The Case for Vaccines
Whether you’re leaving your pet at a kennel or taking it with you for the holidays, ensure that your pet is up-to-date on its vaccines. This isn’t just a good idea: it’s also the rule in many places.
As noted in a previous installment, vaccines themselves do not fight disease. Rather, they prepare the body to respond to an actual viral or bacterial onslaught. The effectiveness of a vaccination protocol depends on the health of the pet’s immune system and its ability to respond to vaccines as designed.
Not all pets will develop the desired high level of immunity to disease. (Titer tests are available to gauge how well a pet is protected against a limited number of diseases at any particular point in time.) Vaccination is proven beneficial to communities as a whole, as well as to individual pets. Where disease is adequately controlled, pets with weaker immune systems benefit because they are less likely to be exposed and therefore are less likely to have to combat disease.
Boarding kennels are small communities in which disease can spread like wildfire if vaccination rules are not enforced. Canine flu first reared its head some years ago by running rampant through kennels and dog pounds. Once researchers became aware of the disease, they were able to develop a vaccine to slow its spread. You may think the boarding kennel’s long list of required vaccines is a bit draconian, but it is based on real-world experience with epidemics and the desire not to repeat them.
Even if your pet is typically healthy, someone else’s pet may not be. If your pet is a non-symptomatic carrier of an illness, another pet could develop a full-blown illness. At this stage, the virus or bacteria will multiply rapidly and gain strength while taking advantage of the pet with low immunity. The now-stronger organism can spread to the other pets housed nearby. Faced with such a challenge from a fellow boarder, even a healthy dog or cat will likely develop some degree of illness while its body responds to the invading organism.
Knowing this, it is everyone’s responsibility to adhere to the vaccine regulations for their pet’s health and for the health of the community. Rabies-free countries (like England) and states (like Hawaii) are especially driven to prevent the introduction of disease.
Which vaccines are most often recommended?
*DAPPv (also called DHPP) – combines Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza
*Bordetella – also known as Canine Cough or Kennel Cough
*Canine Flu – also known as H3N8. It is caused by a different virus than Parainfluenza.
*FVRCCP – combines Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper), Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Chlamydia
Why does my pet need vaccines for a road trip?
Travel can bring stress and stress can lower immune response. Coupled with outdated vaccines, that can make a pet more susceptible to illness. Consider that you will likely walk your pet at some point during the trip. Can you guarantee it won’t come across other animals or animal droppings?
Why does my pet need vaccines for airplane travel?
Most airlines and destinations require only Rabies vaccine for travel. Not all pet owners choose to inoculate their pets against airborne diseases such as Flu or Bordetella. Your pet may be sharing space with unprotected animals, which leaves your pet exposed. Again, combining travel-induced stress with a lowered immune response and outdated vaccines, your pet could end up with a severe illness. Don’t take that chance.
As a final note…
Immune systems need time to respond to vaccines and prepare the body to fend off illness. For this reason, we advise vaccinating your pet at least one month in advance of traveling or kenneling.
This is the final installment of the travel series. Is there anything not yet discussed that you would like to know? Leave a comment or send a private e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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