Every August, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) hosts National Immunization Awareness Month. This campaign is primarily aimed at parents of young children to educate them about the importance of timely vaccines to prevent serious diseases. The veterinary world can learn a few things from this campaign as well. At Grantsburg Animal Hospital, we feel that getting your dog or cat’s vaccines on schedule may be your most important responsibility as a pet owner. Vaccines prevent serious and deadly diseases that can shorten your pet’s lifespan as well as reduce his quality of life.
Some pet owners, particularly those with cats, think they can skip vaccines if their pet remains indoors most of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Your pet only has to inhale a virus in the air to become infected with it. This could happen by doing something as seemingly innocent as sitting underneath a window that you have partially opened to let in a cool breeze.
Just as people depend on herd immunity to keep them protected when some choose not to vaccinate, it’s important to offer your pet the same protection. Dog parks and other places where many pets gather at the same time can attract both vaccinated and non-vaccinated pets. Since you can’t control what other pet owners do, take it upon yourself to ensure that your own pet’s vaccines are up-to-date.
Which Vaccines Do Dogs and Cats Need?
Veterinary vaccines fall into two different categories, core and non-core. Core vaccines are those that are required by law or that we recommend to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases. The canine distemper shot (DHPP) prevents parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, and distemper. The feline distemper shot (FVRCP) prevents calicivirus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia. Most states also have mandatory rabies shots requirements, including Wisconsin.
Non-core vaccines are those that you may choose to get for your dog or cat based on her breed, activity level, and specific risk factors. Dr. Palmquist will advise you if he thinks your dog should get a vaccine for canine virus, canine influenza, bordetella, or Lyme disease. Wisconsin actually has one of the highest Lyme disease rates for dogs in the entire country.
The non-core vaccines to consider for cats include bordetella, chlamydia, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and feline leukemia. An honest assessment of your pet’s lifestyle and consideration of your own concerns is the best way to determine which of these vaccines would be the most valuable.
Dr. Palmquist normally recommends that puppies and kittens start their DHPP or FVRCP before they are two months old. After receiving the initial shot, your growing pet will need regular boosters to build his immunity. If you adopted your pet later in life or if you weren’t aware of these requirements when your pet was younger, he will work with you to get your pet caught up.
Please let us know if you have questions about the recommended vaccine schedule for your dog or cat. Feel free to schedule an appointment if a shot is due or you have any other concerns about your pet’s health.
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Did you know that July is officially UV Safety Month? While this awareness event started with humans in mind, pet owners should understand how to keep them safe from the ultraviolet rays of the run as well. Prolonged exposure to the sun can be just as harmful for your dog or cat as it is for you.
Avoid Shaving Dogs with Long Coats in the Summer
You might think it a kindness to get rid of excess fur to keep your dog cooler, but it actually acts as a barrier against the ultraviolet rays of the sun. When you shave the fur, it leaves your dog at higher risk of sunburn. It's better to thin your dog's fur with an undercoat rake or a specialty product applied directly to the fur for this purpose.
Limit Outdoor Time When the Sun is at Its Peak
The sun's rays are most intense between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., which means that it can do the most damage to skin during these hours. If your pet must be outside in the late morning to early afternoon, limit it to bathroom breaks and brief walks if possible. With daylight lasting until nearly 10:00 p.m. during the summer, it's best to save exercise sessions until later in the evening for maximum sun safety. Additionally, don't allow your pet to roll over on his back with his underside pointed to the sun as this could lead to sunburn.
Consider Sunscreen and Special Clothing
Sunscreen made especially for dogs and cats offers additional protection from sunburn and other common problems caused by sun exposure. It is especially important to protect pets with allergies and those undergoing chemotherapy due to hair loss.
When choosing a sunscreen, avoid any product with zinc oxide. Although this is a typical sunscreen ingredient, it can be toxic to pets if they lick their skin. Be sure to test a small area of your pet's skin first to ensure that she's not allergic to the sunscreen. You only have to apply the sunscreen to areas directly exposed to the sun. If your dog is allergic to sunscreen or you just don't want to use it, lightweight clothing is another alternative for UV protection.
Treating Your Pet's Sunburn
If your pet did sustain a sunburn in spite of your best efforts, you can help her feel better with a cool bath. Use a gentle, soap-free product and lather it up on her skin. Allow the lather to sit for a few minutes before rinsing with water. We can also recommend sunburn protection and treatment products here at Grantsburg Animal Hospital. Please stay sun-safe yourself and enjoy the rest of the summer.
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