The Vaccination Debate

November 17, 2017


I am not aware of any topic more hotly debated among people in the pet caretaking industry than vaccinations for dogs and cats. Do the benefits outweigh the risks or vice versa? The arguments include the over-vaccination of our pets, how often should vaccinations be given to assure immunization, and what vaccinations are truly necessary.  Vaccinating our pets has long been considered beneficial in managing their health. There is also concern over the risks of vaccinations. Minor reactions can include loss of appetite, pain, or swelling at the injection site to more severe reactions of difficulty breathing, lameness, or seizures. There is some speculation among Holistic veterinary practitioners that repeated vaccinations can weaken an animal’s immune system and cause autoimmune disorders.  


The first consideration is what is mandated by state law. Other factors are age, health history, lifestyle, and environment. Vaccines are a preventive measure against infectious diseases that affect pets. 



Core vaccinations are considered in the prevention of severe diseases that are highly contagious, difficult to treat effectively, and can be fatal. One core disease that can be passed on to humans is Rabies. It is the one pet vaccination that is required by Colorado law.  All dogs and cats over the age of six months must be vaccinated by a licensed Colorado veterinarian. Owners are then required to show proof of vaccination, usually in the form of a tag with the vaccination information, provided by their Vet.


The other core vaccines for dogs are canine parvovirus, distemper, and canine hepatitis.  For cats, the core vaccines are panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type 1, and rabies. Non-core vaccinations are generally given dependent on lifestyle and exposure to risk. These vaccinations for dogs include Bordetella (canine cough complex), Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, and more recently Canine Influenza. Non-core for cats include Feline Leukemia, Chlamydophila Felis, and Bordetella.




As a standard in the Dog Daycare and Boarding industry, most facilities require all core vaccinations. Of the non-core vaccines, Bordetella tops the list of required vaccinations due to the nature of the environment. Bordetella (kennel cough) is a respiratory infection caused by bacteria and spread through airborne contaminants which can be transferred to shared water bowls, toys, and kennels. Incubation for kennel cough is approximately 5 to 10 days and symptoms include cough, fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite.  Left untreated, Bordetella can lead to pneumonia and secondary respiratory illnesses.  



Another illness causing concern in the industry is Canine Influenza, otherwise known as the dog flu. There are two strains of the virus which include H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 was first identified in Florida in 2004.  The second strain, H3N2, was reported in Chicago in 2015. It caused by the canine influenza virus (CIV) and is highly contagious and spread by direct contact, barking, sneezing, and contaminated objects.  Symptoms, which may resemble kennel cough, are a cough, thick nasal discharge, eye discharge, fever, and loss of appetite. Some infected dogs will not show any signs of illness, but are still most contagious during the two to four-day virus incubation period. Because the virus is so contagious, most dogs exposed will become infected. The recovery period is between two to three weeks, but some dogs can develop secondary bacterial infections leading to pneumonia. There are vaccinations available for both strains and are considered a non-core or lifestyle vaccination. The vaccination is recommended for dogs at risk due to an increased exposure to other dogs such as a boarding or daycare environment, dog parks, and dog shows. 


The soundest advice concerning all vaccinations is talking with your Vet and determining what is in the best interest for your pet to keep them healthy.


Author Laurinda Flaks is Co-Founder of BamPaws Stay and Play in Colorado Springs and may be reached at 719-471-2275.

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