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Vaccines important for pets

animal controlBy Kristen Hammett • Guest Columnist

As a pet owner, there are many things we do to keep our fur babies safe, healthy, and happy. Vaccinating is one that is very important. Vaccines can save a dog’s or cat’s life.

Diseases such as leptospirosis, distemper and rabies are avoidable if the proper vaccine protocol is followed. Even a pet that is not “social” can still be exposed to several different diseases, some of which are zoonotic (meaning transferable to humans). 

Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system by introducing antigens, which “look” like disease causing organisms, so that it can begin developing antibodies which will help fight the disease if the dog or cat is ever exposed to it. 

The vaccines for cats are different than the vaccines for dogs. Both species require a rabies vaccine by law to keep them protected, as well as protecting their owners from this deadly virus. It needs to be given yearly or every three years depending on the vaccine.  There are certain diseases that are preventable if the correct vaccine regimen is followed. The American Animal Hospital Association has set up guidelines to help veterinarians choose the correct vaccines for your feline and canine friend.

The core vaccines for cats are: rabies, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (FVRCP). Feline intranasal vaccines are safer for cats and are given to both kittens and adults. It is recommended that all kittens receive the feline leukemia vaccine the first year of life. After the first year, depending on the cat’s lifestyle and risk factors, it may not be needed again. Ideally kittens that are between 4 to 16 weeks of age get the kitten series of vaccines, meaning they get boosters of the core vaccines every 2 to 3 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. At 12 weeks, they should be vaccinated for rabies, using a rabies vaccine made particularly for cats, avoiding the adjuvanted rabies vaccines that may sometimes be associated with rare, but dangerous tumors.

The core vaccines for dogs are: parvovirus, leptospirosis, distemper, bordatella and, depending on where you live Lyme Disease. The lyme vaccine may become a core vaccine soon, as the disease is starting to raise its ugly head in our area as well. Ideally, puppies from 4 to 16 weeks old need to get the puppy series of vaccines similar to the kittens schedule and at age 12 weeks should get their rabies vaccination.

(Dr. Kristen Hammett is with the Animal Hospital of Waynesville.)

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