Last post I discussed current thinking in pet immunization and promised to inform you about what your pet might need.
The veterinary convention I mentioned recommended certain “core” vaccines for your cat or dog as well as a modified schedule for boosters. But I must encourage you again to research what your pet might need in addition to these based on your geographic location, or what your pet might NOT need because he’s not likely to come in contact with diseased animals–for instance, the indoor-only cat.
My internet research for core cat vaccines yielded recommendations for feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline viral respiratory disease complex, and rabies. Depending on where you live, you might also want to vaccinate your cat against feline leukemia virus (FeLV). It’s endemic among feral cats in the area where I live. But FPV is the worst! It’s also known as feline infectious enteritis, feline distemper or feline parvovirus. It is transmitted by contact with an infected animal or its droppings, is highly contagious, and can live in carpets, cracks and furniture for more than a year! The mortality is horrible: 95% of kittens die even with treatment; at two months, 60-70% die with treatment, and in adult cats 10-20% will die even with treatment. And it’s an awful death I don’t even want to discuss here, you can look it up yourself. FeLV attacks the cat’s immune system much like AIDS does to people, and the cats who survive the initial infection usually die of some secondary infection within three years. It’s a good reason to get a kitten from a rescue rather than from the grocery store, because the kitten has been tested for this disease and you’ll know at the start whether she’s infected. The rabies shot is required by many local authorities (and every military installation) whether or not there’s a chance your cat (or dog) will come in contact with a rabid animal. Some vets want to immunize against feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), but check out whether it’s a problem in YOUR community.
Educate yourself about the vaccination & booster schedule for your kitten, and keep track of the injection sites: each injection should be at a different site and none should be on the back between the should blades (“intrascapular”). A growing number of adverse reactions, including the development of cancerous tumors, has been noted when the same site was used for repeated vaccinations in cats. The literature I read recommended shots begin at about four weeks and the series should be complete at 16 weeks (unless the kitten shows signs of illness: never give a sick animal a vaccination!), and a booster at one year. After that, if your cat goes outdoors, a rabies booster every three years is advised.
Puppies have about the same schedule but different vaccinations. The research says your pup should receive protection against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and of course, rabies. Dogs generally meet more other dogs than indoor cats meet other cats, so you want to protect your puppy against these common and serious diseases. In certain locations, leptospirosis or lyme disease may be problematic–do your homework, especially if you live out in the country and your dog is allowed to run free. Again, a rabies booster is recommended every three years.
One thing the literature emphasized is that your pet’s health depends on GOOD NUTRITION (where have you heard that?) and that pets being fed species-appropriate, high quality food and safe water are far less likely to become infected. (So are you.)
ALWAYS talk to your vet about the risks and benefits of shots for your pet. (I know you have asked around, done your research, and found a good vet for your pet, one you trust and can talk to.) Of course, there are other reasons for wellness visits (like heartworms) during which you can have these discussions.
Remember–your dogs and cats can’t speak for themselves; they depend on you to keep them healthy. Keep them safe and well-fed, and you will enjoy many years of happiness and togetherness.