The Importance of Dog Vaccinations
Dr. Lauren R. Talarico BS, DVM
Dipolmate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
The most recent measles outbreak has raised several questions regarding vaccinations in the canine population. We tend to think of measles as an extinct virus, however its recent uprising has raised questions around the anti-vaccination ideology. This ideology has extended into the veterinary community in the last decade, as the number of owners choosing not to vaccinate their dogs has increased. The veterinary community has worked extremely hard to develop routine vaccination programs against the two most highly contagious and potentially fatal canine diseases: canine distemper virus and canine parvovirus. Routine vaccinations have made these diseases much less common in the canine population.
Similar to how the measles virus has resurfaced in children, the same can happen in dogs if routine vaccination programs are not continued.
Viruses such as distemper and parvovirus are highly contagious. Dogs showing signs associated with these viruses can easily spread the disease to other dogs they come into contact with. Common routes of transmission can include saliva, aerosolized droplets from nasal secretions and sneezing, feces and occasionally urine. It is even possible for dogs not showing clinical signs to spread the virus to other dogs. Highly contagious viruses can rapidly spread from a few unvaccinated dogs and perpetuate rapidly.
Certain canine subpopulations are highly susceptible to contracting diseases from unvaccinated dogs including puppies that have not received their full puppy vaccinations due to age, dogs that are being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or for autoimmune/inflammatory diseases with steroids and geriatric dogs. Even with a routine vaccination program, there is no guarantee your dog is fully protected against these highly contagious diseases. Vaccinations work by triggering your dog’s immune system. The antibodies produced by your dog during this immune response remain in their system and help combat virus if your dog is exposed. Occasionally a dog produces an inadequate or incomplete immune response to a vaccine, making them susceptible to contracting the virus.
As with any medical procedure, vaccinations can be associated with certain risks. Vaccinal risks are referred to as adverse reactions and can vary from mild and resolving within a few hours to severe with lasting, sometimes permanent consequences. Overall, the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks to your dog and the overall canine population.
I encourage you to talk to your veterinarian about a the vaccination schedule best suited for your pet. By working closely together with your veterinarian, you can rest assure that your dog will be well protected. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has developed Canine Vaccination Guidelines. It is important for us to not only protect our own pet, but the entire canine community. Here’s to improving the lives of canines as they do ours!
The views and opinions presented above are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Whistle.
May 1, 2015