Give Them Your Best Shot

By Robert J. Weiner VMD, ABVP

Vaccination is a pillar of disease prevention for humans as well as dogs and cats. Very few contemporary dog owners or veterinarians in our part of the world have seen canine distemper, a very common and usually fatal disease of dogs as recently as the 1960’s. Racoons continue to be a reservoir for this virus. Vaccination stands between this devastating illness and your dog. The parvo virus epidemic of the early 1980’s killed countless dogs before an effective vaccine was developed. A canine influenza epidemic in the mid 2000’s resulted in the depopulation of humane shelters across the country and a new influenza strain that smoldered in the middle west for the past 3 years has been reported in New York State recently. Just a few years ago we had a kitten infected with rabies virus in our very own office in New City that was found a few blocks away. Nevertheless, there is vaccination anxiety among pet owners who worry that too many vaccines are given and that vaccinations are dangerous.

Vaccinations are a medical procedure and must be done thoughtfully. There are core vaccinations that all dogs and cats need and others that can should be considered and given depending on the circumstances. Dogs who go to doggie day care, the dog park or hunt in the woods might be vaccinated differently from a dog who never leaves an apartment.  A Toy Poodle gets the same “dose” of vaccine as a Great Dane.  Another way to think about this is that it does not require any more vaccine to vaccinate a large dog as it does to vaccinate a small one. Vaccines are not a drug that needs to achieve a certain blood concentration in order to work. Size has nothing to do with it.

Vaccine reactions are uncommon but do occur. The most common reactions are allergic type events that are seen within an hour of the vaccination. Signs include vomiting, facial swelling, hives (best seen on short coated dogs where the fur stands up in patches) and rarely more dramatic shock like reactions occur. These respond well to antihistamines and sometimes IV fluids. We note these and do not repeat them when they occur.  We occasionally pre-treat pets with antihistamines to prevent such things. Some pets will be sore or lethargic for a day or so after vaccination especially if several were given at the same time.  I prefer not to give multiple vaccines to toy breeds on the same day but that may be more personal prejudice than science.  Vaccinations are blamed for lots of maladies including auto immune diseases and cancer. We have no science that links vaccines to these things in dogs but it is impossible to prove that vaccines are not contributing factors. We do know for certain that many pets would suffer and die from infectious disease if vaccinations were not available.

August 2018

Tick Talk

By Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP

Ticks are small parasitic arthropods. They have been in the news because, frankly, ticks suck. They can transmit several diseases to humans and animals. There are several species of ticks that are important. The Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the infamous vector of Lyme disease. Other species of ticks found in Rockland County include the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineous). The Lone Star Tick (Ambyomma americanum) isn’t in Rockland yet, but is working its way here. Just recently the Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longiconis) was identified in our area. The diseases these critters can transmit include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and Powassan virus. The list gets longer as more diseases emerge and are discovered. Veterinarians screen dogs routinely for several tick transmitted diseases by way of a blood test that is often combined with testing for heartworm (a mosquito transmitted disease of dogs). Some of these diseases, but not all, are treated with doxycycline but prevention is key. There are several products available to keep your dog and cats free of ticks. Your veterinarian can help you choose the one that best suits your pet and your family. Options include oral products (for dogs) given monthly or every 3 months (depending on the particular product), collars, and spot-on topical products. There are many over the counter products for purchase in stores or online. Some are generic versions of established and safe products and others are not.  It is important that the product chosen is labelled for the species of animal to which it will be applied. Some dog products can be highly toxic to cats if misapplied on that species. You also need to choose the products that are labelled for your pet’s body weight. Your veterinarian is the one best able to advise you. The product manufacturers know this and often offer rebates on products sold by veterinarians that are not available online or in a store.  No product is 100% effective in keeping ticks off of dogs or cats. All of these products take some time to kill ticks and some are faster than others. You should check you pets daily and remove ticks when you see them.  Your veterinarian can teach you the proper way to remove ticks from your pet. Tick control should be continued year-round.  Ticks are out and ready to attach if the ambient temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper and timely application of safe and effective tick control products and regular tick inspections will help keep your pet healthy and also reduce the possibility that unattached ticks will enter your home and threaten your family.  It is time to speak to your veterinarian about tick control. Tick Talk!

August 2018