Even though your puppy or kitten has gotten its initial round of vet-administered pet vaccines, their protection does not last forever. Just as people must get booster shots, so must your dog or cat. Ultimately, the key to a long and healthy life for your pet is to be a responsible pet owner, to be aware, and to keep up with yearly preventative vaccines.

Dogs and cats get a variety of vaccines for the prevention of different diseases. Some viruses are shared between the species, such as rabies, which both dogs and cats can contract. Preventing these diseases with annual is far cheaper in the long run than having to treat your pet when they are in critical condition and need extensive hospitalization and care. Below are some of the more common diseases that afflict pets and what they can do to your favorite companion. Remember that above all it is your responsibility as a good pet owner to keep your pet healthy and protected from infectious diseases.

Rabies is a serious neurological disease caused by a virus that is transmitted by a bite from a rabid animal through their infected saliva. It can be fatal to your pet if they are exposed. Rabies vaccinations are required by law. Therefore your pets must be vaccinated for rabies.

If you live in a wooded area or in a part of town with a high population of bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks, your cat or dog can become exposed to rabid animals at a higher rate. Rabid animals will show signs of salivating excessively, have difficulty swallowing, behave erratically, will be overly sensitive to noise, will move and often strike out at anything moving in their path. There is no cure for rabies in cats or dogs. So please be a responsible pet owner, and make sure that your pets receive timely vaccinations.

Common Canine Diseases

  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough): Your dog should be vaccinated against kennel cough if you are boarding your animal while you are away from home, or even if your dog is just socializing with other dogs. The vaccine is frequently administered via a nasal spray as well as by injection. A dog with kennel cough often displays symptoms such as a deep, hacking cough and occasional mucus. If the disease is contracted, the dog is treated with a course of antibiotics.
  • Distemper: This disease is usually fatal to dogs, and is highly contagious. It affects the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems, and is identified by its initial flu-like symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and lethargy. A high fever will accompany these symptoms and will be followed by diarrhea.
  • Hepatitis: This disease is caused by a virus that affects the liver, causing your dog to experience a fever, runny eyes, and abdominal pain. The fever may increase, causing convulsions. This disease, without prior administration of pet vaccines can be fatal if not treated in a timely manner.
  • Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease commonly contracted through drinking of stagnant water in which an infected animal has urinated. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease and can be spread to humans as well. In the beginning, symptoms may be nonexistent, but the disease will eventually lead to a kidney infection, vomiting, fever and weight loss. The infection can be fatal if not treated, and the dog, if it survives, will most likely suffer from side-effects for the rest of his or her life.
  • Parainfluenza: This is a highly contagious respiratory disease, whose symptoms include a dry cough, runny nose and eyes, and lethargy. The disease will cause damage to the dog’s respiratory system and can be fatal if not treated quickly. If you are likely to board your dog, administration of preventative vaccines for Parainfluenza is recommended.
  • Parvovirus: A serious viral infection that can affect young, non-vaccinated puppies. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. A large percentage of puppies infected with parvo will die in just a few days if they do not receive hospitalization with aggressive fluid therapy and nursing care. Vaccinating female dogs before breeding and vaccinating puppies at 8 weeks of age with the Parvo vaccine is a very important preventative for this highly contagious disease.

Common Feline Diseases

  • Chlamydia, Calici, and Rhinotracheitis: All three are common upper respiratory diseases. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, a runny nose and eyes, and fatigue, all of which are similar to our common cold. Antibiotics and good nursing care is the basis of treatment but preventative vaccines are important in reducing infection especially in multi-cat households.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus: A contagious viral infection that is shed in the saliva, milk, urine and feces of infected cats. Cats who are predominantly outdoors and roam are at higher risk of exposure to this virus from infected cats. After successful infection cats can develop cancer, anemia or immunodeficiency. The Feline Leukemia vaccine is very good at providing protection and is always recommended if you have an indoor-outdoor cat.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: There is no good vaccine to protect against this virus at this time. Commonly but incorrectly referred to as Feline AIDS, humans are unable to catch FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). Cats who are outdoors and get into fights are at greater risk of getting FIV because of the great potential for bites. Biting is the major mode of transmission. FIV positive cats can develop immunodeficiency, cancer, anemia, and neurologic disease.
  • Distemper (Panleukopenia): Distemper should not be confused with the distemper viral infection in dogs. Distemper in cats is more similar to parvovirus in dogs. Diarrhea, high fever, vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite are hallmark symptoms of distemper. This disease is almost always fatal without proper vaccines beforehand.

Vaccinating your pet ensures that he or she is protected from the many infectious agents that are out in the environment. Speak with your veterinarian if you have questions. He or she can offer information on these regular rounds of vaccines. Being a responsible pet owner is a major part of maintaining your pet’s health. You owe it to your dog or cat to get them vaccinated.