Vaccinating your pet is a relatively inexpensive but very important way to protect his or her health. In addition to preventing many life-threatening illnesses, vaccinations can prevent diseases prevalent in wildlife and those that can be passed to humans. It’s important to administer vaccinations when pets are puppies and kittens because their young immune systems are still developing and need protection to stay healthy. It is also important to make sure your pets get boosters throughout their life, usually every 1-3 years depending on the specific vaccine.
While any medical treatment involves some degree of risk, in the case of vaccinations, the benefits far outweigh any potential side effects. Adverse reactions are rare and usually mild and short-term when they do occur.
Which vaccines should your pet have? “Core” vaccines are those recommended—and possibly mandated by law—for most pets. Core vaccines include:
- Rabies (dogs and cats)
- DA2PPV – Distemper, Hepatitis, Adenovirus 2, Parvo and Parainfluenza (dogs)
- FVRCP – Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (cats)
One non-core, but highly suggested vaccination for outdoor cats is FeLV to protect against feline leukemia. For dogs, important non-core vaccines include those to prevent Lyme disease and leptospirosis.
It’s also important to note that even pets who live primarily indoors should be vaccinated, as they can still be exposed to a
Leptospirosis: The Backyard Threat
There are very few diseases you can get directly from your pet, but one of them is especially easy to contract: leptospirosis, a highly contagious illness spread through the urine of infected wildlife.
Dogs don’t even need to make contact with wildlife to get the disease—simply drinking water or ingesting dirt that’s contaminated with the urine of common backyard animals like squirrels, raccoons, and foxes is enough to make your dog very sick.
It’s important to know that this disease is also zoonotic, which means if your dog catches it, the human members of your family could as well!
Symptoms for both dogs and humans are similar and can include:
- Muscle tenderness
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
- Abdominal pain
Lyme disease is a common ailment associated with ticks, and its symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
It’s always a good idea to constantly check your pets for ticks on a daily basis. This can be done while you are playing with your best friend or grooming them. However, the best defense against these pests is always prevention.