Not all Vaccines are Created Equal
By Dr. Tamara Lutz, DVM
There are so many vaccines to choose from these days. Sometimes, even those of us in the veterinary profession are overwhelmed at what choices to make for our own pets. Knowing the lifestyle of the pet and the other animals that it is exposed to is critical in making a good decision. Also knowing the vaccine manufacturer and the strains of the disease that are represented in each vaccine is important. Not all vaccines are as effective as others, and some vaccines cause more reaction than others. Having a good relationship with your veterinary healthcare team ensures that you are getting which vaccines are right for you and your pet.
Most people are familiar with Rabies and the problems that it causes. Because we have been diligent in the United States about vaccinating for Rabies, it isn’t as common a problem as it could be. It does still exist, though, and it can be transmitted to humans. In IL, the most common carriers of the Rabies virus are bats, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies vaccination is required by law for our dog patients, but is optional for cats. At PAH, we use a Rabies vaccine that is made with less reactive ingredients. In our experience, pets respond very well to this brand and have a lot fewer reactions than some of the other brands that we have used in the past.
Leptospirosis is another disease that we are concerned with. It is actually a bacteria that is spread in the urine of affected animals. Carriers of Leptospirosis are raccoons, skunks, opossums, muskrats, and more recently, rats and mice. Because the disease has spread to the rat and mice population, it has become more of a concern for our housepets. We used to recommend vaccination only in farm dogs and hunting dogs, but it is really on the rise in our smaller breed house dogs. It is most often picked up from drinking stagnant, slow moving water, but can also live in the soil for months after flooding of an area has occurred. The disease is serious and can cause kidney and liver failure, breathing difficulties, and bleeding abnormalities. It is also contagious to people. There are 4 common serovars of Leptospirosis. Because it is such a serious disease, and it is on the rise, we carry the vaccine that has protection against all 4 serovars. Some of the competing vaccines only protect against 2 of the serovars. We most often give the vaccine in combination with the more recognized DHPP vaccine.
The DHPP vaccine prevents against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, and Parainfluenza. Parvo, of course, is the virus that most people are aware of, and rightly so. It is still very prevalent and deadly if contracted. It is highly contagious and can be picked up anywhere an infected dog has had a bowel movement. Parks commonly have areas infected with Parvo. Distemper is less common than it used to be, but it does still exist in the stray animal population and is also a common problem in raccoons. Hepatitis is rare, nowadays, but it is very serious if contracted. It is carried by foxes, coyotes, wolves, otters, and bears.
Bordetella is a bacteria that is responsible for what is commonly called Kennel Cough. There are 3 forms of this vaccine: Injectable, Intranasal, and Oral. The Intranasal and the Oral vaccine both provide a high level of immunity very shortly after vaccination. Bordetella, however, can be part of a bigger condition called Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease. Parainfluenza and Adenovirus 2 can be culprits in this complicated disease. Our Intranasal vaccine prevents against these 2 viruses as well as bordetella. The oral vaccine does not. However, there are some dogs that just don’t tolerate intranasal vaccines. For these patients, we do carry the injectable vaccine. While still effective, it takes longer to reach immunity, requires a booster vaccine, and does not vaccinate for these other 2 viruses. Bordetella can affect cats, but isn’t at all common in the United States.
Lyme disease is another disease on the rise in Central IL. It is carried by ticks and has recently migrated to our area from Southern IL. We definitely recommend tick prevention in areas where tick exposure is possible. There is also a vaccine that is available to prevent against Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a very hardy bacteria that is protected from destruction by 2 outer proteins called Osp A and Osp C. It is necessary to target both of these proteins in order to effectively prevent Lyme disease and its symptoms from causing illness in our dog patients. Not all vaccines target both proteins, but the vaccine that we use at PAH does. Lyme disease causes severe arthritis, lethargy, and sometimes kidney failure. We feel strongly about preventing it in our at risk patients.
Canine Influenza or “The Dog Flu” is one of the newer diseases that have plagued the dog population in IL. We haven’t seen any cases in Pana, yet, but there is a high incidence in Chicago, and there were a few cases of it reported in Springfield last winter. Some of the boarding facilities in our area are requiring this vaccine along with the Bordetella vaccine. There are 2 strains of Canine Influenza. If you’re worried your dog may be at risk, it is important to vaccinate against both strains. The vaccine that we carry at PAH is effective against both H3N2 and H3N8.
PCRC is a feline vaccine that we highly recommend. It prevents against Panleukopenia, Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis, and Chlamydia. Not all feline vaccines include Chlamydia, anymore. However, we had an outbreak in Pana a couple of years ago, so we still include this disease in our vaccination protocol. Panleukopenia is another name for Distemper, and as noted earlier, Distemper still exists in stray cat populations as well as in raccoons. All of these viruses produce severe respiratory problems in affected cats.
Feline leukemia is spread by “friendly” cat contact such as mutual grooming and sharing food and water bowls. It can also be spread across the placenta to kittens and through bite wounds from fighting or mating. We recommend vaccinating all kittens for this disease as well as any adult cats that go outside and could potentially come into contact with another infected cat.
At Pana Animal Hospital, we strive to know you and your pets personally. So, we will help you develop which vaccination protocol is best for you and your pets. Please feel free to call us if you have any questions at all.