It's the holidays and with that always comes an influx of new puppies and kittens. Puppies and kittens, like all baby animals including humans, need a series of vaccinations that will prevent them from getting major diseases. In puppies we are most worried about distemper and parvo which can be deadly. In kittens we worry most about feline distemper and feline leukemia. So why do we have to give a series of vaccinations by age, why won’t just one or two shots work?
To understand this, we first must understand how vaccinations work in the first place.
When you or your pet is first exposed to invaders such as viruses or bacteria our white blood cells respond by making antibodies to fight the invaders. These antibodies will fight off the current infection and help to prevent future infections. However, the FIRST time your body or your pet’s body is exposed to a particular invader it may take several days for the body to build up a protective antibody response. With fast acting diseases like parvo virus, your puppy may not have time to build up a response before he gets sick or even dies.
So why do we have to vaccinate young animals more than once? That is due to a little thing called maternal immunity.
Maternal immunity is the level of response to invaders that is passed to the newborn by its mother. If the mother passes a strong protective response to the puppy or kitten, then that baby’s immune system won’t develop its own response to invaders until momma’s immunity wears off. The baby's white blood cells won’t recognize invaders and develop that memory of them even with vaccines.
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing when mom’s immunity will wear off. A puppy (we will call him Puppy A) could have a high level of mom’s immunity at 6 weeks and not respond at all to the vaccine, but another puppy in the same litter (Puppy B) may have a very low level and respond well to the vaccine. If this litter of puppies had not been vaccinated at 6 weeks but had been exposed to Parvo, Puppy A (the one with mom’s immunity) would have possibly gotten ill but only mildly, where as Puppy B (the one without mom’s immunity) could have gotten deathly ill.
In future blogs I will discuss titer testing and how Sale Creek Veterinary Services has gone to 2 or 3 year vaccines for most things in order to prevent over vaccinating. Check back later for these blogs
About a year ago our hospital began taking dental radiographs. So some folks ask me, Why do this in our pets? Even with bad teeth they don't act like their mouths hurt? It just adds to the overall cost of the dental doesn't it?
All of these are great questions.
Why do we need to do full mouth radiographs on all of our pets? First, every year when I go to my dentist he takes radiographs of my teeth. He doesn't say that it's an option, he just does it and that how he finds problems. We can now do the same with our pets. The photos at the top are just 2 examples of bad things that we can find with radiographs that we would be missing if we just cleaned the teeth. Tooth fractures below the gums and tooth root abscesses can both cause pain, yet without radiographs we would have missed both of these problems. The American Veterinary Dental College states, "Dental radiographs are one of the most important diagnostic tools available to a veterinary dentist. They allow the internal anatomy of the teeth, the roots and the bone that surrounds the roots to be examined."
Even with bad teeth, some pets don't act like their mouths hurt. Yes, I see this all the time, Fido has teeth falling out of his mouth and yet he continues to eat and drink. This is a testament to the survival instinct of animals. In the wild the weak did not survive, to show pain and weakness often meant certain death. That trait has been carried down to our domestic fur babies. But I can tell you that without fail, owners notice after the fact that their pet is feeling better. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, "Boy, I did not think he was feeling bad but he acts like a puppy now!"
Now about cost, yes it does increase the cost but overall the cost of the procedure is minimal compared to the benefit. Without radiographs the problem will remain to fester and Fido might need to come back in 2-3 months for another anesthesia and another dental procedure. Now the cost for this second procedure is way more than the cost of the original radiographs and extractions.
Full-mouth radiographs also establish a base-line for future comparison.
This image of an unerupted K-9 tooth was taken of an 11 year old dog--Max. If the problem had been found as a puppy the reason for the problem could have been corrected and the tooth could have come in normally. By the time and age when we found this, there was nothing we could do. Max was lucky this tooth did not abscess or form a cyst which could have eaten away at his jaw.
This is my first time at posting a blog, I appreciate feedback good and bad. I look forward to posting more in the future.