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What you can do to help your pet live to a ripe old age: Vaccinations

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Whiskers, Paws and Love Inc. Team

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    Make sure that your pet is vaccinated.

    Although some people advise that vaccines should only be considered based on location and risk of exposure, the severity of disease, or transmissibility to humans, the fact is: It is a necessity for ALL dogs and ALL cats to receive the core recommended vaccines described below. Vaccinations for your pets are the difference between no suffering and intense suffering, reasonable vet bills and astronomical vet bills, and dying at an early age versus dying when they are elderly.

    Essential Vaccines for Dogs



    Parvovirus symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Most deaths from parvo occur within 48-72 hours after the first signs of illness. Even with immediate treatment (intravenous fluids and medications) which is costly, the mortality rate is about 30%. Puppies are especially prone to contracting this highly infectious virus, and it is one of the leading reasons for death in dogs under 4 months old.


    Distemper symptoms are a watery to pus-like discharge from their eyes, followed by fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and seizures. Treatment typically consists of supportive care to control vomiting, diarrhea, and neurologic symptoms, the administration of fluids to combat dehydration, and efforts to prevent secondary infections. There is no cure. Distemper is the leading cause of infectious disease death in dogs.


    Hepatitis. The first symptom is a fever of more than 104̊F (40̊C). Along with the short fever, your veterinarian may notice a low white blood cell count. If the fever lasts more than a day, there might be enlarged tonsils or inflamed eyes, a faster heart rate, and severe, spontaneous bleeding. Brain damage in severely infected dogs can result in seizures. Bleeding in the brain can also result in temporary paralysis. The disease can develop and progress quickly regardless of the age of the dog, although it has the highest mortality rate in young dogs. Treatment consists of hospitalization with aggressive intravenous fluid therapy and broad-spectrum antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, or immuno-suppressive medication. Canine hepatitis is often fatal.


    Rabies symptoms include seizures, paralysis, aggression, and lack of coordination. Bites from infected animals are the most common mode of rabies transmission, but the virus can be transmitted when saliva enters any open wound or mucus membrane (such as the mouth, nose, or eye). As a result, licks or scratches from rabid animals also transmit the virus. There is no treatment and, once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100% fatal. Surprisingly, only 39 states mandate rabies vaccination for dogs; feline rabies vaccination is required in 34 states, and vaccination of ferrets is required in 20 states. Regardless of whether you live in a state that requires your pet to be vaccinated against rabies, it should be one of your top priorities!

    Essential Vaccines for Cats


    Feline Panleukopenia (FP)

    Feline Panleukopenia (FP) symptoms include generalized depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge, and dehydration. FP is a highly contagious disease. The virus is difficult to destroy and resistant to many disinfectants. Since it can survive for up to a year in the environment, cats can become infected without ever coming into direct contact with an infected cat. Treatment is expensive. It consists of providing supportive care focusing on fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities, antibiotics to fight off secondary bacterial infections, and control of vomiting and diarrhea. FP has a high mortality rate despite early aggressive therapy. Without supportive care, up to 90% of cats with FP will likely die. It's rare for a kitten under eight weeks old to survive this disease. Pregnant female cats that are infected with the FP virus may give birth to kittens with severe damage to the cerebellum (a part of the brain that coordinates body movements). These unfortunate kittens are born with a syndrome called feline cerebellar ataxia, and their movement is accompanied by severe tremors (shaking). This virus can also damage the eyes in kittens. Virtually all cats are exposed to FP at some point in their lives because the virus is everywhere in the environment. That is why vaccination is imperative even for strictly indoor cats. (FYI: Veterinarians frequently use the terms ‘feline distemper’ and ‘feline panleukopenia’ interchangeably, although feline distemper is incorrect because feline panleukopenia is caused by the feline parvovirus.)

    Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)

    Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) symptoms are fever, frequent sneezing, inflamed eyes, inflammation of the lining of the nose, and often salivation. The virus is very contagious and is known to produce secondary infections, such as chlamydia (a bacterial infection that affects the eyes, nose, and throat and can spread to the lungs if left untreated), feline reovirus (a virus that limits the absorption of nutrients from the intestines and results in diarrhea and dehydration) and pneumonia. Treatments may include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration from excess nasal or eye discharge, antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections, and topical eye medications. FVR can cause severe disease including death from pneumonia in kittens. It can also cause the spontaneous abortion of a litter around the 6-week mark.

    Feline Calicivirus

    Feline Calicivirus symptoms will resemble a cold at first, with sneezing, nasal congestion, and fever. Substantial amounts of discharge (clear or yellow/green in color) can come from the eyes and nose. In addition to these symptoms, infected cats often develop ulcers on the tongue, hard palate, gums, lips, or nose. These cats will usually salivate or drool excessively because the ulcers are very painful. Other symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and squinting. Some strains of calicivirus may cause sudden painful lameness in one or more joints, and although rare, there is one strain of feline calicivirus that causes severe generalized disease which involves the eyes, nose, and mouth, quickly followed by a high fever, severe depression, edema of the legs and/or face, jaundice, and symptoms of multiple organ disease. That particular strain is highly infectious, and the death rate is reportedly up to 67%. The virus typically lasts for 14-21 days. During this time, the cat will potentially be infectious to other cats; and, following recovery, as many as half may develop a carrier state (which could last for a few months or for life). 

    Cats who have an uncomplicated infection can be treated symptomatically at home, although most will need at least some prescribed medications such as an appetite stimulant, a topical eye medication, and broad-spectrum antibacterial drugs to prevent secondary bacterial infections. If a cat is dehydrated, depressed, or has a severe case, your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization for more intensive treatment, including intravenous fluids and other supportive treatments. Calicivirus is highly contagious and mutates quickly. Although it is possible for vaccinated cats to catch it, the severity of the disease is greatly reduced when the cat is vaccinated!

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV). The following are general symptoms related to FeLV (however, it is important to remember that many of these symptoms may not be related at all since they are symptoms of several diseases): Loss of appetite; weight loss; poor coat condition; persistent fever; Inflammation of the gums and mouth; skin, urinary, and upper respiratory tract infections; persistent diarrhea; seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders and a variety of eye conditions. FeLV can also cause other conditions such as leukemia, lymphoma, and infertility. It is highly contagious and causes more cat deaths than any other organism. It is best to take preventive measures against this typically fatal disease because there is no cure. Most FeLV-infected cats will succumb to feline leukemia-related disease within two or three years after becoming infected. If your cat is infected with feline leukemia, keep her indoors to reduce exposure to other infectious agents and to prevent the spread of infection to other cats. It is wise to replace food and water dishes, bedding, litter pans, and toys used by a FeLV-positive cat (or to clean and disinfect them using four ounces of household bleach diluted in a gallon of water) before getting a new cat. Any new cats or kittens should be properly vaccinated before entering the household and they should not be allowed to roam outdoors without supervision or without being placed in a secure enclosure.


    Rabies - The symptoms, cause, and outcome for unvaccinated cats are the same as for unvaccinated dogs