. It is present in some wildlife populations in Nebraska. We are blessed in America to have very few human cases of rabies. However, an average of 55,000 human cases of rabies are diagnosed every year worldwide. In Omaha, all cats, dogs, and ferrets are legally required to be vaccinated against rabies.
Canine Distemper - Canine distemper is a viral disease that causes severe and often fatal respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms in dogs and ferrets. In older dogs that have survived distemper as a young dog or puppy, neurological signs can develop. It is present in Omaha, but uncommon due to strong puppy vaccination protocols.
Canine Infectious Hepatitis - Canine infectious hepatitis is a viral liver disease that is caused by Canine Adenovirus 1. We vaccinate against Canine Adenovirus 2 (a disease that can cause or contribute to canine kennel cough) because it is a safer vaccine, and it is cross-protective for the related and much more dangerous Canine Adenovirus 1.
Canine Parvovirus - Canine parvovirus causes a severe, painful gastroenteritis most often in puppies. It is very contagious and often fatal without treatment. With aggressive in-hospital treatment, puppies usually (but not always) survive and recover completely. Parvovirus is present in and around Omaha.
Non-Core Dog Vaccines
Canine Kennel Cough – Canine kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is most often caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. It may also be caused or worsened by parainfluenza, adenovirus-2, and other bacteria and viruses. It is very contagious via respiratory secretions. Infectious tracheobronchitis is very common in and around Omaha. Consider this vaccine if your pet will be in close contact with other dogs, such as at boarding facilities, grooming salons, dog parks, training classes, or pet stores.
Leptospirosis - Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that most commonly affects the urinary system and the liver of mammals, including people. It is harbored by wildlife, including that of Nebraska and thought to be most commonly contracted by infected water entering through abraded skin or mucous membranes. Consider the leptospirosis vaccine if your pet plays or works outdoors, camps, or even walks in areas he or she may be exposed to outdoor water.
Lyme - Lyme disease is a rickettsial disease carried by the deer tick. Finally, a germ we most likely do not have in Omaha! However, we do have deer, and our area is a suitable habitat for the deer tick. People may also contract lyme disease, not from pets directly, but from the same deer tick that may infect our pets. It may be only a matter of time before the deer tick finds its way to Omaha. Consider your pet’s unique situation and any travel or relocation plans in deciding whether to vaccinate against lyme disease.
Canine Influenza - This is a fairly newly recognized disease (2004), mainly among kennels in the northeast
Core Cat Vaccines
Rabies - (see above)
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis – Feline herpesvirus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis that is highly contagious (to other cats only) through respiratory secretions. It most commonly causes sneezing and watery eyes.
Calicivirus – Calicivirus also causes a highly contagious upper respiratory disease, often in conjunction with feline viral rhinotracheitis. Calicivirus may also cause painful oral ulcers. Respiratory disease due to feline viral rhinotracheitis and calicivirus are very common in Omaha, in owned and stray cats.
Panleukopenia – Panleukopenia is a feline parvovirus that is often fatal. It lowers white blood cell numbers and also can cause damage to the cerebellum (the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement). Cats who recover from panleukopenia may have permanent issues with their neurological systems, including an abnormal gait, “intention tremors,” and balance problems. With special care, surviving cats can do very well. This disease is present in Omaha, but uncommon due to strong vaccine protocols.
Non-core Cat Vaccines
Feline Leukemia – Feline leukemia is a contagious viral disease that is preventable through lifestyle modification or vaccination or both. It is manageable but eventually fatal, usually due to immune system suppression combined with a secondary infection. Kittens and young adult cats are at the highest risk. Consider this vaccination if your cat spends unsupervised time outdoors or is an escape artist.
Core Ferret Vaccines
Ferrets should be vaccinated yearly for rabies and canine distemper with ferret-specific vaccines. Presently no non-core vaccines are recommended for ferrets in the United States.
Further Resources for Veterinary Vaccine Protocol Recommendations:
- American Animal Hospital Association
- American Association of Feline Practitioners
- Banfield, The Pet Hospital
- World Small Animal Veterinary Association
Veterinary medicine is constantly advancing and changing as we discover more about diseases and develop better vaccinations. But pet vaccination can be confusing.
I can help you with the specific issues regarding vaccinations of your own pets in the comments section below!