Did you ever know you would be spending so much time thinking about infectious disease? As COVID-19 grips the world, many people are learning more about viruses and infectious disease than they ever wanted to know. While COVID-19 does not infect our pets, there are a number of infectious diseases that DO cause serious illness in our companion animals. Fortunately, many of the most devastating diseases have vaccines that help to keep our pets safe. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the vast number of recommendations for vaccines. Since most of us who work at vet clinics abbreviate the vaccines names, it can be hard to know the ABCs and LMNOPs of DAPP, DAP, Lepto, H3N2, and FVRCP.
Let me outline Highland Pet Hospital’s vaccine protocol for you.
Note that vaccine protocols will vary between clinics. This doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong! Different geographic regions may have different recommendations, different pricing structures and doctor preference may alter how vaccines are given. This is ok, and means that the vets involved have given some thought to how best to keep your pet safe.
Dog vaccines at Highland are grouped into two categories.
First, Core Vaccines. Core Vaccines are Rabies and a combination vaccine called DAPP. A 1 year rabies is given to puppies, and repeated at the one year visit. At the two year visit, we start giving a 3 year rabies vaccine. The so called “DAPP” vaccine is for Distemper (a viral infection that affects respiratory tract and neurologic system), Adenovirus (a viral infection that affects the liver), Parainfluenza (a viral upper respiratory infection), and Parvo (a viral infection of the intestinal tract). After the first two years, the DAPP vaccine is separated out and rotates with the rabies vaccine so that dogs get Rabies, Parvo, and DAP in a three year rotation. In this way, we try to prevent over vaccination and allow for the greatest immune response to the vaccines. At Highland, all core vaccines are paid for with your annual wellness exam.
Second, a class of vaccines we call “social vaccines”. Social vaccines are evaluated based on the patient’s risk. Not all dogs will need to have these vaccines. The majority are needed by dogs who are in contact with other dogs, usually through boarding, grooming, or day care. These are bordetella (known more commonly as kennel cough) and CIV (or canine influenza virus). Bordetella and CIV cause upper respiratory signs, particularly coughing. The other vaccine we administer according to risk is called Leptospirosis (or lepto). This is a bacterial infection that is transmitted in urine. As such, dogs who are at risk are those in contact with water through hiking, runoff, streams, retention ponds, and garden ponds and those dogs who are in contact with wildlife. We do occasionally vaccinate for Lyme disease, but as Lyme disease is just one of the diseases carried by ticks, I tend to prefer a good flea and tick preventative protocol over vaccination for Lyme disease. Social vaccines are all included in a package that is purchased once yearly.
Cats are a little easier.
Core vaccines for cats are Rabies and a combination vaccine called FVRCP. We do try to be very careful with vaccine injections in cats, as cats are prone to a type of tumor that can develop at the injection site. Because of this, we select vaccines that do not have “adjuvent”. Adjuvent is included in some vaccines to enhance the body’s response to the vaccine, but cats’ bodies respond badly to adjuvant. Our rabies vaccine is non-adjuvented, and is given yearly. FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Rhinotracheitis is the feline herpes virus. Rhinotracheitis causes severe upper respiratory signs and ulceration of the cornea. Calicivirus causes upper respiratory signs as well, but the ulcerations are generally in the mouth. Panleukopenia is commonly referred to as feline distemper, and causes a variety of clinical signs. We have chosen an intranasal FVRCP vaccine, which is given into the nose to reduce the number of vaccine injections that need to be given to a cat. FVRCP is given every 3 weeks to kittens, repeated at 1 year, and then given every 3 years. The only elective vaccine for cats is a feline leukemia vaccine, which should be given to all cats who spend time outdoors. Feline leukemia is transmitted by exposure to cats who are carrying the disease. All feline vaccines are included in the cost of the annual exam.
Vaccines are extremely important to prevention of infectious disease. Rabies, though rare, is still seen in wildlife in the United States. Parvovirus is a deadly disease that is almost exclusively seen in dogs who have not been vaccinated. So, it is important to schedule an annual wellness visit with your veterinarian. At that visit you can discuss your pet’s lifestyle and determine which vaccines are most needed, and when they should be given.
Having a hard time getting your pet in for vaccines due to social distancing and quarantine? At Highland we will prioritize appointments and vaccine needs to the best of our ability. Sick pets come first. Pets needing rabies vaccines and puppies and kittens who have not yet been vaccinated will be our top priorities. Pets who are not due for rabies, and have previously had their core vaccines will not be considered priority during the quarantine period. This can seem scary, but never fear. Social distancing for people is also protecting our pets, as dogs and cats will not be boarding, grooming, or going to daycare during this time and thus not exposing themselves to infection. As restrictions on what is considered “essential” change, we will make every effort to have your pets seen promptly. During the quarantine period, our staff will always be available by phone and email to answer any questions you have! As a veterinarian, I feel constantly prepared to fight infectious disease! Join me in the war by vaccinating your pets, (and by washing your hands!)