Vaccinations – Which Ones Are Right For Your Pet?


August is National Immunization Awareness Month. It’s a great time to ‘Paws to Protect‘ and make sure your pet is receiving all the appropriate vaccinations. Vaccines prevent many diseases that could otherwise be harmful, cause long-term effects, or even lead to death. Vaccine needs and frequency can change over time for many pets. At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, we recommend you have your pet’s vaccine schedule reviewed at least annually to make sure they are fully protected.

While dogs and cats each have their own unique set of vaccine recommendations, there is one vaccination that every dog and every cat should always keep current: the rabies vaccine. Rabies is caused by a virus that is typically transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal. The virus attacks the central nervous system and leads to death. Rabies is a zoonotic diseaseNorth Carolina state law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies. This law protects both pets and humans. In a situation where your pet’s vaccine status has lapsed and he or she is exposed to an animal suspected or confirmed to have rabies, the local health director can require that a pet be euthanized or placed in a quarantine for up to 6 months (for more information see the NC Rabies Control Manual). Keeping the rabies vaccine current will help you avoid this type of situation. Remember – even pets that spend all or most of their time indoors can still potentially be exposed to wild animals. It is not uncommon to hear stories of bats being found in homes, and recently there was even a case of a rabid fox being found inside someone’s home in Durham (Read the story here).

So which vaccines are important to consider for your dog?

Lawndale recommends that all dogs receive the following vaccines:

Rabies: See above.

Distemper*:  A highly contagious and potentially lethal disease, dogs with Distemper can develop gastrointestinal (vomiting, diarrhea), respiratory (cough, ocular or nasal discharge, pneumonia), and neurological signs (seizures, etc.). There is no cure for this disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Parvovirus*: Another highly contagious disease, Parvo causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Puppies can be severely affected by this disease, even with aggressive supportive care. There is no cure for this disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Adenovirus*: There are different types of canine adenovirus (CAV). CAV Type 1 causes hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), and CAV Type 2 causes respiratory disease and is one of the agents that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough). The vaccine currently in use is against CAV-2 because this vaccine actually provides cross-protection against CAV-1 as well (so it works against both types). There is no cure for an adenovirus infection, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Parainfluenza*: Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus, and it is one of several agents that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, or Kennel Cough.

*The vaccinations against Distemper / Parvovirus / Adenovirus / Parainfluenza are typically combined into 1 vaccine*

Dogs should receive these vaccines based on lifestyle and risk assessment:

BordetellaBordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough). Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that is easily spread between dogs. When caused by Bordetella, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection.

Leptospirosis: This disease is caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. Kidney failure, liver failure, or even death can result. Wildlife such as raccoons, deer, rodents, opossums, etc. can carry the disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease. If your dog goes camping, hiking, swimming, or spends time in areas where wildlife frequent, then Lawndale recommends you consider vaccinating against this disease.

Lyme Disease: Ticks transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease can cause things such as fever, joint pain, polyarthritis or even kidney disease. Lyme disease is a vector-borne zoonotic disease. Consider this vaccine if your dog is exposed to ticks.

Which vaccines do we recommend for cats?

Lawndale recommends that all cats receive the following vaccines:

Rabies: See above.

Panleukopenia*: This disease is caused by a virus that affects all the white blood cells. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, or secondary infections due to a weakened immune system. There is no cure for the disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Rhinotracheitis*: This disease is caused by the feline herpesvirus type-1. Symptoms involve the respiratory system and the eyes are often affected. Cats infected with this virus become lifetime carriers. During times of stress, the virus may become re-activated, causing the cat to develop symptoms. There is no cure for the disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive. An amino acid called L-Lysine may be helpful in reducing viral replication.

Calicivirus*: Calicivirus causes respiratory symptoms and can also cause ulcerations in the mouth. There is no cure for the disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Chlamydia*: This disease is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydophila felis. Cats with this disease can develop conjunctivitis or even upper respiratory signs. Antibiotics (oral and/or ointment) can help treat this infection.

*The vaccinations against Panleukopenia / Rhinotracheitis / Calici / Chlamydia are typically combined into 1 vaccine*

Cats should receive this vaccine based on lifestyle and risk assessment:

Feline Leukemia: Feline leukemia can lead to the development of cancer such as lymphoma, cause changes in blood cells, and lead to a weakened immune system. Cats who spend any time outdoors should receive this vaccine. There is no cure for the disease, treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

For more information about vaccinations, including frequency schedules, visit our ‘Paws to Protect: Vaccinations‘ section. If you have questions about what vaccines your dog or cat might need, or if it’s time to update your pet’s vaccines, give us a call today!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS