Saturday, April 25, 2015

V -- Vaccinations, Diseases and Parasites

I understand that over-vaccination is a real concern in the dog community, and I don't want to start any heated debates today. However, please realize that show dogs are in contact with hundreds -- if not thousands -- of strange dogs every year. Dogs come from across the state, around the country and sometimes even internationally to compete, bringing with them the possibility of all kinds of cooties. Show dog owners must be aware of what's out there, and weigh the risks of vaccines against the risk of the disease. Here are a few you should look out for:

Rabies: The good news is that we've pretty much eradicated rabies in dogs in the United States. You have a better chance of winning the Powerball than you do of getting rabies from a domesticated dog. The bad news is that if you are the lucky one, it can be fatal. Because of that, there are mandatory rabies vaccination laws nationwide. Every dog show that I've been to says that all dogs must have current rabies vaccinations. Have a copy of your dog's rabies certificate in your tack box! Should your dog bite someone (hey it could happen, see my story here) you'll want to be able to prove that your vaccination is current. Otherwise, you could face impoundment and mandatory quarantine from animal control and/or the health department.

Make sure to tell your vet you show your dog. It
may change the vaccines he recommends.
Bordetella: Canine Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, appears as a dry honking cough that is sometimes followed by retching. Its usually not fatal, but it can lead to pneumonia. Bordetella is contagious, and often passed around when you have a large number of dogs contained in one small area -- like a dog show. Bordetella vaccines can either be intranasal or injected. Talk to your vet about which is best for your dog as well as how often you should be vaccinating. Please note: most boarding kennels require proof of Bordetella vaccination to use their facilities.

Coronavirus: Coronavirus affects the intestines, causing diarrhea and vomiting. In rare cases it may also invade the spleen, liver, brain and lungs. Coronavirus is seen primarily in puppies, and is shed in the feces of infected dogs for months. Fortunately, most puppies recover from coronavirus after a few days. However, young puppies may die if their bodies are weakened by something else. There is no specific treatment to kill canine coronavirus. Usually the symptoms are treated with fluids an anti-vomiting medication, while waiting for the dog's immune system eventually conquers the virus. There is a vaccination against coronavirus given to puppies. Adult dogs don't normally get yearly boosters.

Distemper: Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. It also affects the membranes in the eyes. Symptoms of distemper include sneezing, coughing, fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose and/or loss of appetite. This virus is passed through direct contact with urine, blood or saliva of an infected animal. The virus can also be passed through sneezing, coughing and sharing of food and water bowls. Young dogs and unvaccinated dogs are most vulnerable to the virus. Foxes and raccoons also carry and pass on the canine strain of distemper. While there is a vaccination against distemper, there is no cure once a dog contracts it. Distemper weakens a dog's immune system and leaves it open to secondary infections from things like pneumonia. If it dog lives through distemper, there is a possibility of seizures, brain damage and nerve damage. Sometimes complications don't arrive until years later.

Leptospirosis: This is a disease caused by bacteria-like organisms called Spirochetes. They are passed through urine and infected standing water. They can also enter the body through a wound or by eating infected materials. Leptospirosis is common found in warm, wet climates. Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, depression and joint pain. It can also cause liver and kidney damage.

Vomiting is never a good sign. (Neither is drinking out
of the toilet. Talk about germs!)
Parvovirus: This virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune systems of puppies and dogs. It is highly contagious and spread through direct contact with the feces of infected dogs. The virus is easily carried on hands, dishes, shoes and any other objects. Parvovirus is extremely hearty and can survive for months on inanimate objects and more than a year in infected soil. The normal incubation period for parvovirus is 7 to 14 days. A scary thing about Parvo is that the virus can be shed several days before the dog appears sick so owners of infected dogs can unknowingly spread the virus. Signs of Parvo include lethargy, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. There is no cure for Parvo. Infected dogs are treated with fluids and electrolytes and they may or may not survive. (A shelter vet told me dogs have a 50-50 chance.) Vaccinations help control the spread of disease. Sick dogs, young dogs, old dogs and those with weak immune systems are most susceptible to contracting the virus. Bully breeds and black and tan German breeds (Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German shepherds) seem to be more vulnerable as well.

Parasites: Dog show people also need to concern themselves with internal parasites (worms) and external parasites (fleas and ticks). These can be picked up anywhere. There are several preventatives on the market, both topical and oral. I use a topical for Roxy and an oral for Jedi (picky Roxy won't eat anything, but the topical gives Jedi chemical smelling breath). I also check for fleas and ticks during regular grooming and inspect their feces for worms. I know, gross.

This is not a complete list! Talk to your veterinarian about the risks of diseases and parasites as well as the vaccinations and/or treatments involved. Do your research and make informed decisions. You are your dogs' advocate. It's up to you to keep them safe. -- K
Tomorrow's Topic: Westminster

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