Dog’s Eye View: Puppy and kitten vaccines — how important are they? |

Dog’s Eye View: Puppy and kitten vaccines — how important are they?

Cindi Hillemeyer/For the Steamboat Today

It's that time of year: the snow is melting and so are the layers of excrement, from all types of animals, primarily the canine species. What's there to worry about other than the wondrous spring odor and maybe a few intestinal parasites, you wonder?

Canine parvoviral enteritis is primarily an intestinal virus of dogs both wild and domestic and has been fought with much success by the development of a vaccine in the 1980s.

This effective vaccine has significantly reduced the incidence of this deadly virus; however, local veterinarians continue to see epidemics each year. This virus is very serious and often can be fatal, though vaccines are excellent at preventing infection and therefore illness.

Vaccinating your new puppy early in life and every 3 years after his/her first booster series can prevent this deadly disease.

Pups are born with some antibodies acquired from their mother either in utero or via colostrum and nursing. These valuable antibodies offer protection to the pups when exposed to disease; however, they wane as the pups begin to develop their own immune system.

This time frame is when they are most at risk and varies between 4 to 6 weeks to 16 weeks or more.

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Administering multiple vaccines just as the maternal protection is wearing down allows the individual's immune system to produce antibodies of its own; for example, starting at 6 weeks of age and vaccinating every three to four weeks for three to four rounds provides the best protection against disease during this susceptible time.

Other infectious canine diseases, which often are part of your puppy vaccine program, include canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, herpesvirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza and bordetella.

Similarly, kittens also are very susceptible to multiple diseases that can be controlled through vaccination programs. These include feline parvovirus (panleukopenia), leukemia and upper respiratory viruses such as calicivirus and herpes virus.

Not only is our pet’s health at stake, but some of these diseases can affect our health, as well.

Rabies virus can be transmitted between numerous animals, both wild and domestic, including humans. This virus causes fatal encephalitis. The rabies vaccination program has been remarkably successful at controlling this horrible disease.

However, there continue to be many unnecessary animal and human deaths each year within the U.S. and worldwide. This vaccine is part of your puppy and kitten's vaccine protocol and often is required by state law.

How are viruses spread?

Many diseases spread through direct contact between individuals (i.e. bite wounds and saliva) or through indirect contact such as ingestion of fecal matter.

Litters of puppies and kittens live in ideal close quarters for rapid disease spread. Complicating matters more, a contagious animal (or person) often is not showing any symptoms of illness while sharing the infectious particles.

Canine parvovirus particles remain in the environment long after the fecal matter has dissipated, remaining infectious for more than a year, often catching a ride on the bottom of your shoes.

Benefits/risks of vaccines

Most vaccines use an inactive part of the virus, or "antigen,” to stimulate an immune system reaction. These particles are not capable of causing disease.

Extensive research is done to find a delivery medium (or "adjuvant") that is the safest for housing of these particles. Occasionally, vaccines can cause allergic reactions or focal swelling — these often can be managed by your veterinarian.

Overall, it's safe to say that the majority of animal health care providers think that the benefit of prevention far outweighs the risk of disease and expense of treatment.

Your young pets are susceptibility to multiple infectious diseases and is why your veterinarian may recommend keeping your pet separated from animals with unknown vaccine history as well as dog parks until completely vaccinated and at least 4 or 5 months of age.

If you have any questions about your pet's vaccination status or general health, call your local veterinarian today — they are here to help.

Dog’s Eye View would like to thank Dr. Hillimeyer, from Pet Kare Clinic, for writing this article for our column. This important information is critical for pet owners to know. Laura Tyler and Sandra Kruczek can be reached by going to

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