Is this Really Necessary - May 11
by Cindy Pugh
Is this really necessary? This is a question we hear often from concerned clients. The answer is, it depends. It depends on your specific needs for your specific situation. A one year vaccine or a three year vaccine? Annual heartworm test? Bi-annual or annual fecal check? Dental cleanings? All these are legitimate questions in which there is no “umbrella” answer. Let’s break this all down starting with vaccinations.
There seems to be more and more studies regarding need for vaccinations. Vaccination protocol and frequency is being reviewed by several organizations and so far, there is still some controversy regarding what to do with all this information. Every patient is unique and vaccine protocols and frequency should be discussed with your veterinarian. Some vaccinations are mandated by state and local authorities and some vaccinations are recommended, but not mandatory. Still, every pet should be seen by their veterinarian at least yearly for a physical exam. A dog or cat’s body ages more quickly than ours. To skip your pet’s annual physical exam even one year is equivalent to you skipping your physical exam for 4-7 years. Many treatable conditions are left undetected; therefore, many conditions become critical and possibly untreatable by the time the pet has been seen.
Rabies is a disease of mammals, including humans! The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, and rabbits are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans. State laws vary in their vaccination requirements as well as city and local authorities. Most city governments mandate your dog, cat or ferret be vaccinated against Rabies annually or with a multi-year rabies vaccination.
Distemper is a highly contagious and often fatal virus that affects the respiratory, immune, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems in dogs. It is spread as an airborne infection or through direct contact with an infected animal. Transmission of the disease can even be spread by contact where that infected animal has been. A series of vaccinations should be started at 6-8 weeks of age.
Contagious Diseases and Infections
Canine Hepatitis is spread by contact with infected animals through urine, saliva and their feces. It damages the liver, kidneys, and the blood vessels.
Parvo virus is a highly contagious and often deadly disease that commonly affects puppies and poorly protected adults. Therefore, until your puppy has had his/her parvo series, from 6 weeks of age to 16 weeks, you should limit any exposure to other dogs or puppies that have not been vaccinated for this disease.
Parainfluenza is a highly infectious virus that can be part of the kennel cough complex. A harsh, dry cough along with loss of appetite, depression and runny eyes and nose can be symptoms of this disease.
Parainfluenza, Hepatitis and Parvo are combined together with the Distemper combo vaccine.
Bordetella is commonly known as kennel cough. It is a highly contagious, airborne disease in which dogs in places like kennels, dog shows, rescue or shelters, daycare facilities are highly susceptible. Severe coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy is common to this disease. Bordetella vaccine should be boostered every 6 months for active lifestyle pets.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread mainly through urine of infected animals. Deer, skunks, opossums and raccoons, livestock and rodents are just some of the common carriers. Urine contaminated soil can remain a source of infection for years. Leptospirosis affects the kidneys and liver of the animal. It is contagious to humans causing serious kidney and liver damage. Vaccinations are highly recommended by the CDC for you and your pet’s protection.
Lyme disease is one of many tick borne diseases affecting both humans and animals. Lyme disease mimics arthritis causing shifting lameness, sudden severe pain, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and depression. You should consider having your pet tested and vaccinated yearly as Kansas and Missouri are high tick infested states.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and affect dogs and cats. Once infected, cats can’t be treated while dogs require an expensive, risky treatment protocol. Therefore, preventative is the key. Most monthly medications not only prevent heartworms, but also help control or remove various intestinal parasites. According to the American Heartworm Society, dogs should be tested annually and be kept on the monthly preventative. The test not only checks to verify the medication continues to be affective, but it also assures the manufacturer guarantee for the product. Because heartworm medications also help control intestinal parasites, all the more reason to keep your pet on it year round.
Intestinal parasites are a constant problem for pets. Our environment is heavily contaminated! The CDC recommends checking a fecal sample on your pet every 3 months. Most vets try to test every 6 months. Since several intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans, this is a very important recommendation, especially if your pet is not currently taking heartworm preventative, goes to dog parks, or goes for walks regularly. Wild life and other domestic animals transmit intestinal parasite eggs through their stools. Rain, snow and time break down the stool and eggs are deposited into the soil. When your pet comes into contact with the stool or eggs, either by ingesting them, (yes, some dogs partake in this nasty behavior) or by contact with the soil, transmission can occur and the process begins to take place in the animal. Some of these species of eggs can remain dormant for many years so exposure can be immediate as well as over an extended period of time. So, is doing a regular fecal exam necessary? Yes indeed.
Don’t Forget the Teeth!
Gum disease is not new to the pet world. The vast majority of pet owners do not brush their pet’s teeth. Most don’t even think about it until their pet gives them a big kiss and they are practically knocked over by the odor. Dental cleanings are not done for cosmetic purposes. The truth is that it is a medically necessary procedure. Plaque begins as food and saliva accumulate on the teeth. As bacteria grows in the plaque, it actually mineralizes on the teeth and becomes tartar. If the tartar sits at the gum line, bacteria absorbs constantly into the bloodstream. Did you know that one square millimeter of tartar has 1 trillion bacteria living in it? This bacteria is a perpetual stress to the immune system. Bacteria travels to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Over time, this process can cause disease to these major organs, affecting the pet’s general health and life expectancy. Oral abscesses, pain and discomfort are not unusual.
Some pet’s simply need their teeth cleaned and polished while others have significant infection and periodontal disease that result in the pet losing their teeth. Regular dental hygiene is critical in preventing these problems in the future. There are multiple things you can do for your pet to either prevent or at least decrease the frequency of professional cleanings. Dental diets, enzymatic chews, brushing and oral rinses are very beneficial to keep your pet’s mouth clean and hopefully, their teeth in place. So yes, dentals are necessary for the health of your pet.
I hope the explanations I have provided help you in making an informed decision for the care of your pet. Remember: Prevention is the key and your pet’s health is important to all of us in the veterinary profession. We are here for you, to counsel you in making the right decisions to keep your companion happy and healthy for a long time.
Cindy Pugh is the Office Manager at Aid Animal Hospital and truly loves her job. During her 17 years at the hospital, she has enjoyed the lives of many pets, from the first visit through the golden years. Aid Animal Hospital has been around for over 50 years and currently offers a wide array of traditional and holistic veterinary care for dogs, cats, bunnies, etc. The hospital also offers boarding and dental care. The hospital is located at 8343 Wornall Road and Cindy can be reached at 816-363-4922