Stilwell Animal Hospital & Equine Center, P.A. is dedicated to providing the best preventative care for your pets. Vaccination and deworming protocols are one of the many ways we try to proactively approach preventable diseases in animals. We tailor our vaccination protocols to accommodate the individual needs for your pet. Some vaccinations are recommended in every pet, and others are recommended based on your pet’s individual risk.
Rabies is a legally required vaccine in the state of Kansas and in most cities in Missouri, and so can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian. Rabies is a deadly virus that is also a human health risk, and so is taken very seriously by veterinarians. All mammals are susceptible to infection with the rabies virus, and it is endemic in wild mammal populations (bats, raccoons, opossums, squirrels) in both Missouri and Kansas. Our vaccinated pets provide the necessary barrier between infected wild animals and humans to stop the spread of the rabies virus. We perform rabies vaccinations yearly in all species, and provide rabies tags and certificates with each vaccination.
The “kennel cough” is a combination of bacteria and viruses that cause a complex of respiratory disease in dogs. It is a transmissible disease that is commonly seen in areas where large groups of dogs gather such as dog parks, veterinary clinics, daycare centers, shelters, and pet stores. It can be spread from dog to dog, or from nasal secretions of an infected dog coming into contact with an un-infected dog. This means that people coming into contact with infected dogs can bring home traces of the disease to their own dogs at home if proper biosecurity is not upheld. The bacterial agent responsible for this disease complex is Bordatella Bronchiseptica. This is the agent we are vaccinating against in the “kennel cough” vaccine. The kennel cough vaccine can be an intranasal vaccine, an oral vaccine, or an injectable form. We routinely alternate the type of vaccine that we use. By vaccinating against the bacterial component of the disease at the site of infection, we prevent the disease complex from affecting vaccinated dogs. This vaccine is labeled to be protective for 6 months, so we recommend semi-annual vaccination to keep your dog protected.
Vaccination protocols in puppies can vary depending on what veterinarian you see and your puppy’s individual needs, but there are some general guidelines that can help you as the client to be educated about your dog’s health. Most importantly, puppies should start vaccinations at 6-8 weeks to help stimulate their immune system after they leave their mothers. Dogs get some immunity from their mother’s in utero (before birth) and continue that immunity while they are drinking their mother’s milk. As they age, they start to rely less on their mothers and develop their own immunity. It is during this time between the ages of 6-16 weeks that our intervention as veterinarians is most important in stimulating them to develop a healthy immune system. We do this primarily by vaccinating them against common pathogens (bacteria and viruses) so that they don’t develop life-threatening disease. Secondly, because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, they must be vaccinated more frequently with boosters than we do in older dogs. This means your puppy will be visiting us every 2-3 weeks for boosters and wellness examinations. Once dogs reach 16 weeks old, their immune system has matured enough that we can administer their final puppy boosters. Rabies vaccination can be given between 4 and 6 months old. We usually recommend vaccinating for Rabies at 6 months when we spay or neuter your pet. After this final puppy visit, then your puppy can maintain the semi-annual vaccination protocol that we use for adult dogs.
The shelter/breeder/pet store said that my puppy/kitten was already dewormed, so why are we deworming them again?
Puppies and kittens are especially susceptible to intestinal parasite infections for a variety of reasons. First, their immune system is not fully developed enough to protect them the way older dogs and cats can. Secondly, young animals often explore the world with their mouths, which predisposes them to ingesting the eggs of parasites more frequently than their older more experienced counterparts. Third, and perhaps most importantly, younger animals have not yet started on parasite prevention (flea, tick, and heartworm prevention often contain ingredients that also help prevent intestinal parasites). These factors increase the risk of intestinal parasites in young animals, and their exposure to parasites is more frequent. Therefore, we must also deworm younger animals more frequently until their immune systems develop and they are on a monthly prevention. We routinely perform fecal examinations to determine what types of parasites your pet may be carrying. Not all dewormers take care of all of the different kinds of intestinal parasites, so deworming can be tailored to your pet’s needs.
The blood test that we are talking about in this case is the FeLV/FIV snap test that we use to determine if a cat is FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) or FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) positive. This is especially important in found strays or outdoor cats that are overdue on vaccinations or have an unknown vaccination status. If a cat is positive for either of these two viruses and we vaccinate it, the cat could have a life-threatening immune reaction to the vaccine. It is important to regularly screen your cat for these two diseases, as an early detection of either could significantly improve your cat’s prognosis and quality of life.