Keeping pets safe and healthy is a process that needs to start a few weeks after they are born, or soon after they adopted.
Charles Thompson, a veterinarian from Fort Gibson, presented a seminar on the importance of vaccinating cats, dogs and other pets at Tahlequah Public Library on Thursday night. The meeting was sponsored by the Cherokee County Humane Society.
“Whenever people take their pups to the vet, I tell them when they need to get their vaccinations,” said Thompson. “A lot of people think we’re just trying to get into their pocketbooks, but there really is a reason for all the vaccinations.”
Thompson recommends starting vaccinations for newborn puppies and kittens between 6 and 9 weeks.
At 9 weeks, the immunity to diseases the mother animal has passed on to the babies through nursing has started to bottom out, so it’s a good time for start working on their own immune systems, Thompson said.
“It’s all part of a balancing act,” he said.
The immunity from the mother lasts anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on the mother’s level of immunity when the babies are born. If the vaccination is given too early, the immunity from the mother will neutralize the vaccine and prevent any immune system stimulation within the baby, which is why it is better to wait until the baby is over 6 weeks old.
“You kind of want that first vaccine to be neutralized so we know where the baby’s immune system is at,” said Thompson. “If it is low enough, the baby’s immune system can start to respond on its own.”
However, the first vaccination won’t provide the strongest response, since the baby’s body has only encountered the disease for the first time – which is why two or more vaccinations are necessary, to achieve a high level of immune response.
The animal’s body will take anywhere from 18 to 21 days to build up a good immune defense against the disease being vaccinated against.
Thompson recommends giving vaccinations about every three or four weeks until the baby is 16 weeks old.
“That way, we know that we’ve got an immune response,” said Thompson. “That’s why we do so many and do them when we do them.”
Stray animals that are adopted will already have some kind of natural immunity to diseases – depending on their age – from being exposed to diseases throughout the course of their lives. But they should still get yearly vaccinations.
There are many diseases pet owners have to watch out for, and they vary depending on the species.
Canine Parvovirus, or parvo, is one of the most common and deadly viral illnesses among pet dogs and usually strikes young puppies. Dogs with parvo will develop a sudden onset of vomiting and bloody diarrhea, experience weight loss, become dehydrated and die. The disease can be treated, but vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease.
Distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, coronavirus, lyme disease, rabies and bordatella are all diseases dogs can contract if they are not properly vaccinated.
In cats, the major diseases are panleukopenia (distemper), viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), calicivirus, rabies, chlamydiosis, leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and feline infectious peritonitis. Several of these disease do not have vaccines or treatments.
Thompson said the most important thing to do is check with a veterinarian to make sure pets are given the proper vaccinations at the proper time.
Pets are also susceptible to worms, whether they are in the form of roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms or tapeworms.”All puppies are going to have worms,” said Thompson. “They can be easily treated by a veterinarian.”
Worms can be spread to dogs through fleas and mosquitos, which is why they are so common in dogs.
Worms can be easily treated, but most of the medication is only available through a veterinarian.
Thompson added that it is highly unlikely that an owner would contract worms from a pet.
“Just don’t let your kids play in the litter box and don’t eat out of the litter box,” said Thompson. “Good personal hygiene prevents the transmission of worms.”
Tahlequah Daily Press