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Posted on 10-14-2015
Why do we vaccinate young animals?
-When puppies and kittens are born, their immune systems are not fully mature, and they
are protected by maternal antibodies. How long the maternal antibody lasts varies from
each individual animal. We start vaccinating at an age when we know the baby animal's
own immune system should be able to respond to the vaccine.
Why do we give multiple vaccinations?
-How long maternal antibodies last vary from each individual animal. To give young
animals the best chance of responding to a vaccination and the earliest possible protection,
we vaccinate every 3-4 weeks starting at 6-8 weeks of age. Multiple vaccines are given
because subsequent vaccines will produce a greater immune response than only one
vaccine. Adult animals are given booster vaccines as well due to the greater immune
response incited by the second vaccine.
Why do I need to vaccinate my pet every year?
-Vaccines are licensed based on the minimum duration they can be expected to last, which
is anywhere from six months to three years. The license for each vaccine is given by the
USDA based on the protection levels of tested vaccinated animals. Even if your pet's
vaccines last for three years, they should come in annually for a routine exam to ensure
they are healthy.
What vaccines should my pet receive?
-A current rabies vaccine is required by law. In addition, there are core vaccinations your
veterinarian will recommend based on your pet's risk of exposure. These will be covered
by your vet at exam time.
Why do vaccinated pets still get sick?
-There are many reasons why your pet may still become sick from a disease it was
vaccinated against. Not all pets respond to vaccinations due to their individual inherent
immune system. Some vaccines do not prevent infection but are designed to decrease the
severity of the disease if the animal is exposed. In many cases, a pet will become ill due to
incomplete vaccination (ie: a puppy/kitten that did not finish the prescribed series of
vaccines or that became exposed to the disease before the vaccination series was
Do vaccines have any side effects?
Muscle soreness over the area where the pet received the vaccine is the most common
reaction to vaccination. Allergic reactions to a vaccine are uncommon and often result in
facial swelling, hives, and vomiting within the first few hours of vaccination. If your pet is
experiencing any of these signs please report it to your vet immediately as they may
Feline Leukemia in Cats
Feline leukemia is a deadly virus that infects cats and may cause cancer, anemia, and
immunosuppression. Early in the course of the disease, cats may not have any symptoms
for moths to years but can still infect other cats.
Cats get feline leukemia from other cats through grooming, biting, and potentially even
from sharing food/water dishes. It may also be passed from a mother cat to her kittens.
Young cats and kittens are most susceptible to the virus, but older cats may also become
Vaccinating your cat or kitten for feline leukemia is recommended if they will be allowed
outdoors and can potentially come into contact with other cats who may be infected. Prior
to vaccination, your pet will need to be tested for feline leukemia as the vaccine will not
provide protection if your cat has already been exposed. This test commonly comes in
combination with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), which is also contagious to other
cats. The vaccine is a two shot series 3-4 weeks apart then boosteredannually.
Source: Young, Sandra E. "Vaccines for Your Cat." 2009. Client Handouts by the VIN Community
Rattlesnake Vaccination and Treatment
There is currently a rattlesnake vaccine produced by Red Rock Biologics for dogs in
endemic areas. It is an initial shot followed 3-4 weeks later by a booster shot, then
annually boostered. In some highly endemic areas, this vaccine is labeled for boostering
every six months. The vaccine helps lessen the severity of signs from a rattlesnake bite,
but the dog should be brought in for treatment regardless of vaccine status if they are
If your pet is bitten, administering antivenin is considered the gold standard of treatment.
The sooner a dog is administered the antivenin the better the prognosis. Other factors to
consider include how much venom was injected by the snake and the size of the dog.
Talk with your veterinarian if you think your dog may be a candidate for this series of
vaccinations. Ideal vaccination time starts in early spring.
Source: Lundgren, Becky. "Snake Bites: Prevention and Treatment". 2005.
Dogs become infected by leptospireswhen they have skin abrasions that come into contact
with infected urine (most often urine from wildlife) or water contaminated with infected
urine. Bite wounds, reproductive secretions, and consumption of infected tissues may also
transmit this infection.
The leptospiresspread through the bloodstream, resulting in signs of fever, joint pain, loss
of appetite, nausea, excessive drinking, and general malaise. The organism eventually
reaches the kidneys where it reproduces, leading to further inflammation and kidney
failure. Depending on the type of leptospire, other organs may become involved.
Once diagnosed with leptospirosis, the dog is hospitalized, treated supportively, and given
antibiotics. Intravenous fluids are critical to support blood flow through the damaged
kidneys and will help with recovery. Any areas at home contaminated with urine should be
disinfected with an iodine-based product. Gloves should be worn when cleaning infected
areas. The prognosis of each patient is dependent on the extent of organ damage.
Leptosporosisis a disease with zoonotic potential, meaning it can be transmitted to
humans, who experience similar signs as their pets. According to the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention, about one third of infections in people are from contact with
infected dogs and one third are from contact with rats. Please consult with your primary
health care provider if you have been exposed to leptospires.
Prevention against leptospirosis can be achieved in part by control of rodents and standing
water in your pet's environment and through vaccination. Vaccination is effective against
at least two of the four serovarsof leptospiresand is commonly included in the basic
distemper/parvovaccine. Vaccinating against leptospires will reduce the severity of the
disease, but it will not prevent infected dogs from becoming carriers.
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