55 Hancock Street
N. Quincy, MA 02171
"Where your pets are treated like family"
Current Topics for Your Pets
1) Pain Control in Dogs
2) Household Toxins and Poisoning
3) External Parasites
4) Internal Parasites
5) Feline Urinary Tract Problems
6) Heartworm Disease
7) Traveling with your Pet
8) Euthanasia and Grief- the hardest decision
|Treating Pain in Your Dog: Keeping your best friend active, safe, and pain free*|
|Controlling your dog's pain is essential to his/her overall well-being.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs
commonly used to control pain and inflammation in dogs and people. NSAIDs
help many dogs lead more comfortable lives.
What are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs help to control signs of arthritis and pain, including inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. Inflammation—the body's response to irritation or injury—is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, chemicals produced by the body that cause inflammation. Some NSAIDs may also be used to control the pain and inflammation following surgery.
Your veterinarian may prescribe an NSAID to treat the pain of arthritis in your dog or to control pain.
Veterinary NSAIDs approved for use in dogs:
What should you discuss with your veterinarian?
NSAIDs offer pain relief and improved quality of life to many dogs. However, before giving an NSAID, or any drug, you should first talk to your veterinarian. You should discuss:
What should you know before giving your dog an NSAID?
What Side Effects should you watch for?
Most NSAID-side effects are mild, but some can be serious. Common side effects seen with the use of NSAIDs in dogs may affect the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract and may include:
When giving NSAID, Remember these Signs:
What to do?
If you suspect a possible side effect to an NSAID, STOP giving the drug to your dog and call your veterinarian immediately.
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If you have any questions, please call Hancock Animal Hospital at 617-773-0008.
|Household Hazards to Pets*|
|****If your pet may have ingested a toxin call Hancock Animal Hospital at 617-773-0008, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-426-4435 or www.apcc.aspca.org|
|Every home contains a variety of everyday items and substances that can
be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by dogs and cats. You can protect
your pet's health by becoming aware of the most common health hazards
found in many pet-owning households.
HAZARDS IN THE KITCHEN
Always keep garbage out of a pet's reach, as rotting food contains molds or bacteria that could produce food poisoning.
For instance, if the label states "keep pets and children away from area until dry," follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used properly, but can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed and respiratory tract irritation can occur if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns. Some detergents can produce a similar reaction, and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients such as phenols.
As a general rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging, or in a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.
Insecticides/Rodenticides (i.e. rat/mice poison, ant bait)
If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets.
HAZARDS IN THE BATHROOM
Soaps and other Sundries
HAZARDS IN THE BEDROOM AND LIVING ROOM
While they may smell good, many liquid potpourri products contain ingredients that can cause oral ulcerations and other problems, so keep them out of the reach of your pets.
Just one mothball has the potential to sicken a dog or cat and mothballs that contain naphthalene can cause serious illness, including digestive tract irritation, liver, kidney and blood cell damage, swelling of the brain tissues, seizures, coma, respiratory tract damage (if inhaled) and even death (if ingested). Tobacco products, pennies (those minted after 1982 contain zinc) and alkaline batteries (like those in your remote controls) can also be hazardous when ingested.
HAZARDS IN THE GARAGE AND YARD
Antifreeze, Herbicides and Insecticides
When chemical treatments are applied to grassy areas, be sure and keep your pet off the lawn for the manufacturer's recommended time. If pets are exposed to wet chemicals or granules that adhere to their paws, they may lick it off later; stomach upset or more serious problems could result.
Paints and Solvents
Plants – Inside or Around the House
A few other potentially harmful plants include philodendron, corn plant, castor bean, mother-in-law's tongue, Hibiscus and hydrangea.
For a complete listing of common toxic and non-toxic plants, visit www.apcc.aspca.org.
OTHER HOUSEHOLD HAZARDS
Small items that fall on the floor can be easily swallowed by a curious cat or dog. Such items include coins, buttons, small children's toys, medicine bottles, jewelry, nails, and screws. The result may be damage to your pet's digestive tract and the need for surgical removal of the object.
While electrical cords are especially tempting to puppies who like to chew on almost anything, even an adult dog or cat could find them of interest; burns or electrocution could result from chewing on live cords. Prevent this by using cord covers and blocking access to wires.
Don't forget that holidays and visitors can pose a special challenge to your pets. Discourage well-meaning guests from spoiling pets with extra treats and scraps from the dinner table. Fatty, rich or spicy foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea and lead to inflammation of the pancreas. Poultry or other soft bones can splinter and damage your pet's mouth or esophagus.
While trick or treating is fun for children, it can be hazardous to pets. Halloween treats such as chocolate or candy sweetened with xylitol can make a harmful snack. Certain Halloween and Christmas decorations (especially tinsel, ribbons and ornaments) also pose a hazard to pets, so make sure nothing is left on the floor or on tables within reach.
String-like items can damage your pet's intestine and could prove fatal if not surgically removed. While poinsettia is not deadly as popular legend would have it, it could still cause an upset stomach if consumed. Holly and mistletoe are especially dangerous plants. Christmas tree water treated with preservatives (including fertilizers) can also cause an upset stomach. Water that is allowed to stagnate in tree stands contains bacteria that, if ingested, could lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
A Special Note of Caution to Bird Owners
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PET IS POISONED
If you have any questions, please call Hancock Animal Hospital at 617-773-0008.
|What you should know about external parasites*|
|At some point in their lives, many pets experience discomfort caused by
external parasites such as fleas, ticks, or mites on their skin or in
their ears. These parasites can be extremely irritating to pets and can
cause serious skin problems and can carry diseases. Although this provides basic information about the most common external parasites, your
veterinarian is your best source of advice regarding your pet's needs.
Modern medicines make treatment, control, and prevention of many external
parasites much easier than in the past.
Adult fleas live their entire lives on your pet. Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of selecting your pet as a host, producing up to 50 eggs each day. These eggs fall from your pet onto the floor or furniture, including your pet's bed, or onto any other indoor or outdoor area where your pet happens to go. Tiny, worm-like larvae hatch from the eggs and burrow into carpets, under furniture, or into soil before spinning a cocoon. The cocooned flea pupae can lie dormant (inactive) for weeks to months before emerging as adults that are ready to infest (or re-infest) your pet. The result is a flea life cycle of anywhere from 12 days to 12 months.
Risks and Consequences
Fleas bite animals and suck their blood; young or small pets with heavy flea infestations may become anemic (low red blood cells). Some pets can develop an allergy to flea saliva that may result in more severe irritation and scratching. Also, pets can become infected with certain types of tapeworms if they ingest fleas carrying tapeworm eggs. In areas with moderate to severe flea infestations, people may also be bitten by fleas. While fleas are capable of transmitting several other infectious diseases to pets and people, this is rare.
Treatment and Control
Fleas spend a lot of their time off of your pet and in the environment. In addition to treating your pet, reduce the flea population in your house by thoroughly cleaning your pet's sleeping quarters and vacuuming floors and furniture that your pet comes in contact with frequently. Careful and regular vacuuming/cleaning of the pet's living area helps to remove and kill flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. You may also have to treat your house with insecticides to kill the fleas; consult with your veterinarian about products that may work best for you. Selecting a professional exterminator is many times the best choice to treat the environment and this is always recommended. Make sure you select an exterminator that offers a good guarantee.
With moderate and severe flea infestations, you may be advised to treat your yard in addition to treating the inside of your home. Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate course of action and suggest ways to prevent future flea infestations.
Risks and Consequences
Treatment and Control
Pets at risk for ticks should be treated during the tick season with an appropriate tick preventative. Your veterinarian can recommend a product best suited to your pet's needs. Owners who take their pets to tick-prone areas during camping, sporting, or hiking trips should examine their pets for ticks immediately upon returning home and remove them from their pets. If your pet picks up ticks in your backyard, trimming bushes and removing brush may reduce your pet's exposure to tick habitats.
Risks and Consequences
Treatment and Control
Sarcoptic Mange Mites
Risks and Consequences
Treatment and Control
Demodectic Mange Mites
Risks and Consequences
Treatment and Control
If you have any questions, please call Hancock Animal Hospital at 617-773-0008. Home Page
|Traveling with your pet*|
|Planning and Preparation|
***We can provide a USDA International or National Health Certificate here at Hancock Animal Hospital***
|Planning and preparation are necessary when traveling with family pets.
Consider whether your pet is comfortable when traveling. Some animals,
like some people, function better in familiar surroundings. A car-sick
animal can make a trip miserable for everyone. Some dogs and cats cannot
withstand the rigors of travel due to illness, injury, or temperament. If
this is the case, discuss options such as using a reliable pet-sitter or a
clean, well-managed boarding facility with your veterinarian.
If you will be staying with friends along the way, be considerate. Find out in advance if the pet is welcome. The same goes for hotels, motels, parks, and campgrounds. Always check whether pets are allowed or kennel facilities are available. If the pet must be left alone in a hotel room, place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and inform the maid and the front desk. Consider bringing along a portable kennel for use in hotel rooms or the homes of friends or relatives who are not comfortable having your pet loose when no one is home.
A few general tips apply whether you travel by car or plane. Be sure your pet is properly identified with a current tag and/or a microchip. Grooming (bathing, combing, trimming nails) before a trip, plus having its favorite food, toy(s), and dishes available will make your pet more comfortable. Have proof of rabies vaccination and a current health certificate with you when crossing state or international borders. Keep a photo of your pet with you to help with identification in case your pet is lost.
Before undertaking any trip, consult your veterinarian to be sure that all required vaccinations are up-to-date and to receive a health certificate within ten days of travel.
Travel by Air
Air travel is of most concern to pet owners. The airlines sometimes update their regulations on pet travel including restrictions on breeds and size, and may charge for checked kennels. Most airlines require a health certificate issued within 5-10 days prior to travel for domestic travel. Check with the airline well in advance for their current regulations. Many of the major airlines allow cats and small dogs to travel in specially designed carry-on luggage that will fit under the seat. International travel requires significant paperwork and we recommend bringing in the current requirement for your particular destination for us to review. It is your responsibility to provide this information and to make sure that all the necessary steps and procedures are followed for international travel.
Federal regulations require that pets be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least 5 days before flying. Always try to book a nonstop flight and avoid plane changes and busy holidays whenever possible. During warm weather periods, choose early morning or late evening flights. In colder months, choose midday flights. Regulations associated with the Federal Animal Welfare Act prohibit airlines from accepting dogs and cats for shipment if the airline cannot prevent exposure of the animal to temperatures less than 45 degrees F (7.2 C) or more than 85 degrees F (29.5 C) for more than 45 minutes when the animal is transferred between the terminal and the plane, or for more than 4 hours when the animal is in a holding facility. However, the prohibition against exposure to temperatures below 45 degrees F is waived if a veterinarian provides an acclimation certificate stating that the dog or cat can be exposed to lower temperatures. Your veterinarian cannot give a certificate allowing exposures to temperatures above 85 degrees F for more than 45 minutes. Brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs may have more difficulty with air travel.
Reconfirm your flight arrangements the day before you leave to ensure there have been no unexpected flight changes. Arrive at the airport early, exercise your pet, personally place it in its crate, and pick up the animal promptly upon arrival at your destination. When boarding the plane, let the flight attendant know that your pet is in the cargo hold. If your pet will be traveling with you in the cabin, arrange to check in as late as possible to reduce the amount of time your pet will have to spend in the busy terminal.
Defective kennels are the most common cause of escaped or injured animals during air travel. Approved transport crates, available from most airlines or pet shops, must:
Before leaving on your trip, take time to accustom your pet to the crate in which it will be traveling.
Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions. For your pet's comfort, air travel on an almost empty stomach is usually recommended. The age and size of your pet, time and distance of the flight, and your pet's regular dietary routine will be considered when feeding recommendations are made. It is recommended that you not give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because they can increase the risk of heart or respiratory problems.
Travel by Car
If your pet is not accustomed to car travel, take it for a few short rides before your trip so it will feel confident that a car outing does not necessarily mean a trip to the veterinarian or an unpleasant destination. Cats should always be confined to a cage or in a cat carrier to allow them to feel secure and prevent them from crawling under your feet while you are driving.
A dog that must ride in a truck bed should be confined in a protective kennel that is fastened to the truck bed. Dogs riding in a car should not ride in the passenger seat if it is equipped with an airbag, and should not be allowed to sit on the driver's lap. Harnesses, tethers, and other accessories to secure pets during car travel are available at most pet stores. Accustom your dog to a seatbelt harness by attaching a leash and taking your dog for short walks while wearing it. Offer your dog a treat and praise at the end of the walk to associate a positive experience with wearing the harness. Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads outside car windows. Particles of dirt or other debris can enter the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infection.
Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day or when you reach your destination. Feeding dry food will be more convenient, assuming your pet readily consumes it. Dispose of unused canned food unless it can be refrigerated. Take along a plastic jug of cold water in case other reliable water sources are not available. Give small portions of food and water and plan to stop every two hours for exercise. Remember to include a leash with your pet's traveling supplies. If your dog is has a problem with carsickness, your veterinarian can prescribe medication that will help the dog feel comfortable during a long car trip. Pets should not be left unattended in cars.
Travel by Bus or Train
Most states prohibit animals from riding on buses and similar regulations restrict travel on trains. Exceptions are made for guide and service dogs accompanying blind and disabled persons. Consult your local carriers in advance for information.
Camping With Pets
Traveling to country settings with your pet presents its own challenges. Skunks, raccoons, porcupines, snakes, and other wildlife can bite or otherwise injure your pet. Keep your pet within sight and on a leash. Be considerate of other campers. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about flea, tick, and heartworm prevention before you leave.
Additional Pet Travel and Health Tips
For more Information and helpful tips on
traveling with your pet
Euthanasia and Grief- the hardest decision*
It's never an easy decision to make, but perhaps the kindest thing you can do for a pet that is extremely ill or so severely injured that it will never be able to resume a life of good quality is to have your veterinarian induce its death quietly and humanely through euthanasia.
A decision concerning euthanasia may be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make for your pet. Although it is a personal decision, it doesn't need to be a solitary one. Your veterinarian and your family and close friends can help you make the right decision and can support you as you grieve the loss of your pet.
What should I do?
Eventually, many owners are faced with making life-or-death decisions for their pets. Such a decision may become necessary for the welfare of the pet and your family. Consider not only what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your family. For example, if your pet has an injury or disease that requires more care than you and your family can give to make sure it has a good quality of life, euthanasia may be the right decision. Quality of life is important for pets and people alike.
Once the decision for euthanasia has been made, it is sometimes easier to discuss what you want done with the remains of your pet's body before your pet is euthanatized – by making arrangements prior to euthanasia, it can bring some degree of comfort to know what will be done with your pet's body, and you will not have to focus on these decisions while you are grieving the recent loss of your beloved pet. The staff at Hancock Animal Hospital can provide information about burial, cremation, and other alternatives.
How will I know when?
If your pet can no longer experience the things it once enjoyed, cannot respond to you in its usual ways, or appears to be experiencing more pain than pleasure, you may need to consider euthanasia. Likewise, if your pet is terminally ill or critically injured, or if the financial or emotional cost of treatment is beyond your means, euthanasia may be a valid option. Sometimes asking yourself the question, "Does my pet have more bad days than good days?" can help you make the decision.
Your veterinarian understands your bond with your pet and can examine and evaluate your pet's condition, estimate its chances for recovery, and discuss any potential disabilities, special needs and long-term problems. He or she can explain medical and surgical options as well as risks and possible outcomes. Because your veterinarian cannot make the euthanasia decision for you, it is important that you fully understand your pet's condition. If there is any part of the diagnosis or the possible effects on your pet's future that you don't understand, ask questions that will help you understand. Although there are times when the decision needs to be made immediately, you usually will have some time to review the facts and discuss it with your family and friends before making the decision.
What if the animal is healthy?
Euthanasia might be necessary if a pet has become vicious, dangerous, or unmanageable. Some undesirable and abnormal behavior can be changed, so it is important to discuss these situations with your veterinarian. Your and your family's safety should always be taken into consideration.
Economic, emotional, and space limitations or changes in lifestyle also may cause an owner to consider euthanasia for their pet. Sometimes it is possible to find another home for the pet and that option should be pursued prior to opting for euthanasia. Euthanasia of healthy pets should be considered only when alternatives are not available.
How do I tell my family?
Family members usually are already aware of a pet's problems. However, you should review with them the information you have received from your veterinarian. Long-term medical care can be a burden that you and your family may be unable to bear emotionally or financially, and this should be discussed openly and honestly. Encourage family members to express their thoughts and feelings. Even if you have reached a decision, it is important that family members, especially children, have their thoughts and feelings considered.
Children have special relationships with their pets and should not be excluded from the decision-making process because they might seem too young to understand. Preventing children from participating in the process may only complicate and prolong their grief process. Children respect straightforward, truthful, and simple answers. If they are prepared adequately, children usually are able to accept a pet's death.
Will it be painless?
Euthanasia is most often accomplished for pets by injection of a death-inducing drug. Your veterinarian may administer a tranquilizer first to relax your pet. Following injection of the euthanasia drug, your pet will immediately become deeply and irreversibly unconscious as the drug stops brain function. Death is quick and painless. Your pet may move its legs or head or breathe deeply several times after the drug is given, but these are reflexes and don't mean that your pet is in pain or is suffering.
How can I say goodbye?
The act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural and healthy feelings of grief and sorrow following the loss of a beloved friend and companion.
Once the euthanasia decision has been made, you and other family members may want to say goodbye to your pet. A last evening with your pet at home or a visit to the pet at the hospital may be appropriate. Family members who want to be alone with the pet should be allowed to do so. Some pet owners choose to be present during their pet's euthanasia, but others choose to say goodbye beforehand and not be present during euthanasia. This is a very personal decision and you should do what feels right for you. Do not let others pressure you into making a choice that makes you uncomfortable.
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How can I face the loss?
After your pet has died, it is natural and normal to feel grief and sorrow. For some people, spending some time with their pet after euthanasia is helpful. The grieving process includes accepting the reality of your loss, accepting that the loss and accompanying feelings are painful, and adjusting to your new life that no longer includes your pet. By understanding the grieving process, you will be better prepared to manage your grief and to help others in the family who share this loss.
Sometimes well-meaning family and friends may not realize how important your pet was to you or the intensity of your grief. Comments they make may seem cruel and uncaring although they were not meant to be taken that way. Be honest with yourself and others about how you feel. If you feel despair, talk to someone who will listen to your feelings about the loss of your pet. Talk about your sorrow, but also about the fun times you and your pet spent together, the activities you enjoyed, and the memories that are meaningful to you.
The stages of grief
There are many stages of grief, but not everyone experiences them all or in the same order. The stages include denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance, and resolution. The grief can seem to come in waves, may be brought on more intensely by a sight or sound that sparks your memory, and may seem overwhelming at times.
Your first reaction may be denial—an unwillingness to accept the fact that your pet has died or that death is unavoidable. Denial may begin when you first learn the seriousness of your pet's illness or injuries. Often, the more sudden the death, the more difficult the loss is to accept and the stronger the denial.
Anger and guilt often follow denial. Your anger may be directed toward people you normally love and respect, including your family, friends or your veterinarian. People coping with death will often say things that they do not really mean, unintentionally hurting those whom they do not mean to hurt. You may feel guilty or blame others for not recognizing the illness earlier, for not doing something sooner, for not being able to afford other types of or further treatment, or for being careless and allowing your pet to be injured.
Depression is a common experience after the death of a special pet. The tears flow, there are knots in your stomach, and you feel drained of all your energy. Day-to-day tasks can seem impossible to perform and you may feel isolated and alone. Many depressed people will avoid the company of friends and family. It might be hard to get out of bed in the morning, especially if your morning routine involved caring for your pet's needs. Sometimes you may even wonder if you can go on without your pet. The answer is yes, but there are times when special assistance may be helpful in dealing with your loss. If you are suffering from profound depression, seek professional assistance.
Eventually, you will come to terms with your feelings. You can begin to accept your pet's death. Resolution has occurred when you can remember your pet and your time with them without feeling the intense grief and emotional pain you previously felt. Acceptance and resolution do not mean that you no longer feel a sense of loss, just that you have come to terms with the fact that your pet has died.
Even when you have reached resolution and acceptance, feelings of anger, denial, guilt, and depression may reappear. If this does happen, these feelings will usually be less intense, and with time they will be replaced with fond memories.
Although everyone experiences the stages of grief, grieving is always a very personal process. Some people take longer than others to come to terms with denial, anger, guilt, and depression, and each loss is different. If you understand that these are normal reactions, you will be better prepared to cope with your feelings and to help others face theirs. Family and friends should be reassured that sorrow and grief are normal and natural responses to death.
If you or a family member have great difficulty in accepting your pet's death and cannot resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you may want to discuss these feelings with a person who is trained to understand the grieving process and can support and help you as you mourn your loss. Your veterinarian certainly understands the relationship you have lost and may be able to suggest support groups and hot lines, grief counselors, clergymen, social workers, physicians, or psychologists who can help.
Remembering your pet
The period from birth to old age is much shorter for most domestic animals than for people, and death is a normal part of the lifecycle. It cannot be avoided, but understanding and compassion can help you, your family, and your friends manage the grief associated with it.
For some people, a memorial service or ritual (such as releasing balloons or spreading cremated remains) can be therapeutic. You may choose to keep and display reminders of your beloved pet, such as photos or mementos or anything that helps you recall and treasure the good times you spent with your beloved pet. You may also wish to make a memorial contribution to a charity in honor of your pet and the deep bond you shared. Just as the grieving process varies from person to person, so does the method of remembering the pet that shared your life.
Should I get another pet?
The death of a beloved pet can upset you emotionally, especially when euthanasia is involved. Some people may feel they would never want another pet. For some, the thought of having – and eventually losing – another pet may seem unbearable. These feelings may pass with time. For others, a new pet may help them recover from their loss more quickly. Just as grief is a personal experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into your life is a personal one.
If a family member is having difficulty accepting the pet's death, getting a new pet before that person has resolved his or her grief may make them feel that you think the life of the deceased pet was unworthy of the grief that is still being felt. Family members should agree on the appropriate time to bring a new pet in to their lives. Although you can never replace the pet you lost, you can find another to share your life.
For more information about the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and how you can make a memorial contribution, visit www.avmf.org
Please feel free to contact us at Hancock Animal Hospital at any time. 617-773-0008
What are vaccines?
Vaccines are products designed to trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents.
Vaccines can lessen the severity of future diseases and certain vaccines can prevent infection altogether. Today, a variety of vaccines are available for use by veterinarians. Some vaccines are administered via injections using a syringe and needle, and others are administered into the animal's nose. Other methods of administration are currently under development.
Is it important to vaccinate?
Yes! Pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases. Experts agree that widespread use of vaccines within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. If an unvaccinated pet develops one of these diseases, treatment can become very expensive and many of these diseases can be fatal despite treatment. Even though some formerly common diseases have now become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because these serious disease agents continue to be present in the environment.
It is also important to remember that pets can be vaccinated for some Zoonotic (pronounced ZOE-oh-not-ick) diseases, which are diseases that can be spread from animals to people. For example, rabies is a serious, often fatal, disease that can spread from infected animals to people. By vaccinating your pets for rabies, you are protecting your family as well as your pet.
Does vaccination ensure protection?
For most pets, vaccination is effective in preventing future disease. Occasionally, a vaccinated pet may not develop adequate immunity and, although rare, it is possible for these pets to become ill if exposed to the disease. These gaps in protection should be as short as possible to provide optimal protection against disease for the first few months of life. It is important to remember that although breakdowns in protection do occur, most appropriately vaccinated pets are able to successfully fight off disease—reinforcing the importance of vaccines in your pet's preventive health care program.
Are there risks?
Any treatment carries some risk, but these risks should be weighed against the benefits of protecting your pet from potentially fatal diseases. Most pets respond well to vaccines. The most common adverse responses are mild and short-term, including fever, sluggishness, and reduced appetite. Pets may also experience temporary pain or subtle swelling at the site of vaccination. Although most adverse reactions will resolve within a day or two, any excessive or continued pain, swelling, or listlessness should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Rarely, more serious adverse reactions can occur. Allergic reactions appear within minutes or hours of a vaccination and may include repeated vomiting or diarrhea, whole body itching, swelling of the face or legs, difficulty breathing or collapse. Contact your veterinarian immediately if any of these symptoms are seen. In very rare instances, death could occur from an allergic reaction. There are other uncommon but serious adverse reactions, including injection site tumors (sarcomas) in cats, which can develop weeks or months after a vaccination. The best advice is to always tell your veterinarian about any abnormalities you notice after your pet has been vaccinated.
**** ALWAYS tell us prior to any vaccinations if your pet has had any previous vaccination problems or concerns.
Why do puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations?
Very young puppies and kittens are highly susceptible to infectious diseases because their immune systems are not fully mature. While nursing, their mother's milk contains antibodies (special proteins) that provide some immunity to diseases; however, these maternal antibodies do not last long, and there may be gaps in protection as the milk antibodies decrease and the puppies' or kittens' immune system isn't yet capable of fighting off infection. In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the pet's immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help to further stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies needed to protect a pet from specific diseases. To keep these gaps in protection as small as possible and to provide optimal protection against disease in the first few months of life, a series of vaccinations are scheduled, usually 3-4 weeks apart. For most puppies and kittens, the final vaccination in the series is administered at about 4 months of age; however, in some situations, a veterinarian may alter this schedule based on an individual animal's risk factors. Remember that an incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, making puppies and kittens vulnerable to infection.
Which vaccinations should my pet receive?
Not all pets should be vaccinated with all available vaccines. "Core" vaccines are recommended for most pets in a particular area because they protect from diseases most common in that area. "Non-Core" vaccines are reserved for individual pets with unique needs. Your veterinarian will consider your pet's risk of exposure to a variety of preventable diseases in order to customize a vaccination program for optimal protection throughout your pet's life. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet's lifestyle including its expected travel to other geographic locations and/or contact with other animals (such as exposure at kennels, obedience classes, shows, and dog parks) since these factors impact your pet's risk of exposure to certain diseases. For older pets, make sure your veterinarian is aware of any previous adverse reactions to vaccines.
How often should my pet be vaccinated?
For many years, a set of annual vaccinations was considered normal and necessary for dogs and cats. There is increasing evidence to support that immunity triggered by some vaccines provides protection beyond one year while the immunity triggered by other vaccines may fail to protect for a full year. Consequently, one vaccination schedule will not work well for all pets. Your veterinarian will determine a vaccination schedule most appropriate for your pet.
What are antibody titers, and do they replace vaccinations?
Antibody titers are blood tests that measure the amount of antibodies in the blood. Following exposure to a disease-causing organism (such as a virus) or a vaccine, the body generates antibodies that help to destroy the organism and prevent or minimize illness if the body is exposed to the same organism again.
Antibody titers do not replace vaccination programs, but in some instances may help your veterinarian determine if your pet has a reasonable expectation of protection against disease. However, there are only a limited number of disease-causing organisms for which antibody titers can suggest your pet's level of protection, and those antibody tests have limitations. Consequently, a higher antibody titer does not necessarily mean your pet will be protected if exposed to the disease, and a lower titer may not mean your pet's protection is lacking.
A final thought
Many factors are taken into consideration when establishing a pet's vaccination plan. Your veterinarian will tailor a program of vaccinations and patient health care that will help your pet maintain a lifetime of infectious disease protection.
Please feel free to contact us at Hancock Animal Hospital at any time. 617-773-0008
*Information provided in part by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
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