Why Should I Vaccinate My Pet?

Have you ever wondered, “Why should I vaccinate my pet?”  Administration of appropriate vaccinations to our canine and feline family members is of vital importance to your pet’s health.  As it is in people, vaccination helps to reduce possibility of infection, reduces symptomatic disease, decreases spread of disease through a community, and increases the likelihood of a longer & healthier life.  Depending on disease prevalence, climate, elevation, and other environmental factors, your veterinarian will recommend certain vaccinations for your pets.  At Hampton Veterinary Hospital in Hampton, NH, we recommend the following vaccinations:

Feline

Rabies

Due to the fact that Rabies is of public health concern for humans, cats, and dogs, Rabies vaccination is required for ALL PETS in the state of New Hampshire (and all other U.S. states).  There is no exception to this, regardless of whether or not your cat goes outdoors.  Bats, rodents, and other mammals with Rabies could enter your home and infect your pet… and then possibly you.  Hampton Veterinary Hospital vaccinates our feline patients yearly against Rabies.  Please contact your veterinarian if you are unsure as to whether or not your cat is up to date on their Rabies vaccination.

FVRCP/ Feline Distemper (Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus and Panleukopenia)

This is a combination vaccine against a number of common viruses that cats can be exposed to.  We recommend FVRCP to be up to date on all cats because many of these viruses are quite hardy in the environment; so we can inadvertently bring one of them into our home on our clothing, shoes, bags, etc.  Once a kitten has had their series of FVRCP vaccinations, as adults we vaccinate cats with this vaccine every 3 years.

FELV/ Feline Leukemia Virus

This is a deadly virus that has no cure.  Once a cat becomes infected with FeLV it will significantly shorten their life span (< 3 years).  We recommend vaccinating all kittens when they are younger, just in case they ‘demand’ to go outdoors despite good intentions of keeping them inside.  However, we do not usually recommend vaccinating adult cats who are indoor-only, as this is not a hardy virus where they can only become infected through direct contact with an infected cat.

Canine

Rabies

(see above) — Puppies are vaccinated once between 12 and 16 weeks of age, per law, and this first vaccine is protective for 1 year.  Their subsequent vaccinations are then given every 3 years (per NH state law).

DHPP/ Canine Distemper (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza)

This is a combination vaccine against a number of common viruses that dogs can be exposed to.  We recommend DHPP to be up to date on all dogs regardless of lifestyle.  Once a puppy has had their series of DHPP vaccinations, as adults we vaccinate dogs every 3 years.  This vaccine is usually required to be admitted to boarding kennels, doggie-daycare facilities, and grooming parlors.

Bordetella/ Kennel Cough

Bordetella is a highly contagious upper respiratory bacterium, and it is the most common cause of “Kennel Cough”.  Since Bordetella is so contagious between dogs it is required to be admitted to boarding kennels, doggie-daycare facilities, and grooming parlors.  We recommend it for all of our canine patients because it can be transmitted during visits to the beach, dog parks, walking on the street, and even when coming to a veterinary office.  There are different ways this vaccine can be administered, but we prefer to use the more common intra-nasal route.

Lyme

Lyme disease is HIGHLY prevalent in New England, as well as most other areas around the United States.  It is a very difficult disease to treat in both humans and dogs, but at least with dogs we have a number of ways to proactively prevent Lyme disease.  Yearly lyme vaccination is critical to help reduce the likelihood that your dog will become infected with and develop clinical Lyme disease.  (Year-round administration of a safe and effective flea and tick preventative, such as every 12 week prescription Bravecto, is also key here.)  The Lyme vaccine includes a series of two vaccinations, followed by yearly vaccination in adult dogs.  For best protection, if this vaccine is not kept up-to-date, you may have to re-start the initial vaccine series if it is overdue by a few months.

Leptospirosis

This is a bacterium that is very prevalent in New England, however it is not as easy to identify as Lyme disease.  Many different types of mammals and birds can harbor and transmit Leptospirosis from their urine to groundwater or the soil.  All of our dogs drink out of various puddles, ponds, rivers, lakes, & streams — so they are all potentially at risk for becoming infected with Leptospirosis.  This is a disease that at minimum causes diarrhea… but it can also cause both liver and/or kidney disease in dogs.  If dogs become infected and do not receive appropriate care, they can die from Leptospirosis.   People can also become infected with Leptospirosis and it is possible that a person can get Leptospirosis from their infected dog.  The CDC reports about 100-150 people on average per year become infected with this disease.  The good news here for our dogs is that we have highly effective vaccinations against Leptospirosis.  The Lepto vaccine series includes a series of two vaccinations, followed by yearly vaccination in adult dogs.   For best protection, if this vaccine is not kept up-to-date, you may have to re-start the initial vaccine series if it is overdue by a few months.

CIV/ Canine Influenza Virus

There are two different strains of CIV that have been identified in the United States in the past 10 years.  Due to the fact that dogs have no natural immunity to either CIV strain, direct exposure to dogs with this upper respiratory virus will cause infection.  Symptoms of CIV infection vary from a simple cough to severe illness & death.  Up to 10% of non-vaccinated dogs that become infected with CIV have died in reported outbreaks.  To date there have been no reported cases of CIV in New Hampshire; however, experts feel that it is only a matter of time until we see CIV here as well.  Hampton Veterinary Hospital strongly recommends vaccination against CIV in dogs who are frequently around a number of different dogs (such as our personal pets who come to work with us every day), show dogs, agility dogs, and dogs who travel often with their families.  If you frequently board your dog at any boarding facility (including ours), take them to doggie-daycare, dog parks, or grooming parlors you may want to talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog against CIV.

Just as in people, there are potential risks for vaccine reactions in dogs & cats.  However we see far less than 1% of our veterinary patients develop vaccine reactions.  The high level of protection that vaccinations provide to our four-legged loved ones well out-weighs the low possibility of side effects.  Our goal at Hampton Veterinary Hospital is to keep your pets happy & healthy as long as possible — routine vaccination is a vital way we help to achieve this for you and your family.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases seen in New England, and has been spreading quickly across the United States over the past 20 years.  According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, all 50 states had cases of confirmed canine Lyme disease in 2018.  In our small state of New Hampshire alone, there were 11,374 Lyme positive dogs reported.  

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1983 due to an outbreak of arthritic symptoms in humans in the Lyme Connecticut area.  Lyme disease is a spirochete bacterium that is transmitted to dogs, humans, and many other mammalian species through tick bites.  The deer tick or the black-legged tick, lone star tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick carry and can transmit Lyme disease.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include intermittent lameness, decreased activity level, decreased appetite, and fever.  Dogs do not always show all four of these symptoms, but typically develop a combination of two or more when they become clinically ill.   Also, dogs who are not properly protected and are repeatedly exposed to Lyme-carrying ticks are at risk of developing certain types of kidney disease.  Before proper prevention was available, many dogs infected with Lyme disease died of a syndrome known as Lyme nephropathy.

Transmission

If a live tick is attached to a dog for over 36 hours, it can then begin to transmit Lyme disease.  Unlike people, dogs do not perform tick-checks on themselves; and they do not commonly develop the typical bullseye rash as seen in humans.  Therefore, we typically do not know that our canine loved ones have been infected with Lyme disease until they come up positive on a blood test or develop symptoms and are diagnosed by a veterinarian.  Plus, dogs spend much of their time sniffing around and playing in areas where ticks thrive, such as woods and tall grasses.  The key to reducing the risk of our pets developing Lyme disease is through prevention.

Prevention is Key

Just as it is with us, nightly tick-checks are very important to perform on our dogs to help keep them free of tick-borne diseases.  However, life gets busy and small ticks can be missed on a fur-covered dog.  Two other main keys to preventing our 4-legged loved ones from becoming infected with Lyme disease are through proper year-round preventives and vaccination.

Which Products to Use

Ticks are one of the hardiest creatures on our planet.  Contrary to certain “opinions” on the internet, homeopathic and holistic options are not effective to kill ticks or prevent them from transmitting tick-borne diseases.  Over the years, there have been many different types of (flea &) tick preventatives in a variety of formulations.

In 2014, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)approved new prescription medications called Isoxazolines.  These are typically chewable tablets, which makes it easier to administer to dogs. By avoiding topical products, it also eliminates the possibility of local skin irritation and reduces contact of the product with human and feline family members. These medications have completely revolutionized our ability to protect our dogs from Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  They are incredibly well-tolerated and work much faster and more reliably than any of the more traditional topical preventatives.  Here, at Hampton Veterinary Hospital, we recommend year-round use of Bravecto for the majority of our canine patients.  

Remember, prevention is the key to keeping our loved ones safe & healthy!

Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease (HWD) is a serious and potentially fatal disease in dogs and cats that is spread by over 30 species of mosquitoes. Adult heartworms live in the heart and lung blood vessels of infected animals; one pet can have up to 300 worms! Heartworms live for up to 5-7 years and produce millions of offspring that live in the bloodstream until they develop.

Heartworm disease occurs all over the world, but has been increasing in prevalence in the United States, and spreading further and further across the country. New England has been seeing a significant increase in heartworm disease in the past 3-5 years. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, there were 674 reported cases in New Hampshire alone in 2018.

Signs

The signs of HWD depend on a number of variables, but are typically due to heartworms clogging the heart and major blood vessels. Signs can include:

  • A soft, dry cough.
  • Shortness of breath, exercise intolerance.
  • Weakness, listlessness, loss of stamina, collapse.
  • RARELY – swelling of the legs and belly, weight loss, and some animals may die suddenly during exercise or excitement.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of HWD is done by a blood test that can be run in the veterinary hospital. Following diagnosis, further testing is recommended (such as bloodwork and x-rays) to determine if the dog can tolerate the appropriate treatment.

Treatment

In dogs, treatment of HWD is complex, expensive, and can be painful – it involves antibiotics (Doxycycline), an injectable arsenic-based compound to kill adult worms, and steroids to help decrease the inflammatory response when the worms begin to die. Strict rest for several months is incredibly important, as exercise and excitement can lead to dangerous and sometimes life-threatening clots. As long as the disease is not significantly advanced, this disease is treatable. However, in more advanced cases, prognosis can be poor due to substantial damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and liver. Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for cats.

Prevention

Prevention is so important when it comes to heartworm disease, for both dogs and cats. Preventing the disease prevents damage to the heart and lungs, and avoids a painful and expensive treatment process, as well as strict activity restriction. By preventing this disease, you and your pet can enjoy a life of play and adventure without restriction!

Here are a couple of excellent options for preventing heartworm disease that we recommend here at Hampton Veterinary Hospital:

  1. Interceptor PLUS for dogs – a chewable tablet given monthly, year-round.
  2. Proheart Injection for dogs – an injection given here at Hampton Vet, and lasts 12 months.
  3. Revolution PLUS for cats – a monthly topical, applied year-round.

To learn more about heartworm disease, please visit The American Heartworm Society website.

Always remember, we are here to help! If you have any questions or concerns about your pet and heartworm disease, please don’t hesitate to contact us!