Everyone loves their pets and among the best way to care for them is to have them vaccinated against common diseases. This month we focus upon how vaccines help your pet reduce the risk of contracting potentially life-threatening health issues — and reduce the severity if such a disease is contracted.

What is a vaccine?
Vaccines are antigens that are injected into your pet to stimulate their immune system and cultivate their body’s natural defense to produce antibodies against a particular infectious disease caused by bacteria, viruses, microbes or parasites. It is important to note that antigens are not dormant or dead organisms — they simply “look” like the disease and prepare your pet’s immune system to recognize, fight or reduce the severity of the disease if it ever appears.

Sick Pet
Should my pet be vaccinated?
By Santa Clara County law, owners are required to vaccinate their pets against rabies to obtain a pet license. This vaccination is essential as untreated rabies within humans is fatal.

While some vaccinations will be required if you board your pet or take them to other locales, the choice to have your pet vaccinated against other diseases is often yours. The decision to vaccinate is generally based upon:

  • The risk of exposure to specific diseases (which includes your family’s travel habits)
  • The complications and health concerns produced by the disease
  • Your pet’s age, health and medical history
  • The relative effectiveness of the vaccine

Are vaccines harmful?
Generally, no, as vaccines are not the actual organism which causes the underlying disease. However, as the antigens stimulate you pet’s immune system, it is possible your pet could have a reaction from the vaccine. Mild reactions include loss of appetite, discomfort, sluggishness, redness at the injection site or a mild fever. These symptoms tend to appear within hours of receiving the vaccine and often dissipate over the next several days.

More severe reactions include: vomiting, diarrhea, facial or paw swelling or difficulty breathing. These are exceedingly rare but require immediate attention. Please contact us if this situation ever arises.

Which vaccines should my pet receive?
As the objective of a vaccine is to help prepare your pet’s body to effectively respond to a particular disease, we recommend the following vaccinations given their prevalence and the health impact upon your pet if contracted:

Dogs:
Canine Parvovirus Highly contagious virus affecting the gastrointestinal tract and spread by dog-to-dog contact or contaminated feces
Distemper Contagious and serious viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems
Canine Hepatitis Acute liver infection caused by canine adenovirus type-1 (CAV-1) spread in the feces, urine, blood, saliva, and nasal discharge of infected dogs

Cats:
Panleukopenia (feline distemper) Highly contagious viral disease which infects and kills rapidly growing and dividing cells such as those in the bone marrow, intestines and developing fetuses
Feline Calicivirus Virus causing upper respiratory infections and oral disease
Feline Herpesvirus Type I (rhinotracheitis) Virus causing upper respiratory infection of the nose and throat

We also encourage healthy pets to be vaccinated for the following:

Dogs:
Bordetella Bronchiseptica Bacteria causing a hacking cough or occasionally a runny nose
Borrelia Burgdorferi Bacteria responsible for Lyme disease in dogs
Leptospira Bacteria Bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms and can cause liver or kidney disease
Canine Influenza Highly contagious viral infection similar to the flu in humans (potentially lethal)

Cats:
Feline Leukemia Virus Virus that impairs the immune system and can cause cancer

Based upon your lifestyle and risk factors, we will help identify the vaccines that will best protect your pet.

Kittens and Puppy
When should my pet get their first vaccination?
Puppies and kittens are naturally protected from infectious diseases via the antibodies obtained within their mother’s milk. However, these antibodies impact the ability of a vaccine’s antigens to stimulate a puppy’s or kitten’s own immune system. Consequently, vaccinations should begin as your pet approaches two months of age and continue as the maternal antigens naturally decline (through four months of age).

How often do vaccinations need to be “renewed?”
After the initial vaccination, some vaccines need to be boostered or re-administered annually while others are required less frequently. The frequency required for your pet is based upon the specific vaccine and the risk of exposure for your pet.

Questions?
We encourage every pet owner to ask us questions. Vaccinations play a critical role in maintaining the health and happiness of your pet which is our sole objective at Kirkwood Animal Hospital.

Kirkwood Veterinarians
To best help maintain the health of your pets, our doctors were trained at the very best veterinary schools in the United States and collectively have more than one-half century of hands-on experience helping cats and dogs.