In this post, we’ll look at the common vaccinations that we consider for dogs and cats. We follow the American Animal Hospital Association vaccination guidelines, which are thoroughly researched and, we believe, the most up-to-date and appropriate vaccination guidelines for pets living in Ontario. Only vaccinations that we recommend are included here.
RabiesThis disease is caused by a virus that infects all warm-blooded animals. It is usually spread though animal bites when the saliva contains the virus. Rabies is very hard to detect when an animal is alive since only certain tissues respond to testing. Signs of the disease are change of behavior/temperament, restlessness, irregular eating, difficulty swallowing, increased drooling, fever, vicious behavior, paralysis, and convulsions. Death is the ultimate outcome. There is no treatment for animals with rabies, and once determined to be infected, they are euthanized. However, if they bite a human while infected, the animal is placed into quarantine for 10 days before euthanasia for human health reasons. Vaccination is the only effective way of preventing the disease.
Canine Distemper †This is one of the most widespread canine diseases (rodents may also become infected). Canine distemper is a viral infection that is spread through the air and contaminated objects. It is more common in puppies and those with a weakened immune system. Signs of the disease include respiratory problems, runny nose and eyes, diarrhea, vomiting, and seizures. Recovered animals may experience muscle pain, and periodic convulsions. Distemper can be fatal. The best means of preventing the disease is through a series of puppy vaccinations beginning at 6-9 weeks of age, followed by a yearly booster.
Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis) †This disease is an infectious viral disease. Adenovirus infects the liver, kidneys, lymph nodes, eyes, and other organs. Most dogs are exposed to adenovirus during their lifetime, and cases range from mild to fatal. Signs of the virus generally first appear a week after the virus is contracted and include fever, loss of appetite, increased thirst, tonsillitis, and reddening of the mouth, throat and eyes. Like other canine diseases, the most effective method of preventing adenovirus is through a series of puppy vaccinations followed by a yearly booster.
Parvovirus †This is another viral disease that can be contracted through infected feces and urine. The virus is able to live a long time outside of the host, thus making it very contagious. Puppies are most susceptible. Parvovirus causes severe bloody vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, shock, and even death. The most effective way of preventing the disease is through a series of puppy vaccinations followed by a yearly booster.
Parainfluenza †This is a canine disease that causes kennel cough. It is generally a mild respiratory infection in healthy dogs, but can be very severe in puppies and elderly dogs. Again, a series of puppy vaccinations followed by yearly boosters are the best means of prevention against Parainfluenza.
Bordetella (Kennel Cough)This disease is one of the main contributors to kennel cough. It can either be a sole bacterial infection or be in combination with distemper, adenovirus type-2 infection, parainfluenza, and other respiratory problems. Signs of the illness include a harsh, dry cough that is often followed by gagging and coughing up a foamy mucous. It is spread through inhalation or contact with contaminated surfaces. Since Bordetella is highly contagious, yearly and up-to-date vaccinations are required at many boarding, training, and grooming facilities. A yearly vaccine is the most effective means of prevention.
LeptospirosisThis is a bacterial disease that infects dogs, humans, and other mammals. It is highly contagious and is found in many types. Each type of Leptospirosis is infectious to only certain animals. The bacteria attack kidneys, the liver, and nervous system, causing permanent damage. Leptospirosis is passed through contact with bodily secretions, especially in urine. It most commonly collects in pond or stagnant water. The best method of prevention is through a series of puppy vaccinations followed by a yearly booster.
Lyme DiseaseThis is a bacterial disease that is also known as Borreliosis and can infect most animals. It is usually transmitted by nymphs of deer and mice ticks. The greatest threat of Lyme disease is during the summer months. Signs of the disease include a rash, fever, joint pain/swelling, and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment is very difficult and the disease can spread to humans. The best means of prevention is through vaccination. It is highly recommended that dogs that go into wooded areas during the summer be vaccinated against Lyme disease.
Canine InfluenzaCanine influenza is a viral disease that causes symptoms similar to those experienced by humans with flu, including cough, sneezing, lethargy, fever, and discharge from the nose and eyes. This virus is currently of concern mainly in the United States, but there is concern it may become established in Ontario. We’re keeping an eye on it.(There are other canine vaccinations available, however due either their risks or lack of efficacy, we do not recommend them currently.)
Rabies(Same as Vaccines: Dogs > Rabies) This disease is caused by a virus that infects all warm-blooded animals. It is usually spread though animal bites when the saliva contains the virus. Rabies is very hard to detect when an animal is alive since only certain tissues respond to testing. Signs of the disease are change of behavior/temperament, restlessness, irregular eating, difficulty swallowing, increased drooling, fever, vicious behavior, paralysis, and convulsions. Death is the ultimate outcome. There is no treatment for animals with rabies, and once determined to be infected, they are euthanized. However, if they bite a human while infected, the animal is placed into quarantine for 10 days before euthanasia for human health reasons. Vaccination is the only effective way of preventing the disease.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis ††This is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is caused by a herpes virus that attacks a cat’s eyes, nasal passages, and trachea. The disease is much more prevalent and serious in kittens. FVR is spread by contact with bodily discharges and contact with contaminated objects (infected animals are often place in quarantine). The infection is characterized by sneezing, loss of appetite, fever, and eye inflammation. Recovery usually occurs 1-3 weeks after infection. A system of kitten vaccinations followed by a yearly booster is the best way to prevent the disease.
Feline Calicivirus ††This highly contagious and ubiquitous virus is one of the major causes of upper respiratory infection in cats. Affected cats may experience sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, lethargy, loss of appetite, sores on the gums and soft tissues of the oral cavity, and lameness. In some cases, affected kittens may develop pneumonia. In rare cases, a much more virulent strain of this virus can cause inflammation of the liver, intestines, pancreas, and cells that line the blood vessels. This severe form of calicivirus can be deadly in up to half of affected cats.
Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) ††This is one of the most widespread feline viral diseases and is extremely contagious. Panleukopenia is most common in kittens under 6 months of age. It is spread by contact with an infected cat or by contact with infected bodily secretions (urine, blood, etc.). Signs of the disease usually develop 2-5 days after contracting it, and the duration of the illness ranges from 2-14 days. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, and depression. Many cats that contract the disease also show signs of secondary pneumonia due to a weakened immune system. A system of kitten vaccinations followed by a yearly booster is the best way to prevent the disease.
Feline leukemia (FeLV)This is a viral disease that can occur in several forms of severity. It is the most destructive feline virus and is highly contagious. It is spread by saliva (mating, grooming, fighting, etc.) as well as infected blood and urine contact. The infection can cause uncontrolled increase of the virus, leading to altered cells that cause tumors, destruction of blood cells, and dysfunction of the immune system. Some versions of the disease can become fatal over time. The only means of prevention of the disease are isolation (not allowing contact with other cats) and vaccination. A simple blood test can determine if the cat has this disease.(There are other feline vaccinations available, however due either their risks or lack of efficacy, we do not recommend them currently.) † These are combined into a single core vaccine commonly referred by the acronym DA2PP†† These are combined into a single core vaccine commonly referred by the acronym FVRCP
Vaccine descriptions and info from: https://www.eckerd.edu/housing/pet-life/health/, https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/core-vaccines-dogs-cats/, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/sites/default/files/FactSheetIV.pdf, https://pressbooks.umn.edu/vetprevmed/chapter/chapter-3-vaccines-and-vaccinations-individual/ (table)
|DISEASE||CAUSATIVE ORGANISM||CLINICAL SIGNS||CURABLE?||CONTAGIOUS?|
|CANINE DISTEMPER||Distemper virus||This does not cause a change in the dog’s behavior or temperament. Clinical signs include coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, and neurologic changes.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other dogs and to ferrets|
|INFECTIOUS CANINE HEPATITIS||Adenovirus||Clinical signs are of liver disease with decreased appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and edema of the cornea, and discharge from the eyes and nose.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other dogs|
|CANINE PARVOVIRUS||Parvovirus||Clinical signs are of severe destruction of the intestinal tract with vomiting and bloody diarrhea.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other dogs and wild canids (wolves)|
|KENNEL COUGH||Bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus||Infected dogs have a chronic harsh cough.||Bacterial infection is treatable with antibiotics.||Yes, to other dogs, cats, and pocket pets|
|CANINE INFLUENZA||Canine influenza virus (H3N8, H3N2)||Upper and lower respiratory signs (nasal discharge and cough, respectively), lethargy||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other dogs.|
|LEPTOSPIROSIS||Leptospira spp||Clinical signs are those of kidney and liver disease and include fever, lack of appetite, vomiting, and increased thirst.||Yes, with antibiotics.||Yes, through contact with urine from infected animals|
|LYME DISEASE||Borrelia burgdorferei||The most common clinical signs are lameness shifting from leg to leg, and fever.||Yes, with antibiotics.||No, this disease must be transmitted by an infected tick|
|RABIES||Rabies virus||Clinical signs are neurologic; there is a “dumb” form (paralysis) and a “furious” form (aggression, seizures).||No – this disease is invariably fatal.||Yes, to all mammals, including humans|
|FELINE DISTEMPER||Panleukopenia virus||This does not cause a change in the cat’s behavior or temperament. Clinical signs are of severe destruction of the intestinal tract with vomiting and diarrhea.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other cats|
|CALICIVIRUS||Calicivirus||Clinical signs are of severe respiratory disease.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other cats|
|FELINE RHINOTRACHEITIS||Herpesvirus||Rhinotracheitis is inflammation of the nose and respiratory tract, evidenced as discharge from the eyes and nose and sneezing.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other cats|
|FELINE LEUKEMIA||Feline leukemia virus||The immune system is suppressed so chronic infections may be seen. Associated problems are anemia and cancer.||No specific treatment is available.||Yes, to other cats|