Pet Vaccinations

When you go to the vet do you actually know what your pet is getting? The viral infections your pet is being vaccinated against are indicated by the letter, though do you know what the letters mean? Below is an explanation.

Pet vaccination intervals
The immunity response provided by a vaccination lasts longer than 1 year and over-vaccination can lead to certain conditions such as skin cancer or certain immune-mediated disorders.

Kittens and puppies are vaccinated at least 2 times at 3- 4 week intervals so that the immunity is boosted; the antibodies that the kitten or puppy may have gained from their mother hinders this immunity from being generated, hence the repeat vaccinations.

This is why vaccinations are recommended at 8 and 12 weeks. To ensure excellent immunity is attained, a third vaccination at 16 weeks is advisable. The rabies vaccination is often given at this time or at 20/24 weeks.

However in adult pets one vaccination will provide sufficient immunity. If your pet has missed a couple of years of vaccination at this time, then a course of vaccination is NOT required; one injection for each vaccination is sufficient.

Yearly health checks
Regardless of vaccinations, yearly health checks are advisable; your pet cannot tell you if they are feeling ill or “not quite right”. It is a good idea for you to give them a yearly check up.

At this time you can decide whether you want to give your pet a vaccination booster for any of the infectious diseases listed below.

Pet vaccinations and the law
Under Chinese law both dogs and cats need to have rabies vaccinations yearly; this should be adhered to.

We are officially authorized by the government to give pets vaccinations and to issue the certified “Vaccination Red Books”. This official “Vaccination Red Book” is needed by owners to take their pets out of China, move pets to other Chinese cities, and to renew dog registration licenses.

For all owners of dogs in Chaoyang and Shunyi Districts, we provide the annual rabies vaccination and the official “Vaccination Red Book” free of charge to all dog owners who register their dog with us.

Authorities routinely register dogs during the month of May, and this is one reason why the rabies vaccination is routinely given at this time, however if your dog has an up to date rabies vaccination in the official vaccination book then this should not be necessary.

Please note in other cities such as Shanghai only government vets are allowed to give the rabies vaccinations. This regulation appears to have been applied at registration here in Beijing, however at this time this is not the official regulation.

Cat vaccinations
The routine injection contains protection against 3 infections:

FVR = Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
This is a horrible upper respiratory infection that is airborne and highly contagious among cats. It causes sneezing and coughing with discharge from the eyes and nose. Infected cats will have loss of appetite and a fever. Young kittens and senior cats are more susceptible to this infection and many require hospitalization to recover.

C = Calicivirus
This is another upper respiratory infection with symptoms similar to feline viral rhinotracheitis. These infections account for 95% of upper respiratory infections in cats. The disease is spread through direct contact with an infected cat or objects, for example a food dish or toy.

P = Panleukopenia
This is also known as feline distemper. It is highly contagious and deadly among cats. It is similar to the parvovirus seen in dogs. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, dehydration, tremors, and loss of coordination. A low white blood cell count is also common. Cats with feline distemper need to be hospitalized and have intensive care. Mortality rate is high.

Dog vaccinations
The routine injection contains protection against 6 infections annotated by DHPPi/L.

D = Distemper
Distemper is a nasty virus that is highly contagious, occurs world wide, and at one time was the leading cause of death in puppies. Young puppies are more susceptible to the virus then adult dogs. You may see signs of an upper respiratory infection with a high fever. The dog may also have neurological signs. This disease is usually fatal.

H = Hepatitis, Adenovirus-1 or -2
Vaccines either contain Adenovirus-1 or -2. There is cross-protection between the viruses i.e. a vaccine containing Adenovirus-1 protects against Adenovirus-2 and vice versa.

Adenovirus-2 causes Infectious Canine Hepatitis. This is spread by contact with the urine and feces of infected animals. The virus causes liver and kidney damage. Animals that survive may have chronic illness. Symptoms include but are not limited to: fever, lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea.

Adenovirus-1 causes respiratory tract infections.

P = Parvovirus
This virus attacks the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Parvo is highly contagious and dogs contract the virus through contact with an infected animal’s stool. Without treatment dogs become dehydrated and weak and often die. This virus is very common and puppies who are not properly vaccinated are often afflicted.

P (or Pi) = Parainfluenza
This is a virus that causes an upper respiratory infection. Dogs usually contract the disease through contact with the nasal secretions of infected dogs.

L = Leptospirosis
This disease affects the liver and kidneys and is deadly. Animals with this disease are contagious to other animals and humans. A positive dog should be isolated and the caregiver should wear protective clothing and gloves. The disease is spread through contact with the urine of infected animals. Dogs with leptospirosis may show signs of lethargy, dehydration, jaundice, and fever.

The vaccine against Leptospirosis is not licensed for use in China and as such is not available, however Leptospirosis is very uncommon in China.

Bordetella or Kennel Cough
This is an upper respiratory infection also known as kennel cough. This infection is usually not fatal but is a pain to get rid of. The infection can spread quickly through boarding and grooming facilities and any place dogs congregate. The vaccination can be in the form of a nasal spray or injection.

The vaccine against Bordetella is not licensed for use in China and as such is not widely available.

Rabies is a fatal disease that can infect humans. The classic symptoms include apprehension, anxiety, biting or snapping at random, and frothing at the mouth. The virus is passed in saliva typically acquired through a bite wound or by eating an infected animal. Cats and dogs show clinical signs but many other mammals can carry the virus without showing clinical signs.

Heartworm is a worm of the heart. Typical dog heartworm symptoms are exercise intolerance, cough, breathing difficulties, enlargement of the liver, temporary loss of consciousness due to poor blood flow to the brain, fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity, weight loss, loss of stamina and death.

The signs are far less severe in cats and the treatment simpler.

Whilst there is a yearly injection against Heartworm it is not actually a vaccination. The injection is a large dose of parasiticide that lasts for a year. In this case the “vaccination” has to be given yearly to maintain protection.

There are monthly treatments that also prevent both heartworm and other parasites.

Heartworm is not prevalent in Beijing as the winter period is too cold for the infectious parasite to survive. However the infection is seen in southern China.

Vaccinations for exotic species
Generally vaccines are not required in the other commonly kept exotic species e.g. hamsters or chinchillas, excepting rabbits.

There are 3 vaccines that maybe used in rabbits; Myxomatosis, Hemorrhagic Gastro-enteritis and Rabies.

Both Myxomatosis and Hemorrhagic Gastro-enteritis are man made viruses not seen in China; neither are the vaccinations available.

However it is a reasonable precaution to vaccinate your rabbit against rabies if the rabbit stays outside, though please note that the rabies vaccine is not licensed for use in rabbits.

Please contact us for further information concerning vaccinations and preventative health care for your pet.

Protecting dogs from the deadly Parvovirus

Many pets’ lives are unnecessarily at risk because they have not had the vaccinations they need to protect them from common but potentially deadly diseases, such as parvovirus. Young puppies and dogs that have never been vaccinated are susceptible to the effects of the deadly virus with death in around 80 per cent of untreated cases. All puppies from six weeks of age should be vaccinated against parvovirus and other canine diseases. Follow up vaccinations are also required.

At Doctors Beck & Stone we have seen 220 cases of parvovirus symptoms in the past year, and regrettably not all cases have been detected early enough to treat and cure the dog successfully.

Parvovirus is highly contagious and is spread by oral or nasal contact with contaminated feces, a contaminated environment or contaminated objects. It is extremely resistant to the environment and can survive on objects like clothing, shoes and the floor for five months or longer. Only chlorine-based sterilization can clean the environment from parvovirus.

If your dog is unvaccinated and shows signs of lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea, seek veterinary attention immediately. Early treatment is essential in improving the chance of survival.

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The Contributor

Dr. Tony Beck has studied and practiced veterinary medicine for the past 23 years, and is a member of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Dr Beck graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 1998, and has undertaken further studies within feline medicine, ophthalmology, ultrasonography and orthopaedic surgery. He practiced veterinary medicine in London and Hong Kong, and in 2006 he was invited to Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital where he met Dr. Stone. Dr. Beck has served the community at a neuter clinic in Thailand, a bear station in Chengdu, China, a malaria screening post in Guyana, Africa, and a rhino game conservation project in Namibia, Africa.

    Connect with Dr. Tony:
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