The importance of regular physical examinations cannot be overlooked. During this examination the veterinarian will examine your pet from nose to tail to make sure there are no concerns that need to be addressed. This examination also ensures that your pet is currently healthy enough to receive any vaccinations that are due. If any concerns are identified by your veterinarian, they will then make recommendations as far as what diagnostics, treatments or preventive health care procedures (such as vaccinations or dental procedures) are necessary. Detection of issues early in their course provides the best opportunity for successful treatment, and helps to ensure that your pet lives a long, happy and healthy life!
At Oceanside Animal Hospital our vaccinations protocol is customized for every pet. When your cat or dog visits our clinic, the veterinarian will discuss which vaccinations are recommended for your pet based on his or her lifestyle, vaccination history, and other health factors. These recommended vaccinations may include any of the following:
This is a fatal infectious disease that can affect all mammals including dogs, cats, livestock and people. Infected wildlife and unvaccinated animals are the major source of this virus. In Canada, wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats pose an ongoing risk of rabies; bats in particular are known to be potential carriers of rabies on Vancouver Island. There have been cases of rabies positive bats entering homes and having contact with unvaccinated pets, so even indoor-only pets are at risk of contracting this fatal disease. Since rabies is a major health hazard we generally strongly recommend that your pet be vaccinated against it. Rabies vaccination is also required prior to traveling into the United States.
Canine Distemper (CDV)
Distemper is a very serious viral disease. Nearly every dog will be exposed to distemper virus in its lifetime, and when infection occurs it is often fatal. Symptoms may include listlessness, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal and ocular discharge, and skin disease. In its final stages it may cause convulsions and paralysis. Death may occur one to three weeks after infection. Dogs who survive a distemper infection can have lifelong complications. The virus can be airborne and enter the body through the nose or mouth, or it can be spread by direct dog-to- dog contact. Vaccination against distemper virus is essential for all dogs and is part of our routine vaccination protocols.
Canine Adenovirus (CAV1 or CAV2)
Depending on which adenovirus a dog is infected with, the complications can vary from mild (cold/flu-like) symptoms from which they will recover with supportive therapy, to serious liver disease. A vaccine has been developed to protect against both Type-1 and Type-2 adenovirus.
Canine Parainfluenza (CPi)
Parainfluenza is highly contagious disease which results in upper respiratory infections. This virus does not generally cause severe disease. However, it can make your dog more susceptible to secondary bacterial and viral infections which can ultimately lead to severe implications.
Canine Parvovirus (CPV)
Parvovirus typically attacks the lining of small intestine and leads to anorexia, severe vomiting and diarrhea, which can be bloody. Another form of parvoviral infection in young puppies can lead to damage to the heart and sudden death. Primarily, the virus is spread through contact with or ingestion of an infected animal's stool. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated animals, insects, or objects. Puppies 6 weeks to 6 months old are most commonly affected, though any age of unprotected dog can be infected. Vaccination is important because even with aggressive treatment parvovirus is often fatal.
Canine Leptospirosis (Lepto)
Leptospirosis is currently a growing concern in Canada and on Vancouver Island. It is a serious infectious disease of both animals and people and is caused by Leptospira bacteria. The early stages of leptospirosis appear as flu-like symptoms which can be easily confused with other diseases. If not detected early in the course of disease, the bacteria can damage the liver and kidneys and potentially be fatal. Puddles, ditches, and slow-moving streams are all environments that can harbour Leptospira and can indirectly infect your dog. It is important to note that Leptospirosis is also a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can infect people as well.
Canine Cough (Kennel Cough)
This is highly contagious disease is transmitted through close contact with infected dogs. For this reason, the dogs at greatest risk of contracting canine cough include those who visit dog parks, daycares, kennels, training classes, shows, etc. Three forms of the vaccine are available – intra-nasal, intra-oral or injectable. We typically will use the intra-oral version of the vaccine unless we have a specific reason not to. Please ask us for more information.
Dogs get Lyme disease from the bite of tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Symptoms may include intermittent lameness, painful or swollen joints, inappetence and lethargy. While the ticks on Vancouver Island generally do not transmit Lyme disease, ticks carrying Lyme bacteria have been found in all 10 Canadian provinces and 48 continental USA states and may inhabit urban and rural lawns and gardens as well as fields and forests. Cool, wet weather in the spring and fall increases your pet's risk of contracting Lyme disease. Canine Lyme disease is largely preventable by using tick control, tick checks and in some cases, vaccination. Your veterinarian will discuss whether the Lyme disease vaccine is recommended for your dog based on his or her lifestyle and travel plans.
This is a fatal infectious disease that can affect all mammals including dogs, cats, livestock and people. Infected wildlife and unvaccinated animals are the major source of this virus. In Canada, wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats pose an ongoing risk of rabies; bats in particular are known to be potential carriers of rabies on Vancouver Island. There have been cases of rabies positive bats entering homes and having contact with unvaccinated pets, so even indoor only pets are at risk of contracting this fatal disease. Since rabies is a major health hazard we generally strongly recommend that your pet be vaccinated against it. Rabies vaccination is also required prior to traveling into the United States.
Feline Viral Rhinitracheitis (FVR)
This is most common upper respiratory infection in cats. Clinical signs include moderate fever, decreased appetite, sneezing, discharge from eyes and nose, open mouth breathing and/or coughing. Even successfully treated, FVR can lead to a lifelong infection.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
This is another virus that affects the upper respiratory tract. It accounts for approximately 40% of all respiratory diseases in cats. The severity of infection may vary but symptoms often include moderate fever, ulcers and blisters on the tongue. Even successfully treated, infected cats can become chronic virus carriers with lifelong clinical signs of sneezing and runny eyes.
This disease causes a relatively mild upper respiratory infection, particularly affecting mucous membranes of the eyes. Symptoms include tearing and sometimes sneezing and nasal discharge. Boarding your cat increases its risk of chlamydia infection and disease.
Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)
This is a widespread disease that is often fatal. Clinical signs of panleukopenia include fever, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Since most cats are likely to be exposed to panleukopenia in their lifetime, vaccination against illness is of key importance.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
This virus attacks the immune system and leaves the cat vulnerable to a host of secondary infections. It also makes cats more susceptible to developing certain types of cancer such as lymphoma. Transmission usually occurs through contact with other cats. Those cats which live in multi cat households or are allowed to roam outdoors are particularly at risk.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV or Feline AIDS)
This is not the same virus as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). FIV causes suppression of the immune system and chronic susceptibility to other infections. Cats with FIV may remain apparently healthy for several years before their immune system becomes too weak to fight off other diseases. There is no cure for Feline AIDS. As with Feline Leukemia virus, cats from multi-cat households and those who venture outdoors are at greatest risk of FIV. There are some controversies regarding the vaccine available for FIV, which your veterinarian can discuss with you.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Vaccinations
Does my pet need immunization against all of the above diseases?
Every pet's immunization needs may vary according to their lifestyle, health factors, and which diseases are prevalent in its environment. Your veterinarian will discuss these factors with you and will address your pet's individual vaccination needs.
Is single set of vaccines not enough to protect my pet?
Many factors need to be taken into consideration when your pet is vaccinated. For the first few weeks and months of an animal's life, maternal antibodies (i.e. antibodies received from their mother during pregnancy or nursing) may interfere with an effective vaccine response. Vaccination in the presence of maternal antibodies is a common cause of vaccine failure. The length of time the maternal antibodies remain effective varies from pet to pet, so your pet will receive an initial series of vaccinations to stimulate the protective immunity. Over time, protective immunity can decline, so booster vaccinations are recommended to maintain the highest level of immune readiness. Your veterinarian will discuss the particular vaccination schedule recommended for your pet.
What risks are associated with vaccination?
Vaccination recommendations always take into consideration the health of your dog and their lifestyle. This ensures that your pet receives only the necessary vaccines and that the potential for adverse effects is minimized. As with people, vaccination reactions do occasionally happen although they are rare. Generally speaking, the health benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks.
Some muscle soreness, lethargy and mild fever persisting for a day or two are considered common reactions to stimulation of the immune system. Vaccine reactions beyond this are unusual but possible. Allergic reactions characterized usually by facial swelling and hives are a strong sign that special care should be taken in administering vaccinations. Since allergic reactions potentially can become worse with each episode, it is important to take heed of these signs if they appear and always notify your veterinarian.
Why do puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations and how many do they need?
When a kitten or puppy is born, its immune system is not yet mature; the baby is wide open for infection. Fortunately, nature has a system of protection. The mother produces a special milk in the first few days after giving birth. This milk is called "colostrum" and is rich in all the antibodies that the mother has to offer. As the babies drink this milk, they will be taking in their mother's immunity. After the first couple of days, regular milk is produced and the baby's intestines undergo what is called "closure," which means they are no longer able to take antibodies into their systems. These first two days are critical to determining what kind of immunity the baby will receive until its own system can take over.
How long this maternal antibody lasts in a given puppy or kitten can vary. It can depend on the birth order of the babies, how well they nursed, and a number of other factors. Maternal antibodies against different diseases wear off after different times. We DO know that by 16-20 weeks of age, maternal antibodies are gone and the baby must be able to rely on its own immune system.
While maternal immunity is present, it interferes with any vaccines given. Vaccines will not be able to "take" until maternal antibody has sufficiently dropped. Puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccines ending at a time when we know the baby's own immune system should be able to respond. We could simply wait until the baby is old enough to definitely respond as we do with the rabies vaccination but this could leave a large window of vulnerability if the maternal antibody wanes early. To give puppies and kittens the best chance of responding to vaccination, we vaccinate intermittently (usually every 2-4 weeks) during this period, in hope of gaining some early protection.
When a vaccine against a specific disease is started for the first time, even in adult animal, it is best to give at least two vaccinations. This is because the second vaccination will produce a much greater immune response if it is following a vaccine given 2-4 weeks prior.
How often will my adult pet receive vaccinations?
It depends on the vaccine. Generally the majority of the vaccinations we use at Oceanside Animal Hospital are labelled by the manufacturer to be given every 3 years. However there are some vaccinations which we know do not create long-lasting immunity so they need to be given on a yearly basis – this includes the canine cough and leptospirosis vaccines.
Can a pregnant pet be vaccinated?
It is important that live vaccines NOT be used in pregnant pets. This is because a "modified" virus that will not cause illness in the mother, may still be strong enough to infect the unborn puppies or kittens. Killed vaccines may be given during pregnancy though, as a general rule, it is best not to give any medical treatments during pregnancy if it can be avoided. While the administration of killed vaccines is commonly performed in large animals and food animals, it is not routine for dogs or cats.