In case you’ve been on a desert island for the past few months, vaccinations are in the news. Fearing vaccine-related reactions or other concerns, some people are leery not only of vaccinating their children against preventable illnesses, but also their pets.
Protecting against something you’ve never seen can be a difficult concept for both pet owners and veterinarians. Many veterinarians (and probably 90 percent of vet techs) who have graduated in the past 10 to 20 years have never seen a case of canine distemper. For the pet owner — add in families, friends, co-workers and acquaintances — who has also never seen or known a dog with the disease, it’s easy to begin to believe the threat doesn’t exist, isn’t serious or is overblown.
Those of us who have been practicing longer (35 years, in my case) have seen the green discharge from the eyes and nose, the hardening footpads, the neurological signs and death. Many deaths. We know this invisible and now infrequent killer can gain ground quickly in a community of dogs that are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated and kill indiscriminately and grotesquely. Distemper and parvo outbreaks occur in shelters across the country every week because approximately half of the dogs coming in have never been vaccinated.
For 35 years I’ve told pet owners, if you love your dog or cat specifically, and dogs and cats in general, you’ll get your pets vaccinated not only to give them potentially life-saving protection, but also to put an invisible blanket of protection over the whole pet community.
That doesn’t mean your pet needs every vaccination out there. Your pet’s vaccination program should be individualized, based on factors such as his age, health, medical history, lifestyle (is he a homebody or does he go to dog parks or cat or dog shows?), and the prevalence of disease in your locale.
Get the details on what you need to know in this week’s Pet Connection!