By: Peta Gay Railton
Just as human vaccines have eradicated devastating diseases such as smallpox and polio, pet vaccinations are a vital weapon in the fight against the many diseases that threaten our beloved pets.
Take parvo (parvovirus), for example. This horrific virus causes viral gastroenteritis in dogs that literally strips the lining of the intestine. It’s hideously painful and often results in death.
Parvo is also highly contagious. Just a single gram of faeces infected with parvo can spread the disease to another 1,000 animals. The virus will also stay in the environment for about 12 months, and can even survive on your shoes and clothes for up to six months.
The good news is that there is an effective vaccine that prevents parvo from infecting your dog. However, falling vaccination rates have caused a parvo epidemic in some areas.
Authorities identified more than 100 cases of parvo in the Hunter region about four years ago, for example. As a result, we implemented an eradication program in the upper hunter and, thankfully, only saw two cases of parvo last year.
Maintaining herd immunity
For me, that underlines the importance pet vaccinations play in preventing these hard-to-contain outbreaks. In a community, it’s all about herd immunity. So, if you have a high level of vaccination in your community, then there’s no way for the virus to spread.
And all it takes is a single needle that is administered once a year to puppies, and then—in areas where parvo is not endemic—once every three years when the dog is three years old.
But parvo isn’t the end of the vaccination story. We also commonly vaccinate dogs against distemper, hepatitis, viral kennel cough and bacterial kennel cough. Distemper and hepatitis have been largely vaccinated out of Australia. But if we want to prevent parvo-style outbreaks in the future, it is vital to keep vaccination rates high.
Protecting our cats
It’s also important to vaccinate your cats. Cat flu is a herpes virus, which loves to come back and can torture your cat for the rest of its life. When stressed, a cat gets mouth ulcers, running eyes, and stinky breath. It’ll sneeze and go off its food.
You can easily vaccinate your cat against cat flu, as well as against feline AIDS and leukaemia. Feline AIDS is particularly prevalent in Australia and is often found in wild cat populations. It can be spread to domestic cats through fighting, which is another reason you should vaccinate your cats—especially if you live in a country area where they are out and about and may come into contact with feral cats.
Pet vaccinations are vital if you want to keep your cat or dog healthy. They are also important in fighting against harmful epidemics and in ensuring that diseases of the past don’t return in full force.