Proper vaccination is important to the health of any dog or cat. Pet owners are often confused by the terms vaccination and immunization. Essentially, these terms mean the same thing.
Vaccination is a means of protecting your dog or cat against a specific disease. Normally, the diseases we vaccinate against are the most common and/or the most serious diseases to which your pet is susceptible.
How Canine and Feline Vaccinations Work
Vaccinations, whether they are meant for dogs or for cats, work by allowing your pet to mount an immune response to the disease in a harmless and controlled fashion that does not cause serious disease. Once your pet has developed an efficient immunity as a result of the vaccine, he will be protected against that disease in the event that he is ever exposed to the disease.
Some vaccines work to keep your pet from developing any disease symptoms at all if exposed to the disease. A good example of this is the rabies vaccine. Rabies vaccines, when given at appropriate intervals and in an appropriate manner, should protect your pet from developing rabies. This becomes extremely important because rabies is a fatal disease for your pet. Rabies is also extremely dangerous because it is contagious to people as well as pets and your pet can expose you to rabies if he becomes infected.
Other vaccines work to protect your pet from serious illness but do not necessarily prevent the disease from occurring entirely. A good example of this is the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine for dogs. While this vaccines does not prevent your dog from developing kennel cough completely, it does help prevent the most serious symptoms from occurring and also tends to shorten the recovery time.
Dog and cat vaccines may be mono-valent, which means they protect your pet against only one particular disease. They may also be multi-valent, meaning the vaccine protects your dog or cat against more than one disease.
What Vaccines Should Your Dog or Cat Receive?
The answer to that question depends on the life-style and disease risk of your individual pet. Our veterinarians and staff will be happy to discuss with you which vaccinations your dog or cat should receive. As there is no "one size fits all" vaccination schedule, your pet's vaccination schedule should be determined based on his need.
Feline Distemper, Upper Respiratory Disease (Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus) and Rabies Vaccines for Cats
Vaccinations against feline distemper and the most serious of the upper respiratory viruses are considered important for most kittens and cats by our doctors and staff. The two most serious upper respiratory viruses for cats are rhinotracheitis (a herpesvirus) and calicivirus. Protection against these disease is generally included in the same vaccination (a multi-valent vaccine). We recommend that kittens be started on this vaccine at 8 weeks of age. This vaccine is often referred to as an FVRCP vaccine. Our veterinarians and staff will help you determine the vaccination schedule that is most appropriate for your cat and designed to keep your healthy.
Vaccination against rabies is mandatory in the state of Rhode Island. We recommend administering this vaccine at 3 months of age. State law mandates that the vaccine be boostered one year later and then at least every three years. As with the FVRCP vaccine, our doctors and staff will help you determine the safest schedule for your cat.
Feline Leukemia Vaccine
At the Hoffman Animal Hospital, we recommend the feline leukemia vaccine only for those cats that are at risk. In most cases, cats that are at risk are those that live outdoors or spend significant amounts of time outdoors. These cats are likely to socialize with other cats during their time outdoors and may be exposed to feline leukemia. If this is the case, our veterinarians may recommend that your cat be vaccinated against feline leukemia. If it is determined that your cat is a candidate for the vaccine, we will discuss the vaccination schedule with you as well.
Feline AIDS (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) Vaccines for Cats
We do not carry nor do we recommend vaccinations against feline AIDS (also known as feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV) or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
There are many reasons we choose not to use these vaccines. In the case of the FIV or feline AIDS vaccine, there is some question about the efficacy of the vaccine. In addition the vaccine results in a positive blood test for FIV that cannot be distinquished from actual infection. This positive blood test could potentially lead to mistaken diagnosis of FIV, particularly if your cat is ever presented to a veterinarian who is unfamiliar with or unaware of his vaccination status.
In the case of the FIP vaccine, there are significant concerns not only about the efficacy of the vaccine but about the safety of the vaccine as well. For those reasons, we cannot recommend this vaccine for most cats.
We do not recommend the feline Bordetella vaccine. We do not feel that the vaccine provides a substantial benefit to most cats and, in our opinion, the risk of the vaccine outweighs the risk that your cat may be exposed to Bordetella. This situation is different than that in dogs, where vaccination against Bordetella may be recommended if your dog is going to be placed in a high risk environment. Bordetella does not appear to infect cats as readily as dogs.
Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus and Rabies Vaccines for Dogs
In general, we consider vaccinations against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies important for most dogs. These diseases pose a serious threat to your dog's health and well-being. We generally recommend starting puppies on vaccinations against distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus at 8 weeks of age. The rabies vaccine can be administered as early as 3 months of age. Our veterinarians and staff will help you determine the vaccination schedule that is safest for your pet and designed to keep your pet is the healthiest condition possible.
Rabies vaccination is mandatory and required by law in the state of Rhode Island. All dogs, cats and ferrets need to be vaccinated against rabies.
Leptospirosis Vaccines and Dogs
Leptospirosis is a threat in this area. We have seen and continue to see dogs suffering from this disease, which causes liver and/or kidney failure and can be fatal for your dog. For that reason, our veterinarians and staff usually recommend this vaccination for most dogs as well. This vaccine may be combined with the vaccinations for distemper, adenovirus and leptospirosis or it may be given separately, depending on your dog's vaccination schedule.
Lyme Disease Vaccination for Dogs
Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease. In fact, it is one of many diseases that can be carried by ticks.
We do have a vaccination that can help protect your dog against Lyme disease. If ticks are a significant problem for your dog, our veterinarians and staff may recommend a vaccine for this disease.
However, it should be understood that vaccinating against Lyme disease does not remove the need for effective tick control. This vaccine protects only against Lyme disease and does not provide any protection against of the other tick-borne diseases that can infect your dog, many of which are much more serious and more deadly than Lyme disease.
Bordetella or Kennel Cough Vaccination
Kennel cough is a disease that is caused by many different factors. There are a number of bacteria and viruses that have been implicated in causing kennel cough but generally other conditions factor into the development of the disease as well.
Kennel cough is most often seen in a kennel situation, where dogs are housed in close proximity from another. It spreads very quickly from one dog to another.
Bordetella is one the bacterial causes of kennel cough. It is frequently implicated as a major cause of kennel cough. Therefore, dogs that are boarded in a kennel facility regularly or who frequent grooming facilities or other facilities where dogs may be housed in a relatively small confined space together may be a candidate for the Bordetella vaccine. This vaccine is frequently referred to as a "kennel cough vaccine".
Our veterinarians and staff will discuss your dog's lifestyle with you and determine whether a Bordetella vaccine is in his best interest. It should be noted that the Hoffman Animal Hospital does require vaccination against Bordetella for any dog that is admitted to the hospital, unless the dog's health renders vaccination unsafe.
Canine Influenza Vaccination
Canine influenza is a virus that has emerged in the very recent past. Though there is a vaccination against canine influenza available now, we do not currently carry or recommend this vaccination at the current time.
Vaccination for Canine Coronavirus
Vaccination against coronavirus is not recommended by our hospital. We do not feel the threat from canine coronavirus outweighs the risk of administering the vaccine in most instances.