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National Immunization Month: All About Pet Vaccines

by Heather Carter August 21, 2023

National Immunization Month: All About Pet Vaccines

The month of August is National Immunization Awareness Month which focuses on the importance of keeping your pets up to date on their vaccinations. The greatest form of protection against the many illnesses your pet can get is by vaccinating them. As a responsible pet owner, it is essential to understand the significance of vaccinations in safeguarding your pet’s health and promoting overall well-being.

What Are Vaccines?

Vaccines are shots (or sometimes nasal spray) that contain preparations to stimulate an immune response in your pet’s body against preventable diseases. After preparing a response to that bacteria or virus, your pet’s body saves that information in case of “reinfection.”

Why Do Vaccinations Matter?

Vaccinations are a critical component of preventive healthcare for pets. They help strengthen their immune system and prepare the body to defend against future infections. Their numerous benefits include:

  • Disease Prevention: Vaccines are like invisible shields, protecting our pets from life-threatening diseases. They reduce the risk of illnesses or worse, so pets can continue living their lives to the fullest.
  • Longevity: Who wouldn’t want more quality time with their four-legged family members? Vaccinations can add years to their lives by preventing diseases that could cause long-term health problems.
  • Cost-Effective: Preventing diseases through vaccinations is often more affordable than treating the illnesses those disease cause. Regular vaccinations can save pet owners from hefty veterinary bills associated with prolonged treatments.
  • Public Health: Some pet diseases can be transmitted to humans. By vaccinating our pets, we also contribute to public health by reducing the risk of zoonotic (infections that are spread between people and animals) infections.

Core vs. Non-Core Vaccines

Vaccinations for your pets are classified as core and non-core vaccinations. Core vaccines are vaccinations that are recommended for all pets. Whereas non-core vaccinations are the vaccines that are recommended by veterinarians based on a pet’s unique medical history and lifestyle.

Dog Vaccines:

Core Vaccines:

  • Canine Distemper Vaccine: Protects against a highly contagious viral disease that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
  • Canine Parvovirus Vaccine: Prevents parvovirus infection, which can lead to severe vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, especially in puppies.
  • Canine Adenovirus Vaccine: Targets adenoviruses that cause respiratory infections and infectious hepatitis in dogs.
  • Rabies Vaccine: Protects dogs from rabies, a deadly viral disease that can be transmitted to humans.
  • Canine Parainfluenza Vaccine: Canine parainfluenza is a contagious disease that is caused by dogs kept in close proximity to one another.

Non-Core Vaccines:

  • Bordetella Vaccine (Kennel Cough): Recommended for dogs that frequently interact with other dogs, especially in group settings like boarding facilities or dog parks.
  • Leptospirosis Vaccine: Protects against leptospirosis bacteria, which can cause kidney and liver damage in dogs and is transmissible to humans.
  • Lyme Disease Vaccine: Recommended for dogs in regions with high tick populations, as Lyme disease is spread through tick bites. 

 Horse Vaccines:

Core Vaccines:

  • Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE): Rare notifiable diseases spread by mosquitoes to humans and other animals. There are several strains of EEE and WEE.
  • West Nile Virus Vaccine: Protects horses from the West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and can lead to neurological disease.
  • Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine: Tetanus, caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, is a serious disease that affects both horses and humans. The vaccine, often administered in combination with other vaccines, prevents tetanus by providing immunity to the toxin produced by the bacterium.
  • Rabies Vaccine: Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects mammals, including horses. Vaccinating horses against rabies is not only important for their own health but also for public safety, as rabies can be transmitted to humans.

Non-Core Vaccines:

  • Equine Influenza Vaccine: Protects horses from the equine influenza virus, which can cause respiratory illness and spread quickly among horses in close proximity.
  • Equine Herpesvirus Vaccine: Equine herpesviruses can cause respiratory disease, abortion in pregnant mares, and neurological disorders.
  • Strangles Vaccine: A highly contagious bacterial infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. The vaccine helps reduce the severity of the disease and limit its spread.
  • Botulism Vaccine: Botulism is caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and can result in paralysis and death.
  • Potomac Horse Fever Vaccine: A potentially serious bacterial infection that primarily affects horses. It is caused by the bacterium Neorickettsia risticii and is often associated with aquatic environments and the insects that inhabit those environments.
  • Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA): A contagious viral disease that can lead to respiratory and reproductive issues in infected horses.
  • Leptospirosis Vaccine: A bacterial infection that can affect both humans and animals and is typically spread through contaminated water or soil, with flu-like symptoms to severe kidney and liver damage.
  • Rotavirus Vaccine: A common viral infection that can lead to severe diarrhea and dehydration in foals. It can spread rapidly among young horses, especially in areas of high population density, such as breeding facilities and equestrian events.

Remember that vaccination schedules and recommendations can vary based on factors such as an animal’s age, health status, lifestyle, and geographical location. It is important to work with a veterinarian to develop a vaccination plan that best suits your horse or dog’s needs. Additionally, staying up to date with the latest information from veterinary professionals is essential for making informed decisions about your pets’ health.

Always keep to your pet’s vaccination schedule. And don’t forget about their boosters!

Vaccine Safety

It is natural for pet owners to have concerns about the safety of vaccinations. Rest assured that vaccines have undergone rigorous testing and are considered safe for administration in healthy pets. Like any medical intervention, vaccines may have some side effects, but these are generally mild and temporary. Keep an eye on your recently vaccinated pet to ensure that any reactions remain mild and don’t result in a more severe reaction. Speak with your trusted veterinarian with any questions or concerns you may have about the safety of vaccines for your pet.

By working together, we can keep our furry friends happy, healthy, and safe from preventable diseases!

Heather Carter


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