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Vaccinating Dogs and Cats is Important for their health, and Ours

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By Tisheena Talk

Vaccinations are an important consideration for our pets’ general health care. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), vaccines prevent many illnesses and can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented. It can prevent diseases that can be transmitted between animals and from animals to people. Vaccines cannot treat your pet when they’re sick and unvaccinated. Diseases prevalent in wildlife such as Rabies and Distemper, can also infect unvaccinated pets.

Vaccines have been divided by the veterinary community into “core” and “non-core” vaccinations. Core vaccines are those that every animal should get during their lifetime. For example, Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus for dogs and Feline Distemper for cats. Non-core vaccines are those that should be given based on your pet’s risk factors, such as Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) for cats who are allowed outside, or Bordetella (Kennel Cough) for dogs who are regularly taken to a boarding facility or the groomer.

There is a difference in the need to vaccinate indoor pets and the need to vaccinate those who roam and encounter other animals. Dogs are exposed to diseases when they roam freely or those who go to boarding facilities or dog parks. This is why it is important to maintain a regular vaccination schedule with a veterinarian.

Another important thing to consider is your pets’ lifestyle. Does your dog encounter wildlife or play in areas where wildlife is frequently spotted? Cats who roam around outdoors can come across diseases such as Feline Leukemia, and therefore should be protected. On the other hand, if your cat never goes outside, the Rabies vaccine may be all that is needed. Rabies is important for both legal reasons and because bats, which can get into most building structures and are a common carrier of rabies. It’s important to protect people in our community from rabies by protecting our pets. Discuss with your veterinarian the particulars of your pets’ lifestyle, and they will tailor a vaccine schedule appropriate for your pets. For example, dogs in high-risk environments, like outdoor pets or dogs in areas where there is greater chance of exposure to wild animals might benefit from having more frequent vaccinations.

“Dogs can get rabies from wild animals and the majority of those cases have not been vaccinated against rabies,” said Dr. Margie Alvarez, Valley Veterinary Clinic. “All dogs and cats should be vaccinated against  rabies as there is a public health concern. If an unvaccinated pet bites a person, that animal may be required to be euthanized in order submit testing to rule out rabies transmission. This can be prevented by having your pets current on their rabies vaccine.”

In future columns, we will go into more detail about vaccines for specific illnesses for dogs and cats. For now, it’s important to know that pets may need a series of vaccines, not just one-time, especially if they are young. 

It is recommend beginning the puppy (DA2PP) and kitten (FVRCP) vaccines at 6-8 weeks of age then to continue the series until 16 weeks of age. There is a high concern of Parvovirus and Distemper on the Diné Bikéyah. Studies have shown that most animals have immunity from the diseases they are vaccinated against for at least three years after their final booster. When pets become elderly, most vaccines (except rabies) can be stopped, unless there are factors that make vaccinating necessary.

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