Vaccines and Parasites

All dogs and cats, even indoor pets, need to be protected from infectious diseases by keeping vaccinations up to date.  Vaccinations stimulate your pet's immune system to develop immunity.  They prevent disease but do not cure disease so they must be administered before your pet is exposed and infected.  Some viruses travel through the air or may be brought into your house on people's clothing or shoes.  Some vaccines are mixed so your pet does not have to receive separate injections for each disease.

Some vaccinations are considered "core" vaccines which means that it is recommended that every pet receive these vaccines.  Other vaccines are considered "non-core" vaccines and are only administered if a specific pet's environmental conditions put it at risk of potential exposure to that disease.

The core vaccines our hospital recommends for dogs are against:

Rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the brain.  It is prevalent in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.  Rabies is readily transmissible to humans and pets by the bites of an infected animal.

Distemper is a highly contagious, often fatal disease.  It is especially dangerous to puppies.  Distemper is not transmissible to humans or kittens.

Adenovirus/Hepatitis is an infectious viral disease of the liver.  Canine hepatitis in not transmissible to humans or kittens.

Parainfluenza is an upper respiratory infection that causes "Kennel Cough".  Healthy adult dogs usually recover from it.  Puppies and older dogs are at greater risk of serious complications.  Parainfluenza is not transmissible to humans or kittens.

Parvovirus is an often fatal disease of the intestinal tract.  Parvovirus is not transmissible to humans or kittens.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that causes kidney disease.  It is transmitted by rodents.  Canine leptospirosis may be transmissible to humans.

The non-core vaccine our hospital often administers to dogs is:

Bordetella is a bacterial infection often present when a dog has Kennel Cough.  Bordetella is not transmissible to humans or kittens.

The core vaccines our hospital recommends for cats are against:


Feline Distemper/Panleukopenia is a potentially fatal disease among cats.  It is a highly contagious viral disease that can be spread through the air, contact with infected animals or even contact with places where infected animals have been.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis and Calici Virus are highly contagious upper respiratory viral infections.  These diseases are sometimes fatal to kittens.

Feline Leukemia Virus is the leading cause of death from infectious agents in cats.  It is caused by a virus which inhibits the immune system and rsults in various types of cancer and other chronic diseases.  The virus is present in saliva, urine and othjer body fluids and is typically passed from cat to cat by general contact, including licking, biting, sneezing and sharing food and water dishes.

Heartworm Disease is a potentially fatal parasitic disease that threatens not only dogs but cats as well.  Mosquitoes pick up heartworm larva when they ingest the blood from an infected animal.  The larva undergo a stage inside the mosquito and when thet mosquitoe bites another animal, the now-infective larva are injected into the new host animal.    The parasitic larva move through the pet's tissues and eventually grow up in about 6 months as adult heartworms that live inside your pet's heart, reproducing more larva for another mosquitoe to ingest in a blood meal.

Heartworms interfere with the normal flow of blood from the right side of the heart to the vessels serving the lungs.  If left untreated, canine heartworm disease can significantly reduce your dog's quality of life, cause congestive failure of the heart and other organs, and ultimately can lead to death.  Heartworm disease can rob your dog of it's appetite, energy and quality of life while appearing as something much less serious.  You may mistake the signs of heartworm disease, such as frequent coughing, labored breathing and decreased activity for those of the common cold, fatigue or old age.  While heartworm disease can be treated, the treatment is not without risks, including the death of the dog.  The treatment takes a minimum of 5 weeks to complete and includes important home care.  While our hospital does it's best to keep the cost of heartworm treatment low, it is still a costly process.

In cats, the heartworm is more often found in the blood vessels of the lungs instead of the heart.  It only takes one adult worm to cause severe damage to the cat's lungs causing symptoms that are non-specific and often mimic those of other disease conditions.  Some of these symptoms include intermittant vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy, coughing, weight loss and breathing difficulties.   In many cases, sudden death of the cat is the only symptom noticed by the owner.  Currently, there is no approved treatment for heartworms in cats.

The best course of action for every pet owner is in prevention.  There are multiple products approved for use in both dogs and cats that provide 100% prevention against heartworms.  These preventatives are available in both flavored tablets and chews, but also in easy-to-apply topicals.  The administration of heartworm preventaivis is on a monthly basis and recommended year-round, even in supposed mosquitoe "off seasons" no matter where you live in the country.  For detailed information about heartworm disease in both dogs and cats, please visit the website of the American Heartworm Society.  


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