Dogs and cats are susceptible to a range of diseases which can be prevented with vaccination programs. Puppies and kittens should have their first vaccination at approximately 6-8 weeks of age, then a second booster one month later around 10-12wks of age and a final booster another month later around 14-16wks of age. They will then require a booster every 12 months to maintain their immunity as an adult.
Cats and dogs both have unique and host specific disease that we vaccinate against. Below is a list of what is considered the ‘’Core’’ diseases that we vaccinate against.
Parvovirus – This is one of the most serious viruses that we see in puppies and is often fatal. We still see this disease often as there is still a lot of unvaccinated animals in the area. This disease can also lay dormant in the soil for up to 12 months and therefore can pose a great risk. It is most often seen in puppies but can be seen in adult dogs as well. Treatment involves intensive medical care including isolation and many days of hospitalization and nursing care.
Infectious Hepatitis – This disease is thankfully not seen as much these days due to vaccination. However when we do see it, it is often fatal. It is spread via an infected animals bodily fluids. It can cause irreversible damage to the liver and often death.
Distemper virus – This is a highly infectious virus is often seen in puppies. It can start as simple as what seems like a cough or respiratory and quickly spread to a neurological issue and death. It is a lot less common these days than it used to be before vaccinations but every now and then we do see an outbreak therefore it is still considered as part of the core vaccine protocol for dogs.
Kennel cough – This is by far the most common virus we see in practice. It is an upper respiratory tract infection that is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. The vaccination is aimed at providing immunity against two of the most common strains that can cause the virus. It is spread by direct contact between dogs, and is a mandatory for any dog attending a kennel and you will be asked for a certificate of vaccination form your vet.
Feline panleukopenia – Is a serious gastroenteritis that is similar to parvovirus in dogs. It can survive in the environment for up to 8 months. It is usually spread by fecal matter and contamination. It is highly contagious and attacks rapidly dividing cells in the gut and bone marrow. It causes a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure and can cause sudden death.
Feline calicivirus – This virus is very commonly seen in cats and is one of the components of the cat flu. It is commonly seen in rescue cats and shelter. Cats can be carriers and shed the virus for years in oral and respiratory secretions. Affected cats may develop runny eyes, coughing, nasal discharge, tongue ulcers and loss of appetite.
Feline Herpesvirus – This is a bacterial disease is associated with chronic conjunctivitis and is also considered a component of the cat flu. It is usually seen in kittens and rescue/shelter situations also. Cats can be lifelong carriers that shed intermittently secondary to stress for up to 2 weeks. It is a very common and highly contagious disease. Signs may include fever, depression, conjunctivitis and ulceration.
FIV (feline aids) – This vaccination is a “non-core” vaccination which means it is not appropriate for all cats. FIV is mainly spread by cats fighting. This is why we strongly recommend that cats are housed indoors only, especially at night when they are most likely to hunt and fight other cats. Cats can be carriers and not show any signs for years before eventually they become very sick. Unfortunately there are several strains of FIV and we only have access to vaccines of a few strains. Therefore this means that even vaccinated cats may contact a new strain and be affected. It is recommended that before starting FIV vaccinations in cats older than 6 months of age a blood test should be done to determine whether or not the cat is already affected.