A puppy getting vaccinated

Immunizations

As pet owners, we consider our pets to be important members of our family. We want them to live long, healthy, happy lives, not only because their health and happiness contributes to our own health and happiness, but also because we care that they feel and are well. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that our pets receive proper nutrition and health care throughout their lives, and are free from disease.

Pets are susceptible to many different diseases, including both those that are merely inconvenient and uncomfortable as well as others that are incredibly painful, dangerous and even life-threatening. In some cases these diseases can be treated, but the treatment process can be long and difficult–both emotionally and financially. Fortunately, you can help to protect your pet against many of these diseases by immunizing them.

The Basics of Immunizations

Whether they are designed for humans or pets, the basics of immunizations and how they work are the same. Immunizations work to strengthen the immune system against certain diseases. More specifically, they contain antigens that approximate disease-causing organisms without actually bringing about disease. This stimulates the immune system, causing it to fight against the perceived threat, without the threat being a truly dangerous one.

Immunizations prepare the immune system to recognize and fight off diseases, in the event that they are introduced to the body. A prepared immune system means a reduction in the duration and severity of a pet’s illness or even an elimination of illness. Needless to say, this is essential for protecting a pet’s health against particularly aggressive and dangerous diseases–and those that cannot be treated (like rabies).

While immunizations are an important part of maintaining a pet’s good health, it would be inappropriate to immunize every pet against every possible disease. Furthermore, to do so could potentially cause unnecessary stress on the pet’s body, which may result in debilitating illness. However, there are some core pet immunizations that are highly recommended, or even required by law, and that serve to protect a pet’s good health. These core pet immunizations include:

For dogs:

  • Rabies. This viral disease is contagious to all mammals, including humans, causing fever, headache, muscle spasms, paralysis, excess salivation and mental confusion. It cannot be treated and is 100% fatal in dogs.
  • Distemper. This disease is caused by an airborne virus that attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory and nervous systems and can lead to severe medical problems, including permanent brain damage. There is no known cure for canine distemper.
  • Parvovirus. This disease is highly contagious, causing vomiting and bloody diarrhea. If not treated rapidly and aggressively, parvo can be fatal.
  • Adenovirus, type 1. This viral disease can cause upper respiratory tract infections and severe liver damage. It can be fatal.
  • Adenovirus, type 2. This disease is spread through coughing and sneezing, and is often the leading cause of what is commonly known as kennel cough.

For cats:

  • Rabies. This disease cannot be treated and is 100% fatal in cats.
  • Feline distemper. This viral disease causes lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is contagious and severe, sometimes fatal.
  • Feline herpesvirus. This viral disease can cause a highly contagious upper respiratory infection.
  • Calicivirus. This disease is a highly contagious upper respiratory condition that results in joint pain, fever, anorexia and oral ulcerations.

There are some non-core immunizations that can be administered if deemed appropriate and prudent based upon your pet’s breed, age, medical history, environment, lifestyle, travel habits and more.

When Immunizations are Administered

There are many factors your veterinarian will consider in order to determine when to administer immunizations to your pet. Generally speaking, puppies and kittens begin to receive core immunizations when they are between six to eight weeks of age, at three or four-week intervals. These immunizations are normally complete when the puppy or kitten is sixteen weeks of age. Adult dogs and cats receive core immunizations once every year or once every three years, depending upon the immunization.

A Final Thought

Immunizing your pet is the best way to help ensure they experience a healthy, happy life. Even where diseases can be successfully treated, it’s easy to understand that prevention is far better for everyone involved.

For more information about immunizations, or to find out which immunizations may be best for your pet, contact us today!