Preventative care for pets


What are vaccines?

Vaccines are health products that trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents. Vaccines can lessen the severity of future diseases and certain vaccines can prevent infection altogether. Today, a variety of vaccines are available for use by veterinarians.

Experts agree that widespread use of vaccines within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. Even though some formerly common diseases have now become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because these serious disease agents continue to be present in the environment.

Which vaccines should pets receive?

Veterinarians consider the pet's lifestyle, related disease risks, and the characteristics of available vaccines. "Core vaccines" (e.g., rabies, feline panleukopenia, feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus infection, canine distemper, canine parvovirus infection, and canine hepatitis) are recommended for most pets. Additional "non-core vaccines" (e.g., feline leukemia, canine kennel cough and other vaccines) may be appropriate based on the pet's particular needs.

How often should pets be revaccinated?

Veterinarians have traditionally vaccinated annually; however, they are now learning that some vaccines induce immunity that lasts less than one year, whereas others may induce immunity that lasts well beyond one year. Check with your Veterinarian what vaccination programs are available!

Are there risks associated with vaccination?

Vaccines have protected millions of animals from illness and death caused by infectious diseases. All medical procedures, however, carry with them some risk. Fortunately, in the case of vaccination, serious adverse responses are very infrequent. Veterinarians minimize risk by carefully selecting vaccines on the basis of a pet's individual needs and by choosing appropriate injection sites.

What should I expect after my pet's vaccination?

It's common for pets to experience some mild side effects such as

  • Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
  • Mild fever
  • Decreased appetite and activity
  • Sneezing, mild coughing, "snotty nose" or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine
  • after receiving a vaccine. You should talk with your veterinarian about what to expect after vaccination, and be sure to inform him or her if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication. More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:

    • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
    • Itchy skin that may seem bumpy ("hives")
    • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
    • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing
    • Collapse

    What is flea and tick prevention?

    Flea and tick prevention consists of a variety of products used to control flea and/or tick infestations on your pet and to prevent infestations inside your home. Fleas are small insects that are parasitic; they feed on blood from animals and/or people. Ticks are a type of arachnid (like spiders, scorpions, and mites) that are also parasitic.

    How can my pet get fleas or ticks?

    Fleas and ticks can be found worldwide. Fleas can live in many climate zones, but they prefer humid and shady areas, such as under a leaf. They can also be carried by many different wild animal hosts, such as foxes, skunks, raccoons, birds, and rodents. They have incredible jumping ability and can easily jump onto you or your pet as you walk by. Ticks can also live in many climate zones, and prefer humid and shady environments, especially areas with woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses. Ticks can be carried by a variety of wild animal hosts such as deer, horses, and rodents. Ticks cannot jump like fleas, but will grab you or your pet as you walk by via a behavior called questing.

    Why is flea and tick prevention important?

    Fleas and ticks can cause two specific problems. One, they can cause discomfort and skin irritation through their bites, and in some cases can cause severe allergic reactions in both pets and people. Two, they both can carry diseases and can cause illness both in pets and people. Some of these diseases can be deadly and others can cause severe, chronic, and lifelong illness. Prevention is key to avoid these problems.

    Prevention is also important because both fleas and ticks can infest the home. Because they have different life cycles (see handouts "Flea Control in Cats", "Flea Control in Dogs", "Ticks in Dogs", and "Ticks in Cats" for more information on life cycles), treating an infestation is much more difficult (and costly) than preventing an infestation.

    What kinds of illnesses can fleas and/or ticks cause?

    Fleas and ticks can transmit many infectious diseases when they take a blood meal from either pets or people. The most common flea of North America can transmit murine typhus, flea-borne spotted fever, cat-scratch disease (bartonellosis), and flea tapeworms. Other flea species can transmit salmonellosis, plague, rodent tapeworm, murine trypanosomiasis, dwarf tapeworm. Fleas in general can transmit hemoplasmosis and tularemia. Each tick species is known to transmit specific infectious diseases, including but not limited to the following: Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rickettsiosis, tularemia, cytauxzoonosis, and hepatozoonosis.

    What are the different kinds of flea and tick prevention?

    Depending on your lifestyle, your pet's lifestyle, and your needs and preferences, your veterinarian will help you choose a product that works best for you and your pet. Examples of available products include the following:

    • Topical flea products: Activyl®, Advantage® II, Cheristin®
    • Oral flea products: Capstar®, Comfortis®, Sentinel® (growth regulator only)
    • Topical tick products: Preventic® (dogs only)
    • Topical combination products: Frontline®, K9 Advantixx® II (dogs only), Bravecto®, Revolution®, Seresto® (collar), Vectra 3D® (dogs only), Effipro® Plus, Effitix® (dogs only)
    • Oral combination products (dogs only): Bravecto®, NexGard®, Trifexis®, Simparica™
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