Despite the advances in veterinary medical technology, providing your pet with routine wellness care remains the most important thing you can do to protect their health. Because dogs and cats can share diseases and parasites with local wildlife, we can never eliminate these threats. Instead, we can focus on vaccinating our pets, being consistent with anti-parasitic medications, and providing them with examinations and screening tests to ensure they remain disease-free. 

The Caring Hands Animal Hospital team wants pet owners to understand what they are fighting against and why routine care is so important. Here is a list of common diseases you can easily prevent by keeping up with our recommended wellness care schedule for your dog or cat.

#1: Parvovirus and distemper in dogs

Parvovirus and distemper are two serious diseases that can easily take an unvaccinated pup’s life. They are common in strays and shelters, and some wildlife can also transmit them by shedding virus particles into the environment. Parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and disables the immune system, while distemper attacks the respiratory tract and nervous system. Dogs who contract these viruses almost always die without treatment; with treatment, many “parvo puppies” survive but the odds are worse for dogs with distemper.

The vaccine for parvovirus and distemper is combined into one product—the core vaccine called DAPP, which often also contains protection against several other viruses. The DAPP vaccine is highly effective and should be given in a series to puppies starting at 8 weeks of age, then boosted every one to three years for adults.

#2: Panleukopenia and calicivirus in cats

Panleukopenia and calicivirus are viruses that frequently attack young, unvaccinated cats. Panleukopenia is similar to parvovirus in dogs, attacking the gastrointestinal and immune systems and frequently leading to death. Calicivirus typically causes fever, respiratory symptoms, and painful mouth ulcers. Most cats survive calicivirus infections, but some can have serious or deadly complications.

The combination core vaccine for cats, FVRCP, provides excellent protection against panleukopenia. Cats may still contract the other viruses the vaccine is intended to protect against, including the ubiquitous feline herpesvirus, but vaccinated cats typically experience milder symptoms. Like the canine core vaccines, FVRCP should be given in a series to kittens starting at 8 weeks of age and boosted every one to three years during adulthood.

#3: Rabies in pets

Most people are familiar with the rabies virus because the law requires rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats. You may also know someone who had a close encounter with wildlife and was required to receive post-exposure rabies vaccines to prevent infection. The government takes rabies seriously because it is deadly 100% of the time, but infected pets and wildlife can spread the disease for weeks before death occurs. Rabies attacks the brain and nervous system, eventually leading the body to shut down.

#4: Leptospirosis in dogs

Leptospirosis is a spiral-shaped bacterium that attacks the liver and kidneys, leading to permanent organ damage or death. The disease is spread through infected urine from other dogs, rodents, or wildlife that can contaminate surfaces and bodies of water. Vaccinating against leptospirosis is important for dogs as well as their human families, who can contract it from their pets. Our veterinary team can help you determine if this vaccine is right for your pet’s lifestyle.

#5: Flea- and tick-borne diseases in pets

Fleas and ticks are external parasites that feed on your pet’s blood. While it may seem as if these pests are simply nuisances because they live outside your pet’s body, the tiny creatures can transmit serious and sometimes deadly diseases, including Lyme disease, cat scratch fever, and the plague. Symptoms are often vague and may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, kidney or liver failure, blood clotting problems, low red blood cells, or eye inflammation. Applying monthly parasite preventives kills external parasites continuously, protecting against these diseases.

#6: Heartworm disease in pets

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes that contract the immature larval-stage worms from other infected animals nearby, including wildlife. Once a pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, the worms travel to their heart and grow up to a foot long. There, they reproduce, damage the heart and lungs, and serve as a reservoir to infect others in the community. Left untreated, heartworm infection is often deadly, but providing a monthly preventive kills immature worms before they become problematic or cause your pet to require costly, painful treatments.

#7: Periodontal disease in pets

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, affects up to 80% of pets by the time they are 3 years old. Although not deadly directly, advanced gum disease causes severe pain and reduced quality of life. In some cases, badly infected gums can leak bacteria into the bloodstream and damage major organs, shortening your pet’s life. There is no vaccine or monthly preventive medication for periodontal disease. Instead, we recommend annual dental examinations and professional veterinary dental cleanings as needed to remove plaque and keep your pet’s gums healthy. 

Keeping your pet healthy for years to come starts with routine wellness care. Our Caring Hands Animal Hospital team recommends annual visits for adult pets and semi-annual visits for senior pets or those with existing health issues. Contact us to discuss recommendations for your pet or to schedule their next preventive care visit.