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Animal vaccinations as important as human ones

By Dr. Mari Maristany

Rowan Animal Control

Why vaccinate?

Annual vaccinations can be expensive, not to mention the series of booster shots given to puppies and kittens. Why go through all that trouble and expense? The dog looks just fine the way he is and, besides, he mostly stays at home. Why all the fuss?

Are vaccines mandatory? Are they necessary?

There is only one vaccine that is required by law, and that is the rabies vaccine. It can be given only by a veterinarian or licensed vaccinator. The reason for this strict rule is that the public is kept safe from rabies when pets are protected from contracting rabies.

Since rabies is almost always fatal, it is important to properly vaccinate pets to prevent human cases.

Some states require an annual rabies vaccination, but North Carolina law says the first rabies vaccine is good for only one year and, after that, it is good for three years.

Even pets that never go outside are required to be vaccinated. I know of several cases in which a rabid animal came into a house. If the house pets had not been vaccinated, they would have been quarantined for six months or euthanized.

Other vaccines are not required by law, but they are cheap insurance for your pets. Canine distemper is invariably fatal and highly contagious. Parvo virus is contagious and often fatal; the virus can remain viable in the environment for up to six months.

Treatment is expensive, often requiring hospitalization for a week or more on IV fluids. It can cost more than $1,000.

The 5-in-1 normally given to dogs also includes vaccinations against canine hepatitis and two upper respiratory viruses.

The Bordetella vaccine helps prevent kennel cough, which is an infectious tracheitis. Dogs are also vaccinated against leptospirosis, a disease spread via the urine of animals such as squirrels and other rodents, deer, cattle, raccoons and just about any mammal.

The seriousness of leptospirosis is that it can be passed to people, causing severe liver and kidney disease. Puppies need a series of boosters as their immune system matures in order to keep them protected.

Cats also need regular vaccinations. Usually, cats are vaccinated for panleukopenia, rhinitracheitis and calici virus. Panleukopenia is also known as cat distemper and is actually a parvovirus. Kittens and young cats are susceptible, and the mortality rate is even higher than parvo in dogs.

Rhinotracheitis is a herpes virus that causes upper respiratory disease and eye disease. It can cause ulcers to form on the cornea (clear part of the eye) and, like all herpes viruses, once the cat is infected it never is cleared of the virus. The cat can get over an episode and then have other bouts with herpes the rest of its life.

The last is calici virus, a highly contagious upper respiratory virus that can cause ulcers in the cat’s mouth.

Cats are also routinely vaccinated against the feline leukemia virus. This is a contagious disease. Cats that contract it eventually develop leukemia, which is fatal.

This is a vaccine that is sometimes not given to strictly indoor cats. It is contagious through saliva and nasal secretion, such as when a cat sneezes, but the virus does not survive in the environment.

All of these diseases are easily prevented by a simple vaccine. That is a small cost compared to the cost of treating your pet or the heartbreak of your pet’s death.




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