VACCINATION INFORMATION (Immunology)
Vaccinations are given to prevent the development of specific infectious disease
Vaccines do not cause a disease, but act as a stimulus to your pet’s immune system causing it to produce antibodies capable of protecting your pet against those specific diseases.
Antibodies fight disease by killing disease-causing organisms within the body.
Antibody levels produced by the initial vaccination diminish with time.
When your cat is revaccinated, its immune system is stimulated to ‘remember’ the specific disease organism and manufacture more of the appropriate antibodies.
Vaccines are not guaranteed to prevent disease because too many variables are involved.
The most important factor is the immune system of the individual pet. Like people, pets have varying abilities to respond to vaccines and fight off an infection. Some animals naturally respond better to vaccination than other.
Very young kittens, as well as aging pets, appear to have diminished ability to respond to vaccinations. In such cases, it is critical that the pet be revaccinated at the appropriate interval. An animal that is underweight, pregnant, or stressed because of a serious infestation of parasites or other illness also may respond poorly to vaccination.
If an animal is exposed to disease shortly before or after vaccination, it may not have sufficient time to develop immunity from the vaccination before it becomes sick. This often occurs in pets adapted from shelters where they have been exposed to all sorts of diseases. Remember that it takes time for a disease to develop after exposure, and the vaccine may not have enough time to activate the pet’s immune system if the disease is already working in the pet’s body.
Normal kittens, which are allowed to nurse, absorb antibodies from their mother’s milk. This only occurs during the first 6-12 hours of life and is only present in the mother’s ‘first milk.’ These antibodies defend against disease until the young animal’s immune system is able to do so.
Kittens need vaccinations to stimulate their immune system as soon as the protective level of antibodies they received from the mother’s milk have disappeared from their blood stream. To determine the exact time at which this level occurs is very expensive. Therefore a SERIES of vaccinations is the most inexpensive way to protect kittens against disease, insuring vaccination at the best time.
Each injection in the initial series of vaccinations increases the antibody level of the blood to a higher number. Each additional vaccine has a ‘stair-stepping effect.’ When sufficient injections have been given to get the pet’s blood antibodies to ‘the top of the stairs,’ the pet is then immunized properly and will have the ability to resist the particular disease when exposed. UNTIL THAT HIGH ANTIBODY LEVEL IS REACHED IN THE BLOODSTREAM AS A RESULT OF THE ENTIRE VACCINATION SERIES, THE PET IS NOT TOTALLY IMMUNE TO DISEASE! It is very important to return for each vaccination on time at the recommended intervals to properly protect the pet. It is also important to “isolate” the new pet as much as possible from other animals until the entire vaccination series is completed to prevent possible disease resulting from exposure to a disease before sufficient immunity has developed.
MORE THAN JUST A RABIES VACCINATION
RABIES VACCINATION is required by law because of the possibility of transmission to humans through a bite wound. However, there are other diseases that are equally important or most important to your pet’s health and well-being.
Other diseases such as: Feline Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Feline Leukemia Virus cause serious disease – and sometimes death in cats.
The above-mentioned pet diseases are seen daily in our practices illustrating that they are very common in our area and often LIFE THREATENING to your pet.
The sad remark that we often hear, “I didn’t know that my pet needed other vaccinations,” is heard all too often.
The following summary is what is currently recommended in our clinics to maintain your pet in optimum health. Please bring your pets to any of our clinics to have these other vaccinations and services performed insuring quality care and life for your pet.
• Rabies Vaccination
• Feline Leukemia Testing and Vaccination
• Spaying or Neutering
• Dental Examination
• Physical Examination
RABIES is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Rabies is on the rise in many parts of the country. Fortunately you can take steps to protect yourself, your family, and any animals you own.
The virus only affects mammals (warm-blooded animals who nurse their young). This means pets, livestock, wildlife, and people are at risk.
The rabies virus lives in the saliva and brain tissue of infected animals. Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain in all animals as well as in man. The disease is spread mainly through bites from infected animals. Although much less common, rabies can also be contacted through scratches from an infected animal or when infected saliva or brain tissue comes in contact with open wounds, skin breaks, or mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Mainly wild animals carry rabies, most commonly by raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. However, stray dogs and cats can also be carriers. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and farm animals can easily pick up rabies from wild or stray animals.
Regardless of the form of rabies, the end result is paralysis, coma, and death. Rabies cases take two forms:
• “Dumb Rabies” cases exhibit signs of the animal becoming shy or unusually approachable. These animals may be sluggish, confused, and depressed.
• “Furious Rabies” cases are very irritable and may be aggressive. At times it may seem confused and calm, then suddenly attack when approached. It may lose all caution for natural enemies.
WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF, YOUR FAMILY, & YOUR PETS
• Avoid contact with all wild animals. Never attempt to feed or handle any wild animal. Never adopt wild animals as pets.
• Keep wild animals out of your home. Secure doors and windows, cap chimneys with screens, and close off any opening in porches, basements, and attics.
• Stay away from strays. You never know if they have been properly vaccinated. Report strays to your local animal control officer.
• Secure trash and any other potential food outdoors in animal-proof containers to avoid attracting wild or stray animals.
• Have all pets vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian to ensure adequate protection develops. Give boosters as recommended by the veterinarian in your area.
• Never feed your pet’s outdoors. Keep the area around your home free of table scraps and other things that might attract stray animals.
• Confine your pets to your property. Pets that are allowed to roam are at higher risk for rabies exposure and infection.
• Act on any attack or bite suffered by your pet or you. If the pet is bitten, contact your veterinarian. If a human is bitten, contact your human physician or hospital emergency room.
• Know the signs of rabies. A change in “expected behavior” is the most consistent sign of rabies. Common signs are shyness or unusually approachable, excitability and aggression, daytime activity in animals normally only active at night, staggering, weakness, and paralysis, changes in the sound of the animal’s voice, drooling, frothing at the mouth, and convulsions.
• Know what to do if bitten by a wild or stray animal or by a pet:
• Wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
• If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name, address, and ask for proof of vaccination.
• If the animal is wild, confine if possible. Call the local animal control authorities at once. Kill the animal only as a last resort, but do not damage its head. The animal’s brain tissue is the only tissue that can be tested.
• Call your physician at once.
• Report the bite to the local health department or animal control authorities.
FELINE LEUKEMIA FACTS:
Feline Leukemia is a viral infection that predisposes cats to infection and fatal tumors.
Feline Leukemia is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS from cat to cat.
Licking, sneezing, fighting, sharing food bowls, or sharing litter pans may spread it.
It is one of the MAJOR causes of death in cats today.
Diagnosis is made by clinical signs and a blood test.
There is NO SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT!
The virus does NOT live outside the cat’s body over 2-3 days.
It is NOT CONTAGIOUS to humans.
Due to the seriousness of this disease, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT ALL CATS are vaccinated! Once the disease is contracted there is NO cure!
FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS – FIV FACTS:
A feline virus exists that is very similar to the Human AIDS virus.
Some current information regarding FIV:
• There is no evidence to indicate that the disease is transmittable to humans. Cat owners should not be concerned that their their cats could expose them to human AIDS.
• There is a specific test available to screen for FIV. It is reliable and requires only a small amount of blood.
• The virus suppresses the cat’s entire immune system and causes the cat to be more susceptible to infection and disease.
• FIV infection should be suspected in any cat that has repeated infections or continually gets in fights with other cats.
• The virus is transmitted through bite wounds and sexual contact. Unneutered animals and cats that are in fights are most at risk.
VACCINATIONS MAY FAIL TO WORK
Vaccinations have prevented disease in millions of pets for many years. Unfortunately, there is that one very rare pet that still breaks with a particular disease after being vaccinated for that disease.
There are several explanations for that occurrence:
The particular strain of vaccine was different from what caused the disease. There are a multitude of “strains” of a particular virus family. In most diseases, the strain of virus used in the vaccine will also protect against other strains in that particular virus family. Occasionally the strain does not cross-react and protect against another strain.
The vaccine was ineffective. Vaccines are sensitive to temperature and light. There is no good way to tell if a vaccine is active once it leaves the manufacturer’s quality control facility. The vaccine may have become too warm during transit, or even been allowed to sit out of refrigeration for too long at either the distributor’s warehouse or at the facility of the end-user. This is a common problem in situations where the worker has no particular medical training, such as a feed store or mail order house. Veterinarians routinely refuse to accept shipments if the vaccine appears to warm upon arrival.
Some pets are not capable of producing immunity after vaccination. In some cases, the pet is simply not healthy. Malnutrition and stress (such as environment or other disease) can prevent the body’s immune system from working properly. There is also the occasional pet, just like in humans, that had a failure of the immune system to develop properly after birth.
The pet was in the “incubation period” for the disease. It takes several days for the vaccine to stimulate immunity after the vaccination is administered. If the pet is exposed to the disease before immunity has time to develop, it can still get sick if exposed to the disease. During the incubation period, no clinical signs of disease are present. Therefore the disease cannot be diagnosed at that early stage.
Maternal antibody interference. When a pet is borne, it receives antibodies called “passive immunity” from its mother’s milk. These antibodies protect the newborn until its own immune system can mature and produce its own immunity, which is called active immunity. When these antibodies received from the mother are still present at high levels, they will block the stimulation of active immunity from exposure to a vaccine. Unfortunately, it is very costly to run a test that will predict when the passive immunity level drops low enough for active immunity stimulation to occur. The vaccine’s ability to stimulate immunity lasts for approximately 5 days after vaccination. If exposure to the disease occurs after these 5 days and before the next vaccination is administered or before it has time to develop the active immunity, a disease outbreak can occur. This is the reason a series of vaccinations is required in the initial series of vaccinations in the pediatric pet.