Paws-sitive: Get your pets ready for spring
Spring melt is officially here. Dormant viruses are warming up and thawing out, so it may be a good time for a refresher about vaccinations. There are three main vaccines regularly offered in Nome that protect against the most easily contractible, life-threatening ailments to dogs and cats. Three main canine vaccines that are required and/or highly recommended, as well as feline vaccines are: the Rabies vaccine, the Parvovirus-Combo Vaccine and the Bordetella Vaccine (Kennel Cough) for dogs and the Feline 3-way Combination Vaccine for cats. Advice is conveyed with the average Bering Strait citizen, dog and cat in mind.
Puppies and kittens are born with only the immunities of their mother, which last only until they are weaned around six weeks of age. Along with her immunities, puppies or kittens also inherit their mother’s sickness form a virus. It is important to note that infected mothers must complete their pregnancy and weaning their litter before they can be vaccinated.
By six weeks old, puppies and kittens are ready for their first round of vaccinations. Your pet’s age will dictate, not only which vaccines it needs, but also the schedule you will need to follow for the vaccinations to be considered viable or effective.
The Parvo 5-way combo vaccine includes: Parvovirus, Distemper, Influenza and Types 1 and 2 of Adenovirus. This vaccine should be administered as soon as puppies are six weeks old. This vaccine requires two additional boosters to be considered effective; the ideal schedule is when puppies are six, nine and twelve weeks old. This vaccine should be repeated yearly. Parvo, adenovirus, canine influenza and distemper cannot be spread from dogs to humans. Parvovirus is very prevalent in the region, and can spread rapidly from canine to canine. It can be fatal within 72 hours without veterinarian treatment, and common symptoms include diarrhea/vomiting with blood and lethargy. Properly vaccinating your canine can save its life. The Parvo-combo is required by the City of Nome. Your pet’s vaccination schedule must be restarted if a booster is missed, or the vaccination is not considered viable.
Bordetella (kennel cough) is a relatively new concern in the Nome area and can also spread easily from canine to canine. An infected dog may show signs of wheezing/coughing and a runny nose. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and develop into pneumonia. The Bordetella vaccine can be administered as young as three weeks of age in puppies, then repeated at six weeks and then yearly. This vaccine is not required by the City of Nome, but it is highly recommended.
For cats (especially cats who are allowed to roam outside) a 3-way combination is the most commonly administered and available vaccination in Nome. This vaccine protects against: Rhinotrachetitis, Calici and Panleukopenia. Kittens should be vaccinated starting at six weeks and receive another booster at nine or ten weeks, then repeated yearly.
The last vaccine your dogs and cats need —as required by Nome ordinances and as well as the State of Alaska— is Rabies. This vaccine is very important for your pet because this virus can be contracted to humans, as well as other animals. Puppies and kittens should be vaccinated immediately at three months (twelve weeks) of age, then again in one year. If given at three months, then again a year later, the second vaccine can last three years. Annual vaccination is also a safe schedule to follow, though we recommend consulting your veterinarian or community lay vaccinator. If you do have a lay vaccinator in your community, the State of Alaska has provided them with training to administer the rabies vaccine free of charge.
It is very important to keep your pet up-to-date on their vaccinations, and also to keep track of their vaccination records. Make sure you keep records in a safe place for reference.
If you do not have a veterinarian in your community, you can order the Parvo-combo, Bordetella, and Feline 3-way Combo online and have it shipped to you with instructions on how to administer it. However, the rabies vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian or a certified rabies lay vaccinator. Remember: vaccinations are a prevention, not a cure; so double-check that your pet is always up-to-date to ensure they don’t become ill or put other pets or people at risk.
Paws-sitive is a monthly column by PAWS, an animal welfare organization in Nome.