Rather, why not? In humans, smallpox has been eradicated by aggressive vaccination programs. Polio is a rarity. And measles, once virtually eliminated from the U.S., is on the rise again. This is because the vaccine programs have diminished. Clearly, vaccinations work and are especially desirable for dogs and cats. Prevention of diseases by vaccination is many times cheaper and more controllable than treating the disease once it occurs. Dogs are annually vaccinated against canine distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, bordetella and parvoviral diarrheal disease, as well as rabies.

Cats are susceptible to a number of viral diseases for which vaccines are available. Once a cat contracts one of the diseases, it may have off and on problems throughout its life, or serious permanent damage may result. Kittens and young cats up to 2 years of age are particularly susceptible but any age, sex or breed can become infected.

Rabies vaccination should be included in an immunization program for cats, and by law all dogs are required to be vaccinated against rabies. Both cats and dogs are susceptible to this fatal disease, and the incidence of rabies is increasing nationally. The first rabies vaccination is given at 16 weeks or older and will last for one year. Rabies boosters are usually every three years depending on the actual brand of vaccine used.

Upper Respiratory Disease micro-organisms cause infections of the nose, throat and eyes. They are transmitted through the air and are thus very contagious. Discharges from the eyes, nose and mouth occur, causing the cat to have difficulty breathing. Appetite is often affected as well.

Cat Distemper is more appropriately called Feline Panleukopenia. Besides being highly contagious, the virus that causes this disease is extremely hardy and may live for a year outside the cat’s body. Unlike the respiratory viruses, Cat Distemper is most commonly spread by direct contact with either an infected cat or contaminated material. The major signs of an infection are severe vomiting and diarrhea, accompanied by dehydration and loss of interest in food.

The Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV) is closely associated with several problems in the cat collectively known as FeLV-related diseases. An FeLV-related cat suffers from severe depression of its immune system. It then becomes vulnerable to many other diseases, limited only by what area or areas of the body the virus infects. A carrier state also exists, whereby cats may shed the virus and be sources of infection for other cats without actually showing symptoms of the diseases. This virus is spread by direct contact with other cats only, not through the air. Therefore, we recommend that any cat who is outdoors, goes to cat shows, boards or otherwise has access to cats of unknown status be tested and vaccinated for feline leukemia.

Canine Distemper is caused by a highly infectious virus, passed from dog to dog by body secretions. Initial signs include fever, lethargy and nasal discharge. Pneumonia often develops soon after, accompanied by diarrhea. The virus can also attack the nervous system, causing muscle incoordination. Death from canine distemper is a long and agonizing process.

Hepatitis is a liver disease, also caused by a highly infectious virus. Dogs develop the disease from direct contact with infected animals. The disease may cause death in newborn pups, showing no signs of illness before death. In other dogs, the disease often causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Without treatment the pet may not survive.

Parainfluenza is caused by a virus closely related to the flu viruses, though not transmissible to man. Signs often include a slight fever and a hacking cough which may last two to three weeks or more. Though relatively harmless by itself (save for some discomfort and noise from coughing), the virus allows bacteria to enter the respiratory system leading to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia. Chronic bronchitis is especially common in pound dogs where the virus is unchecked, and may take months to totally resolve.

Parvovirus causes vomiting and an acute, profuse, foul smelling and often bloody diarrhea. Dogs affected with “parvo” immediately become immune- suppressed, allowing further infection by bacteria already present in the intestine. If the dog is not immediately treated, it may die. Young dogs are most susceptible but older unvaccinated dogs may succumb to the disease as well. Treatment and convalescence may take as long as three weeks.

Canine Coronavirus (CCV), like parvovirus, is one of the causes of canine viral enteritis. Coronavirus is a highly contagious disease with worldwide distribution. Dogs suffer from lethargy and persistent vomiting and diarrhea, which may continue for three weeks. Young puppies are commonly affected by Coronavirus. The severity varies with age and stress conditions.

We are seeing an increase in the numbers of dogs with kennel cough. We are now recommending the Bordetella vaccine for all dogs. (Most kennels require this vaccine along with the Distemper-Parvo Combination and Rabies.)