Vaccination

Feline Vaccinations Explained

In our last column we discussed canine vaccines & lifestyles.  This week we’ll give the cats their turn and with a brief run-down of feline vaccines and lifestyles:

Rabies - an incurable and nearly always fatal viral disease of mammals, Rabies is transmitted through saliva and targets the central nervous system.  Because it is spread from animals to people, the public health implications have led to a legal requirement for vaccination of all cats and dogs in nearly every state.

FVRCP - Feline herpes/calicivirus/panleukopenia - This combination vaccine is considered “core” by the American Animal Hospital Association and is highly recommend for all cats:

  • FVR - Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis: an upper respiratory disease caused by feline herpesvirus type 1. This, very common cause of respiratory disease in kittens and young cats, can result in chronic, even life-long, infections that may intermittently recur.  It can also cause painful corneal (eye) erosions.  It easily spreads by respiratory droplets.
  • C - Calicivirus: another highly contagious viral infection that can cause ulcers on the eyes and in the mouth, upper respiratory symptoms, and even occasionally severe joint pain.  This virus is particularly resistant to disinfectants so can be persistent in the environment.
  • P - Panleukopenia is a highly contagious and severe infection of the gastrointestinal tract.  Similar to the parvovirus in dogs it is easily transmitted through feces and contact with infected animals or contaminated items.  If a cat is infected while pregnant it can cause neurologic abnormalities in her kittens.

Feline Chlamydiosis: this bacterial disease causes conjunctivitis and upper respiratory symptoms.  It is very contagious in young kittens, especially those in multi-cat environments (shelters, catteries, etc…) and can rarely be transmitted to humans by direct contact.

Feline Leukemia Virus: (FeLV) is a highly contagious virus transmitted via bodily fluids, and can cause wasting syndromes and cancer which ultimately lead to death.  Cats that spend times outdoors are at highest risk because of the potential for contact with infected cats.  Kittens are most susceptible.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: (FIV) is similar to HIV in humans, this virus leads to a deficient immune system and predisposes to secondary infections.  It is spread most commonly through bite wounds, so cats that spend time outdoors are at highest risk.  Healthy  cats living with an FIV-infected cat are at little risk so long as there is not inter-cat aggression/fighting.  There is a vaccine against FIV, but concerns with its efficacy and ability to cause false positive test results, it is very infrequently recommended.

Most veterinarians aim to customize vaccine protocols based on each cat’s geographical location, age and sex, and individual lifestyle.  Which class does your kitty fall into?

  • “outdoor enthusiast” - spends a lot of time outdoors where he/she has frequent contact with other cats; lives in a multiple-cat household with frequent new additions/fosters; or contact with feral cat community
  • “outdoor socialite” - spends some time outdoors; three or less cats in the house; occasional contact with unknown cats
  • “indoor socialite” - multi-cat household; mostly indoors/confined outdoors, but has frequent contact with other cats (i.e. boarding/showing/mealtimes/litter boxes)
  • “indoor elitist” - 1-2 cat household; occasionally escapes outdoors and may have contact with unknown cats
  • “indoor window watcher” - strictly indoor; no contact with other cats (or only one other cat); no desire to escape outdoors

By taking all these factors into consideration, your veterinarian can work with you to develop the best individualized vaccine protocol for your cat.

Canine Vaccinations Explained

What’s in a Name? (part 1 - canine vaccines)

We all know the feeling - you get the annual reminder card from your veterinarian telling you “Spot” is due for vaccinations, many of them a bunch of weird names that say nothing to describe the diseases they protect against. To help you understand what’s being reminded for, here’s a brief run-down of the common canine vaccinations:

Rabies - an incurable and nearly always fatal viral disease of mammals, Rabies is transmitted through saliva and targets the central nervous system.  Because it is spread from animals to people, the public health implications have led to a legal requirement for all cats and dogs in nearly every state.

DAPP/DHPP - Distemper/Adenovirus/Parainfluenza/Parvovirus - This combination of vaccines is considered a “core” vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association and is highly recommend for all dogs.

  • Distemper virus (in the same class as measles) is highly infectious and spread by respiratory droplets. It targets the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and even the brain in some cases.
  • Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis is transmitted through bodily secretions and causes respiratory symptoms followed by liver damage and/or ocular damage.
  • Canine Parvovirus is an extremely contagious and very serious virus that causes gastrointestinal signs, sometimes severe and even fatal.  Spread by feces and very hardy - it is ubiquitous in the environment.  Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are extremely susceptible.
  • Parainfluenza is a respiratory virus transmitted via respiratory secretions.  It one of the causes of “kennel cough.”

Lyme - this bacterial organism is spread by the deer tick. In dogs, it is most often associated with severe joint pain and fever; rarely a severe, often fatal type of kidney disease or  neurologic symptoms can result.  We do not know if dogs can suffer the same chronic effects of Lyme infection as people may.

Leptospirosis - this bacterial infection affects the kidneys and/or liver and is transmitted through the urine (rodents, raccoons and opossums are major carriers in this area). Dogs that swim, play in water or live in cities are at highest risk; humans are also susceptible and suffer similar symptoms.

Canine Tracheobronchitis/Bordetella - another cause of “kennel cough”, Bordetella bronchiseptia is a highly contagious bacterium transmitted through respiratory secretions. It causes inflammation of large airways, causing a honking cough; in the young or immune compromised it can become pneumonia. Typically required by boarding/grooming/training facilities.

Canine Influenza - This virus is transmitted similarly to the human flu virus (direct contact, respiratory secretions, or contaminated surfaces).  Most cases of this relatively new disease have been reported at shelters, dog tracks, or areas where many dogs are housed together.  Some boarding facilities may require this vaccine.

Most veterinarians aim to customize vaccine protocols based on each pet’s geographical location, age and sex, and individual lifestyle.  Which lifestyle category does your pet fall in?

  • “free spirit” -- spending time hunting, camping, hiking, swimming, potentially likely to eat or drink from unknown sources?
  • “urban socialite”-- frequent visitors to dog parks or doggie daycare?  exposure to rodents (common in urban environments)?
  • “pampered pooch” -- frequent trips to the groomer, often travels along to public places?
  • “homebody” -- little or no exposure to other dogs, short leash walks only, no access to unknown dogs, food, or water?

By taking all these factors into consideration, your veterinarian can work with you to develop the best individualized vaccine protocol for your dog.