A trip to the veterinarian is rarely a fun experience for pet or owner, yet skipping routine exams and vaccinations can cause more harm than good. Whether your cats and dogs live primarily indoors or spend time socializing with other animals outside your home, core cat and dog vaccinations are essential to protect your pet from diseases that are particularly severe, especially common or transmissible to humans.
Core Cat Vaccinations
- Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV). Also known as feline distemper, this highly contagious disease is usually deadly. It’s estimated that 60 to 95 percent of kittens who contract the disease will die from it—usually due to the severe dehydration, malnutrition, anemia and compromised immune system resulting from the infection. Fortunately, the vaccination can be administered as early as six weeks after birth.
- Feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus (FHV). As many as 90 percent of contagious feline upper respiratory infections—with symptoms including labored breathing, fever, sneezing and conjunctivitis—are caused by these two diseases. They can be transmitted through both direct and indirect contact. While these diseases are not always fatal, an infected cat may never recover completely and can pass the virus on to others.
- Rabies. This incurable disease attacks the brain and nervous system, resulting in seizures, paralysis, disorientation and aggression. It is usually spread through the bite of an infected animal and is always fatal. Vaccination against rabies is usually required by law because it may be spread to any mammal, including humans.
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This highly contagious disease is easily spread from cat to cat through the sharing of food and water sources and affectionate grooming. It suppresses the immune system, making kitty more susceptible to contracting other bacterial, viral or fungal infections. It can also lead to virus-related cancers. While most vets agree that all kittens should be vaccinated against FeLV, some suggest boosters for older indoor-only felines are unnecessary.
Core Dog Vaccinations
- Canine parvovirus (CPV). This highly contagious disease usually manifests intestinally, causing vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite and weight loss. However, it can also attack the hearts of young puppies—leading to death. The disease can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog or through its feces. Fortunately, a vaccination against CPV can be administered as early as six weeks after birth.
- Canine Distemper. A serious viral illness with no known cure, canine distemper is a relative of the measles virus and may be carried by dogs, raccoons, wolves, foxes, skunks and even ferrets. An airborne disease, it can also be transmitted by direct or indirect contact with an infected animal. Once contracted, the virus attacks the dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Infected pets may die within two to five weeks of contracting the disease.
- Canine Hepatitis. This fatal disease is caused by the canine adenovirus type 1. It may be transmitted through the saliva or feces of an infected dog. Once contracted, it spreads through the bloodstream and may damage the liver. If your dog is otherwise healthy, his body may be able to fight the virus, though it may take as much as nine months for complete recovery. If his immune system is otherwise compromised, the disease may progress—resulting in death.
- Rabies. As with cats, vaccination against rabies is absolutely necessary for dogs and often mandated by law.
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