Pet vaccines are important, and they have a long history. Probably the most important technological gains were discovered in the 1790’s by Dr. Edward Jenner. He discovered the first vaccination by giving people a preparation of material from cowpox, which was a common animal disease in cattle. The people that were injected with or “vaccinated” with the material did not get sick and remained healthy when they were exposed to the deadly smallpox virus. Over 100 years later, a French scientist by the name of Louis Pastuer, found that they could protect people and animals from disease by injecting altered forms of microorganisms.
The process of how a vaccine works is a complex reaction that involves many chemical and cellular reactions within and between the immune system cells of the body. Basically the role of the vaccine is to expose the immune system of the pet to viral and bacterial antigens that are contained in the vaccine. In the future, when the pet is exposed to that related organism, the body will recognize it and then activate the immune system to prevent the disease from producing or reducing the signs of clinical disease.
Vaccines can be administered by subcutaneous or intramuscular injections, intranasal or orally. The vaccines that are injected or given orally tend to produce a more systemic or whole body response, whereas the intranasal provides a more local response. Intranasal vaccines can be advantageous to provide a quicker response and prevent or kill the new virus before it can get any further in the body. Local nasal vaccines would not be helpful for a virus that has been ingested and causes intestinal disease such as parvovirus in dogs. For that we would want a vaccine that would produce a more systemic response.
The vaccines that we use in veterinary medicine are most generally either a killed or a modified live (attenuated) vaccine. There are multiple indications for both, but generally speaking the killed vaccines are safer and unlikely to cause disease in the immunocompromised pet. Whereas, the live vaccines provide a more amplified response that leads to a better, longer lasting immune protection. Several of the vaccines that we use have many different viruses in one injection. This allows to vaccinate for several of the organisms in one injection.
To confuse you even more, pets get some protection through the placenta when the puppies and kittens are in the mother’s uterus and when they get colostrum which is the first milk that they drink. This protection will decrease over time and usually will be low enough by 12 weeks of age where vaccinations will start reacting. There is no way to measure quick, easy and inexpensive way to measure the immunity gained here, so we generally recommend starting vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks of age and then booster them every 2 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. Generally, it is not the number of vaccinations that they get, but when they get them at their chronological age.
A vaccine helps prime an animal against a specific disease. It does this by stimulating the immune system with a nonpathogenic virus or bacteria. If the animal responds adequately, it will develop cells that will help it to quickly and efficiently fight off the pathogenic form of the agent if it is encountered later. Here at Olsen Veterinary Clinic, we have tailored our vaccination programs to meet the needs of your pet. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us here, or call our office at 618-656-5868.
With the dog days of summer upon us, we as pet owners need to be aware of heatstroke with your pet. This can be a life-threatening condition that occurs because your pet cannot lower its body temperature efficiently, so its body temperature increases to dangerous levels.
There are many common situations that can set the stage for heatstroke. These include: strenuous exercise in hot, humid weather, being a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed, suffering from heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing, being confined without shade or shelter and fresh water in hot weather, being confined on concrete or asphalt and the most logical-left in a closed up car in the warm weather.
Heatstroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty breathing. The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red. The saliva is thick and tenacious and the dog usually vomits. The rectal temperature rises to 104 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The dog becomes progressively unsteady and passes bloody diarrhea. As shock sits in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray. Collapse, seizures, coma and death rapidly ensue.
It is important to take emergency measures to begin cooling your pet immediately. One suggestion would be to move it to an air-conditioned building and begin cooling your pet with spraying your pet with a garden hose or immersing it in cool water for up to two minutes. Also if possible, it is helpful to place the wet pet in front of an electric fan. Ice packs work well when applied to the groin and armpit areas because this is the area where the blood is the closest to the surface in the body. Monitor the rectal temperature and continue the cooling process until it falls to 103 degrees. Seeking veterinary assistance is of utmost importance since this is an emergency. Your veterinarian will take steps to reverse the effects of heat, dehydration, and low blood pressure. An IV catheter will be placed and fluids will be given to help get blood flowing to major organs again.
Treatment is aimed to supporting these organs in the hope that the damage that they have sustained isn’t permanent. Unfortunately, it will often take days to know which organs have been affected. Specific treatments may include antibiotics, blood pressure medications and blood transfusions.
Because heatstroke can be so deadly and strike rapidly, it is best to take steps to prevent it. In hot weather, it is best to exercise your pet during the coolest part of the day (early morning and late evening) and always provide plenty of fresh, cool water and rest. A person can also help their pet by cooling them by allowing them to swim or spray them off with a hose after exercising.
Never leave a pet in a car during warm weather-not even for a few minutes with the windows cracked. Brachycephalic dog owners should be extra vigilant, keeping their dogs inside in air-conditioning on hot days. All geriatric, obese, and respiratory compromised pets should be exercised with caution in hot weather.
So remember if your pet is acting distressed, start cooling it down and seek assistance from your veterinarian immediately.
Recently you may have read in the news about a distemper outbreak at a St. Louis adoption agency that killed several dogs and puppies. That is terrible news, but most times, distemper can be preventible.
Distemper is a viral disease that is related to the virus that causes measles in humans. It is spread through all body secretions, especially airborne particles from breathing. This makes it easy for an untreated or unvaccinated dogs to be infected. It appears most often in puppies that are between 6 and 12 weeks who haven’t been vaccinated because the protective antibodies that they had received from their mothers had fallen to a level too low to prevent infection. Not only dogs transfer the infection, but other animals are threats to spread this disease. The most common species that can spread distemper are raccoons, skunks and foxes. Coming into contact with the droppings of these animals can easily spread the disease.
Initially, the disease may present itself with mild symptoms may be mild. These symptoms may include:
- Fever of 103 to 109
- Watery discharge from the eyes and nose
- Depression and listlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Thick, yellow discharge from the eyes and nose
- Dry cough
- Pus blisters on the abdomen
As the disease progresses, it attacks the brain and the symptoms become neurological. Disease progression clinical signs could include:
- Head shaking
- Chewing jaw motions
- Seizure-like symptoms, such as falling over and kicking feet uncontrollably
- Rhythmic muscle jerking of the head and neck
- Thick, horny skin on the nose and callus-like pads on the feet
If your pet gets distemper, it can’t be cured. Dogs that have progressed to the neurological stage are at a much higher risk of death than if it is caught earlier and treated. Treatment can help the dog mount an immune response better or it may lessen the symptoms of distemper. Since distemper is a virus, the dog’s life relies on the dog’s ability to fight off the disease. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. He may also give the dog IV fluids to address the dehydration and he may prescribe medications to control diarrhea, vomiting and seizures.
Success of the treatments are largely dependent on the age of the dog, how quickly you seek help, the distemper strain, and whether your dog has been vaccinated. Vaccination against distemper is highly protective.
Some dogs may recover on their own, but owners should never take the wait and see approach with distemper. If your dog recovers from distemper, and that is a big “if”, your dog would be naturally immune to a second attack, just like measles in humans.
I would recommend using caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs at parks, obedience classes, doggy day care and other places where dogs can congregate since this disease is quite contagious. Make sure that you do not share food or water bowls with other dogs as this can be a common source of infection.
I can’t stress enough how important that your dog should be vaccinated for distemper. This vaccination is usually started when the puppy is 5 to 6 weeks old and continued every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 4 months old. This should provide long lasting immunity. But it is not permanent. If your dog is adopted, ask the facility if and when they had given the distemper vaccine. No dog should ever die of distemper as the vaccinations are quite effective.
With the quality vaccines distemper is very preventible. Keeping your pet current on its’ vaccines is extremely important. If you have any further questions or need your pet vaccinated, please feel free to contact us here or call us at 618-656-5868.
Vaccinations are part of a basic pet wellness program that the Olsen Veterinary Clinic administers in Glen Carbon and the surrounding area. If you are not familiar with veterinary concerns or have never owned a pet up to this point, it is understandable that you might not know exactly what the pet vaccinations can do to safeguard your pet’s health. As August has been designated National Immunization Awareness Month, here are some frequently asked questions we get from pet owners regarding dog and cat vaccinations.
What is a vaccination?
A vaccination is an injection that is given under the skin to stimulate the production of antibodies by the pet’s immune system against specific infections. They are needed once the antibodies transferred from the mothers to the newborn puppies and kittens wears off, which usually occurs within weeks of birth.
Are pet vaccinations harmful to my pet?
A vast majority of the vaccinations are actually quite safe and cause no illness to the pet. However, some pets may have mild side effects that can include fever, swelling, redness and digestive upset. If this has previously occurred it may be important to let your veterinarian know so that steps can be made to prevent or minimize the side effects.
What are “core vaccinations”?
Core vaccinations are vaccines that protect your pet against a handful of common and dangerous illnesses. Rabies is among the most important, because it is fatal to pets and can be spread easily to humans and other mammals. Because of this, it is important to vaccinate both cats and dogs against rabies. Other vaccinations that are considered core vaccines for your dog include canine hepatitis, parvovirus and canine distemper. While in cats, the core vaccinations include feline calicivirus, feline distemper, and Feline Herpes Virus along with the rabies vaccine.
What other vaccinations should I consider?
There are other diseases that can affect your pet. Here we tailor the vaccinations depending on the probable risks that your pet might incur. If your dog is quite mobile, groomed or boarded, or is in contact with other dogs, we would recommend vaccinating for Bordetella or as it is commonly known as “kennel cough.” Another disease that is becoming more prevalent seen in dogs is Canine Influenza. This disease is also contracted by contact with infected animals, so this may be one to consider. Finally if your pet is in contact with a lot of ticks or is in the woods, I would possibly recommend vaccinating to protect your pet from Lyme disease which is carried by the deer tick.
Why does my pet need booster shots?
Just as the original immunity provided from the mother’s milk fades over time, prescribed vaccines have a limited protective span. They can wear off over time and then your pet will be vulnerable to the diseases which can be deadly. The booster shots help keep the level of immunity consistent to ensure the best possible protection for life.
How often must the vaccinations be updated?
The vaccinations provide protections for different lengths of time. Some may be one year, for example rabies, while some can be longer. Since we tailor the vaccination schedule to meet your needs, we can provide you a schedule showing when each vaccine should be updated. If you happen to miss a scheduled update, it is best to bring your pet in as soon as possible so that the protection will not decrease.
The Olsen Veterinary Clinic urges pet owners to schedule the necessary pet vaccinations and updates with your veterinarian. By keeping your pet vaccinated properly, you will help to ensure that your pet has a long and healthy life.