IT’S WORTH A SHOT: The importance of vaccinations
The founder of vaccinology is considered to be the English physician Edward Jenner who, in 1796, worked to find a vaccination against smallpox and used the cowpox virus as his tool. You may remember that French for cow is vache and this is where the term “vaccination” comes from. Since those early days vaccinations have become a central part of human, and veterinary, preventative medicine.
• By introducing the body’s immune system to a safer, milder form of the disease-causing agent, vaccinations prime the patient to be able to rapidly recognize and subdue the disease should it then be encountered.
• Many of the diseases that vets vaccinate against have been greatly reduced in incidence but there is no room for complacency. Because we at the SPCA come into contact with many unowned, stray animals which have not been vaccinated, we know very well that these diseases are still out there and it is still important to vaccinate against them on a regular basis. Hong Kong’s warm climate allows these pathogens to live in the environment for a long time.
• Of particular importance are the initial set of vaccinations given to a kitten or puppy which we generally advise to be given at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. Young animals generally absorb antibodies from their mother which can prevent vaccinations from working and so a 3rd vaccination at 16 weeks, once MDA (Maternally Derived Antibodies) have waned, is now advised.
• An important factor, especially with dogs, an inherently social animal, is the balancing of the need to be vaccinated and the need to be exposed to stimuli and situations, and to socialize with other dogs and humans, during their crucial formative “window” of between 4 and 12 weeks. Measures to introduce them to other dogs which are known to be vaccinated, and to expose them to the sounds and sights of Hong Kong by carrying them if feasible, are very important.
• Vaccination boosters are important throughout life and we currently recommend yearly. Alongside the shot itself, the consultation allows for a full veterinary examination of the patient and for any questions or concerns to be raised and answered.
• Some boarding establishments, including our own, have strict vaccination requirements – check well in advance. The same is also true for when you are considering exporting an animal to another country.
• Vaccinating an animal on the same day as an anaesthetic (e.g. for desexing) is not ideal but can be considered in special circumstances.
What is a DHPPiL vaccination? This is a combination vaccination against 5 diseases…
• DISTEMPER – a virus, potentially fatal, that affects the guts, lungs and central nervous system
• HEPATITIS – a virus that causes liver damage
• PARVO – a virus with a high mortality rate. Induces severe vomiting and diarrhea
• PARAINFLUENZA – one agent involved in canine respiratory disease
• LEPTOSPIROSIS – a highly lethal bacterial disease from exposure to rodent urine
In Hong Kong it is law that all dogs must be vaccinated against Rabies on a 3-yearly basis in order to obtain the required dog license (this is not true of other species).
Owners have the option of vaccinating against Bordetella – a key agent of “kennel cough” – if for example their dog is going into boarding. This is generally a non-fatal disease and less stress is placed on its importance.
What is a TRICAT vaccination? This is a combination vaccination against 3 viral agents…
• HERPESVIRUS – a key agent in “cat flu”
• CALICIVIRUS – another “cat flu” agent
• PANLEUCOPENIA VIRUS – the feline equivalent of PARVO in dogs
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