It’s officially summer! There’s nothing like a day spent lounging at the beach or playing at the dog park with dear ole’ Rover. But, even we can admit that recent news of a dog flu outbreak in South Florida has us questioning spending time outdoors with our beloved pooches. It also has given us some questions on vaccines for dogs. Luckily, Dr. Arlianne Velez and Dr. Nobuki Stobaeus are dishing out the scoop on summertime diseases and the vaccines that can help.
My veterinarian suggested that I get my pet vaccinated but there’s no guarantee for my dog’s health. Should I go through with it?
“Absolutely!” says Dr. Stobaeus. “The best medicine is preventative medicine. By keeping your pets up to date on the most common vaccinations, you can protect them from a variety of diseases that affect not only them, but also other pets and some that are even contagious to humans.”
For owners who are especially concerned about the dog flu, Dr. Velez adds some advice.
“We (veterinarians) are recommending owners to vaccinate their dogs against both CIV strains (H3N2 and H3N8). More so if your dog will be at a boarding facility or exposed to other dogs with unknown vaccine history,” says Dr. Velez. “This virus can spread very fast, is highly contagious and can make our dogs very sick, especially pets with a compromised immune system.”
How do vaccines for dogs even work and what do they really protect against?
Dr. Stobaeus says that vaccines work by encouraging the immune system to protect itself against particular viruses and bacteria. This way, if the pet was exposed to that virus or bacteria, their immune system would be able to ward off the infection.
“Let’s take the rabies vaccine for example,” says Dr. Stobaeus. “This is THE most important vaccine to receive because this virus can end up killing your pet and it is also contagious to humans. By vaccinating your pet, if it is bitten by an infected animal, your pet’s immune system should be able to fight off the virus.”
Alright, so how would I know which vaccines my dog or cat should have versus the ones that are merely a recommendation?
Dr. Stobaeus stresses that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship is absolutely crucial. This ensures that your pet’s veterinarian can suggest the appropriate vaccines based on your pet’s risk of exposure.
“For instance, if you have a dog that stays at home with you all the time, then the need for certain respiratory vaccines, which is transmitted from dog-to-dog, would be lower than a dog who boards often,” says Dr. Stobaeus.
Is it possible for my cat or dog to be allergic to a vaccine? If so, what should I do to protect them? What should I do if I suspect that my dog is having a reaction to a vaccine?
According to Dr. Stobaeus, pets can experience adverse reactions to vaccines. However, he insists that due to advances in modern medicine, vaccinations are much safer than those of the past. To curtail the possibility of a negative reaction to vaccines, he suggests having your pet’s vet perform a thorough examination to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to receive a vaccine.
“Once a pet is found to be allergic to a vaccine, your veterinarian can suggest medications that can be given prior to the vaccine to prevent a reaction,” says Dr. Stobaeus. “Additionally, if you suspect your pet is having a vaccine reaction, I recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately so that they can provide you with some options. If they are not available, then the closest emergency veterinary clinic is your next best option as some reactions can be life-threatening.”
What are precautions should a pet owner take before getting their pets vaccinated?
Dr. Stobaeus repeats the importance of ensuring that your pet’s vet performs a comprehensive examination to fully assess your pet’s health before receiving vaccinations.
“Also, if you have smaller pets and they are going to receive several vaccines, sometimes splitting up administration onto different days is a good way of preventing a vaccine reaction,” says Dr. Stobaeus.
If it is the first time your pet will be receiving a particular vaccine, Dr. Velez recommends limiting your pet’s exposure to areas with high dog and cat populations, for at least three weeks. This ensures that your pet has successfully developed an immunity to the virus and bacteria vaccinated against. Dr. Velez adds that the quarantine phase isn’t necessary for pets receiving annual boosters who have previously established immunity.
What are some symptoms of the flu? What should I do if I suspect that my pet has contracted it?
“The most common symptom [of the dog flu] is a cough that can persist for up to three weeks,” says Dr. Velez. “Other clinical signs are discharge from eyes and nose, sneezing, fever (some present really high fevers of 104º–106ºF), lethargy, and anorexia. Some dogs become severely ill, and it can progress to pneumonia, and secondary bacterial infections.”
She continues, “If your dog is showing any of the symptoms mentioned above, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately for diagnostics and treatment. Do not wait for symptoms to go away on their own. This can result in your pet becoming more ill. Keep your pet isolated from your other pets for at least 21 days as the flu is airborne and can spread very quickly and easily in enclosed areas.”
According to Dr. Stobaeus, while the dog flu is highly contagious to other pets, the current strain is not transmissible to humans. However, people who have weakened immune systems should always be cautious around disease.
What can I, as a pet owner, do to help stop the spread of viruses and the flu?
“If you suspect that your pet has contracted a certain disease or the flu, take them in to see your veterinarian immediately,” says Dr. Stobaeus. “One, so that they can be tested for the disease which will help with tracking its spread. Second, to be treated for the disease so that they do not act as a carrier thus stopping its spread.”
The staff at PetMio appreciate being a trusted source when it pertains to your pet’s health. Yet, we will always recommend speaking with your pet’s veterinarian who can provide individualized care and advice. Believing so strongly in preventative treatment for your pet, this is especially true on the topic of vaccines for dogs and cats.