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The Vaccine Controversy

With the success of immunization programs in the human population, the concern for the risk of diseases has shifted more to the possible risk of side effects from vaccinations. Vaccines are given to a healthy population and we forget how many people have died from diseases that we now have vaccines to protect against.

The same is true in veterinary medicine. Despite this, there are potential reactions or risks from getting a vaccine. In pets, these risks include mild to moderate vaccine reactions and vaccine associated sarcomas in cats. Claims have been made that vaccines can also cause autoimmune diseases but there have been no studies that have proven this. It is believed that the cause of autoimmune diseases is multi-factorial.

A vaccine reaction can be anything from a mild facial swelling to a severe anaphylactic reaction. These reactions are rare, but when they occur they can be treated if caught right when the pet starts showing clinical signs. Clinical signs include hives, itchiness, lethargy, vomiting, facial swelling, pale gums and difficulty breathing. Treatment includes antihistamines and potentially more if the pet is having a severe reaction.

Vaccine associated sarcomas occur in approximately 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 cats. It is associated with certain vaccines; specifically the rabies vaccine and the feline leukemia vaccine. It is usually a cancerous tumor that requires aggressive surgery and is believed to be linked to a reaction to the adjuvant (carrier agent) in the vaccines.

So what is being done to prevent these problems? Advances have been made in many of these vaccines to eliminate the adjuvant that may be responsible for causing some of these problems. The new vaccines available, called recombinant vaccines, are safer and provide better immunity. The recommended vaccine schedules for cats and dogs have also been revised and most of these vaccines are now given every three years instead of on a yearly basis. Some annual vaccines are still recommended however, depending on the animal’s age and lifestyle.

We at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic believe in doing what is best for the pet population as a whole in our area. As a veterinarian and pet owner I have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what the best decision is regarding vaccines. In our community the diseases we vaccinate pets against have not been entirely eliminated. Therefore, if we recommend discontinuing these vaccines, we are only going to see more and more pets die from these diseases.

In dogs, parvovirus is prevalent in our community and a major cause of death in the young pet population. If your puppy contracts this deadly disease, the cost of treatment is very expensive and there is no guarantee that your puppy will survive. It is much safer and more affordable to get your puppy vaccinated. This includes a series of vaccines starting at 6 weeks of age and given every three to four weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. At the Dunkirk Animal Clinic we give yearly vaccines until the dog turns 6 years old and then we recommend the vaccine be given every three years.

In cats, feline leukemia is also very prevalent especially in the stray cat population. If your cat is outdoors, it is very important to make sure your cat is vaccinated on a yearly basis. If your cat is indoors, you can choose whether or not to vaccinate your cat against leukemia. Other diseases we vaccinate against that are still very prevalent in cats include the upper respiratory viruses. These can be contracted even if your cat is indoors.

When bringing your pet to your veterinarian for the first time, ask questions if you are concerned about vaccines. We believe it is important to still vaccinate our pets to prevent diseases that are very prevalent in the pet population. Each vaccine schedule can be tailored to fit your pet’s lifestyle. We recommend the core vaccines in dogs which include the parvovirus vaccine previously discussed, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza and the rabies vaccine which must be given by law. In cats, the core vaccines include the upper respiratory viruses (rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia and calicivirus) and the rabies vaccine.

Other vaccines are optional. For example, if your dog is kenneled and groomed where they come in contact with many other dogs, we highly recommend the kennel cough vaccine and the influenza vaccine. If your dog is a hunting dog and/or out in the woods and fields a lot, we highly recommend the Lyme vaccine. If your cat goes outdoors, we highly recommend the feline leukemia vaccine.

Discuss in detail with your veterinarian what your pet’s lifestyle is and we will be able to come up with a vaccine schedule that is best for your pet. We want to do our best to prevent any problems and keep your pet protected to the best of our ability!

Latest Observer Article

Summer Safety Tips for Pet Owners

Summer is officially here! We are all quite busy this time of year with picnics, parties, traveling and various outdoor activities. The majority of us like to include our pets in these activities. Below, I have listed a number of ways to keep your pets safe this summer.

1. Beat the heat

With the scorching temperatures we have already had this year, it is important to take the necessary precautions to prevent heat stroke in our pets. Heat stroke is a result of an elevated body temperature – above 103 degrees. When your pets’ body temperature reaches 109 degrees, organ failure and death occur.

The number one cause of heat stroke occurs when your pet is left in a vehicle on a hot day. Within minutes, the temperature in your car can go up to 115 degrees even with the windows cracked open. Never ever leave your dog in a vehicle during the summer months!

Other causes include leaving your pet outside in the hot sun, leaving your pet in a poorly ventilated closed space such as a dog house, and exercising your pet on a hot day. If you must exercise your pets, do so early in the morning before the temperatures rise. Also, be sure to provide plenty of fresh, cool water at all times for your pet to prevent dehydration which can occur quickly in the higher temperatures.

Dogs with a restricted airway such as the brachycephalic breeds (flat faced dogs such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs) are at greater risk. In these breeds, clinical signs of heat stroke can occur when the outside temperature and humidity are only moderately elevated. Clinical signs include heavy panting, restlessness, feeling hot to the touch, lethargy, weakness and collapse. If your pet has these clinical signs, get them to your veterinarian immediately.

Always be sure to provide plenty of shade for your pets and preferably leave them inside in front of a fan or in air conditioning during the hotter parts of the day. Also, be sure not to walk them on hot sand or asphalt during the heat of the day as serious burns can occur on their sensitive foot pads.

2. Practice water safety

Swimming is one of the best exercises for your pet, especially if they have arthritis or have had any orthopedic surgery. It is also a great way to keep cool in the summer heat. If your pet has never swam before, you may want to take them in shallow water and help them in the beginning until they are comfortable swimming on their own. Never just throw your pet into the water as this may cause severe anxiety and fear in some pets.

Be aware that some smaller dogs and certain breeds of dogs such as the bulldog cannot swim and need a life jacket if you are going to take them in the water. Never leave a pet unsupervised around a swimming pool as they may jump or fall into the pool and are at greater risk of drowning because they cannot get out on their own! Do not let your pet ingest a large amount of chlorinated water as this can cause severe stomach upset and vomiting.

3. Keep your pet well groomed and protected from the sun

Keeping your pet’s coat shorter in the summertime will help them stay cooler and will also prevent matting and accumulation of burs and other foreign objects in your pets coats. We have seen many cases of fecal matting around the back end in the summer and accumulation of flies and maggots because of this. Maggots can quickly accumulate and cause severe illness and death from bacterial toxins.

Do not shave your pet right down to the skin, because they do need some protection from the sun. If you have a fair-skinned, white-haired dog with short hair, be sure to use some sunscreen on the ear tips and other hairless areas that are labeled for safe use in pets. If your pet is difficult to groom, we offer a medical grooming at our clinic with a safe sedative to keep your pet cool and comfortable during the summer months. Call us for more information!

4. Keep your pets on a leash and indoors

Leaving your dog off the leash and your cats outdoors can expose them to a variety of dangers during the summer months. Both dogs and cats can encounter other pets and, even worse, a wild animal and get into a fight, causing serious injuries and infected wounds. Cats very commonly get infected wounds called abscesses from a cat bite. Their temperature can quickly rise and the infection can spread through the body and cause death. They may also be exposed to the deadly viruses feline aids or feline leukemia from fighting with other cats.

Your dogs may be exposed to the deadly virus rabies by getting in a scuffle with a wild animal. They may also get very painful porcupine quills or skin parasites such as scabies or fleas from other wildlife.

Roaming dogs and cats are also at a very high risk of being hit by a car. The majority of pets do not survive an encounter with a vehicle and, if they do, they usually need very specialized and expensive surgery to repair broken bones, organ damage and serious wounds.

5. Protect from parasites

Continue to protect your pet from external and internal parasites through the warmer months. Fleas love the heat and humidity and can multiply very quickly causing serious skin infections and blood loss in your pet. Be sure to keep your pet and every pet in your household on a veterinarian-approved flea product on a monthly basis. Heartworm disease is a deadly disease carried by mosquitoes. Even if your pet is indoors, they still can be bitten by a mosquito carrying the deadly heartworm. Heartworms accumulate in the heart and lungs and can cause severe, irreversible heart disease. Be sure to test your pet for heartworm on a yearly basis and keep your pets on a monthly heartworm preventative.

Camping and hiking with your pets can expose them to ticks which can carry Lyme disease. Lyme disease can cause a lifetime of problems including arthritis from joint damage and kidney failure. Protect your pet by keeping them on a monthly tick preventative and have your pet tested for Lyme disease on a yearly basis. Also, if your pet is outdoors the majority of the time, be sure to keep your pet vaccinated against Lyme disease yearly.

5. Travel safely with your pet

If taking your pet on vacation with you, be sure that they are up to date on all their vaccines and bring all of your records with you. Also, keep them on flea and heartworm preventatives to protect them from picking up these parasites which are very prevalent in the Southern and Midwestern states. Do not leave your pet in your vehicle when taking a pit stop and be sure to provide plenty of water for the trip. Plan ahead and find pet-friendly hotels or bed and breakfasts along the way, and always keep your pet on a leash! If not microchipped, we recommend microchipping your pet before any trip in case they are lost or stolen – they can be permanently linked to your name and address.

6. No party animals!

With all the picnics and parties, keep your pet away from the leftover food, garbage, and leftover bones that might be lying around during these picnics. Bones can cause severe bowel irritation and obstruction leading to systemic infection and possible surgery. Eating leftover food and garbage can cause pancreatitis, a life-threatening inflammation in the organ that is responsible for the production of digestive enzymes. Do not expose your pet to alcoholic beverages because our pets have a much lower tolerance to the effects of these beverages. They can cause severe central nervous depression, respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, and death.

These are just a few tips to keep your pet protected this summer. Please have a safe and happy summer and continue to include your pets in all of your summer fun activities, but take the necessary precautions to prevent an emergency and visit to the veterinarian. Call the Dunkirk Animal Clinic at 366-7440 with any questions and concerns about summer safety.

July 8, 2012 edition of the OBSERVER

Celebrate National Pet Week with Us!

Get your free pet goody bag this week!

Celebrate National Pet Week with Us!

This week (May 6-12) is National Pet Week, a time to celebrate our animal-human bond! This year‚Äôs theme is “Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes.” In celebration, we are giving away pet “goody bags” when you make and have an appointment for your pet during this week. We’ve included a variety of health and fun related items for both cats and dogs including: a FREE dose of Advantage II/Advantage Multi, flea comb, tooth brush and toothpaste, treats and more!

Winner of our Biggest Loser Contest


Announcing the Winner of our Biggest Loser Contest

We are very proud of our contestants and clients who participated in our Biggest Loser Contest. Our winner, losing 5% of her body weight, is Pepper Sedlmayer. Pepper and her parents won a Dunkirk Animal Clinic Gift Certificate. Thank you to all who participated!