August is vaccine awareness month so let’s have a discussion.
Forms of vaccinations were being administered as early as the early 1700’s. Anyone who saw the series ‘John Adams’ on HBO a few years ago watched with horror as physicians would make small lacerations into patients skin and then take samples from active small pox lesions of infected people and place them in these wounds. The results were varying degrees of illness that most patients survived and had a permanent immunity to the disease. Many of us older folks have scars from a much safer version of this type of immunization, the result being the eradication of small pox from this country.
Through the years medical scientists have discovered methods of modifying viruses to be used as vaccines. Many diseases such as polio have been eliminated making our lives safer and longer. Today, genetic manipulation is helping to create a multitude of vaccines that are safe and effective.
Veterinary scientists have participated and often led in this research. The end result has been many safe vaccines for our pets and farm animals. This is probably the number one factor in extending the life-spans of our pets.
The effectiveness of these new age vaccines has dramatically changed how we use them. So, let’s discuss what we recommend for your pets.
Here at Lifetime Pet Centers we develop a vaccine protocol for each individual patient. (Note that all puppies and kittens require a series of core immunizations during their first 4 to 6 months of life.) Here is a list and brief synopsis on how we use them:
DA2P-CPV-C: commonly referred to as “6 in 1.” This is a core vaccine, meaning that all dogs should receive this. Puppies go through a series of these to be sure they are properly vaccinated. They receive a booster at a year and then every 3 years thereafter. Recent advancements have allowed us to stop the annual boosters of this particular vaccine. The vaccine covers 6 diseases, including Distemper and Parvovirus. Both of these diseases are potentially fatal, with Distemper leaving permanent neurological problems to patients that are affected.
Rabies: The vaccine everyone knows about. This is a core vaccine given once as a puppy, again at a year and then every 3 years for their lifetime. Everyone knows this disease is transmitted by bite, with agonizing symptoms before death.
Bordatella: Commonly called “kennel cough”, the vaccine comes in three forms: nasal, oral, or injectable. We consider it a core vaccine because we see so many cases every year. It is not fatal unless complicated with pneumonia, but does tend to linger for days up to weeks keeping owners up all night listening to uncontrollable coughing.
Leptospirosis: This is a disease of most warm blooded animals, including humans. It infects the liver and kidneys and if left untreated is potentially fatal. It is transmitted via urine. We recommend this vaccine for all dogs spending much time outdoors where there is a potential for exposure to wildlife. It is given as a series to puppies with annual boosters.
Lymes Disease: Transmitted by the Deer Tick, this disease causes flu-like symptoms and erosion of cartilage in the joints, leading to permanent disability. It can infect other organs including the nervous system. It is treatable in the early stages. It is communicable to humans via the tick, not the dog. Currently , we recommend this vaccine only if the patient is travelling to an area known to be endemic for the disease. However, the Deer Tick has been migrating into our area and the vaccine may eventually be recommended for all dogs.
Flu Vaccine (H3N8): This has been showing up in the south and east especially in dense population scenarios like shelters. Most shelters are using it. We are not yet recommending it because we have seen no cases. However, this could change if we start seeing infections.
FeCVR-C: Commonly referred to as the “4 in 1 vaccine,” we consider it a core vaccine. It covers Feline Panleukopenia (distemper), and 3 common respiratory viruses. Kittens go through a series with a booster given at a year and then every other year after that. In all likelihood it will be extended to every 3 years. It is important to start early as some cats have the potential to become carriers of the respiratory viruses, becoming sporadically ill for the rest of their lives.
FELV or Feline Leukemia: We consider it a core vaccine. Developed in the 70s, it was to be boostered annually. Much research has been done on this vaccine and the leukemia virus infection since that time. The protocol has changed dramatically through the years. The disease is relatively common and usually infects very young kittens. They usually will not develop symptoms until 1 to 3 years of age; this is why we recommend testing all kittens for the disease on their first visit to the office. Currently, we recommend all kittens get the 2 shot series followed by a booster at a year. We may booster outdoor cats later in life, but indoor cats are usually not given any further boosters.
FIV: This is Feline Immunodeficiency Disease or “kitty AIDS.” It is not communicable to humans but has similar symptoms. The virus attacks the immune system but symptoms may not appear for years. We recommend testing for exposure on the first visit. It is transmitted by bodily fluids, most commonly by feral cat bites. We recommend it for outdoor cats. Kittens go through a series and annual boosters are given.
These are the vaccines we use. Others are available that we will not discuss because they are currently not indicated in this area.
I know you can get online and read about the horrors of vaccinating. This makes my head explode! As you see by the above discussion constant research is being done on the effectiveness and safety of vaccine use and modifications are being made constantly. Because of this we have limited the number of immunizations to our patients and extended their lives dramatically in the process.
Burned into my brain is the the memory of the original Parvo Virus outbreak, before a vaccine was developed. The infection caused an explosive hemorrhagic diarrhea with severe nausea. We literally had dozens of puppies and adult dogs hospitalized, being administered IV fluids and antibiotics. Hydration was key along with keeping electrolytes balanced. The virus had to run its course and fatalities in the early outbreak ran as high as 70%. However, within weeks a vaccine was developed and rationing began. The disease was under control within a year. I was so very proud of our veterinary research facilities for this rapid response. Anyone who doubts the importance of vaccines and our research capabilities should ask us about this outbreak.
So, as a responsible pet owner, you owe it to your pet and to yourself to properly immunize your pets under professional care. Over the counter vaccines bought at farm supplies are unacceptable to us. You don’t know if they were shipped and stored properly, if the manufacturer is reputable, and if reconstitution and administration is being done correctly. Without proper consultation you may be administering an unnecessary vaccine. Also, your pet misses the pre-vaccine exam. Vaccines administered to a sick animal in all likelihood will be ineffective and possibly do harm.
Call us for consultation on what your little friends’ vaccines needs are and enjoy years of companionship.