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Each August, the CDC reminds us about the importance of vaccinations for people by observing National Immunization Awareness Month. While current events may have people taking sides about a particular vaccine, there is no doubt that vaccinations in general have saved countless human and pet lives. Joining us today to talk about the importance of pet vaccination was Tom Dock of Noah’s Animal Hospital. Here’s more from him:

To start, vaccinations use weakened, killed, or modified pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc) to stimulate your immune system into creating antibodies and other defenses against the real germs.  By recognizing the weakened organism in the vaccine (or proteins that the organism makes), the body can be prepared in case it encounters a virulent pathogen.

In humans, vaccines have eliminated serious diseases, like smallpox, and greatly reduced others, like measles, mumps, and polio.  In veterinary medicine, the biggest advancement has been the great reduction of cases of rabies in dogs and cats during the 20th century as well as the elimination or reduction of many livestock diseases.

Despite having vaccines that work well, we still routinely see outbreaks of both canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia here in Central Indiana. More often than not, these pets are unvaccinated and often require extensive hospitalization stays in order to recover. It’s ALWAYS better (and less expensive) to vaccinate than it is to treat for these illnesses.

Many pet owners ask about the need for vaccination in pets or how often they should be given. One great way to look at this topic is to divide the vaccines up into two categories…CORE vaccines that are needed for highly contagious and lethal diseases and NON-CORE vaccines which protect against diseases that some pets may never encounter in their lives.

CORE vaccines for dogs including rabies, canine distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, and canine parvovirus. These diseases are all highly contagious, have a high mortality rate and can be zoonotic (transmissible to humans).  For cats, the CORE vaccines include rabies, feline panleukopenia, and the feline upper respiratory complex.  Feline Leukemia is considered core for kittens and young adults

CORE vaccines should be given regularly (every 1 to 3 years, depending on the vaccine and the local incidence of disease). Rabies is mandated for dogs, cats, and ferrets here in Indiana, but some larger animals, like horses, might benefit from the vaccine as well.

NON CORE vaccines are given based on the pet’s lifestyle. For dogs, these vaccines include leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, Canine Flu, and the Bordetella vaccine.  For cats, Feline Leukemia, Chlamydia, and Bordetella

NON CORE vaccines are given if the pet is at risk for picking up the pathogen. For example, dogs who hike with their owners and who aren’t on a tick preventive product may be at increased risk for Lyme Disease.  Cats who live in multi-cat households, especially where there is unrestricted access to the outdoors, might be at increased risk for Feline Leukemia.

Your veterinarian will work WITH you to help you decide which vaccines are needed and which vaccines can be postponed or even avoided with your unique pet.  Don’t rely on Internet gossip or rumors when it comes to your pet’s health!

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