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There are often a lot of instructions that come your way when you pick up your new cat or dog, and somewhere in there you are told the animal "must be vaccinated". So just what are the diseases that pets can be innoculated against?
For dogs, standard vaccination is against:
1) Distemper - a usually fatal viral disease that attacks mucous membranes and nerves, initially causing runny nose and eyes but leading on to muscle twitching and ultimately convulsions.
2) Parvovirus - a virus causing severe gastro-enteritis which can be fatal in the young.
3) Infectious Canine Hepatitis - yet another virus, this one affecting the liver.
4) Canine Adenovirus and Canine Parainfluenza - two of the organisms causing respiratory disease in the dog.
In addition, dogs may also be vaccinated against:
1) Leptospirosis - this is a serious disease, primarily affecting the liver in dogs, that is caught from rats or rat urine. If your dog frequents places inhabited by rats - the bush, creeks and streams, farms, parks - or if you know there are rats around your home, your dog should be vaccinated, especially if it is of a breed such as a terrier that enjoys hunting rodents. Leptospirosis is also a zoonosis i.e. it can be passed on to humans, although this particular form of it is not as serious as that which is caught from cows.
2) Bordetella - another of the causes of Kennel Cough which can be given to dogs if they are going into kennels, or to a dog show - any situation where large numbers of dogs are gathered together.
Vaccination programmes vary depending on the type of vaccine your vet uses, but pups should have their first vaccination between six and eight weeks, with boosters up to sixteen weeks. You should remember that your pup will only become fully immunised two weeks after its final shot and should be kept away from public places until this time. Do remember though that this is the important age for socialising your pup, so that contact with other (vaccinated) dogs is essential, but must take place on private property. Once the initial course of vaccinations has been completed, your dog will need an annual booster to maintain its immunity.
The standard vaccination for cats is against:
1) Panleukopenia - also known as Feline Enteritis, this is a viral disease causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea especially in young kittens.
2) Rhinotracheitis - a Herpes virus causing respiratory disease, commonly known as Snuffles.
3) Calicivirus - another virus which attacks the respiratory system and can also cause mouth ulcers. Note: The calcivirus which affects cats is quite separate from the one used for rabbit control.
Other vaccinations, mainly used by owners of breeding cats, protect against:
1) Chlamydia - which causes conjunctivitis, abortion and infertility.
2) Feline Leukaemia - a virus that suppresses the immune system.
Initial vaccinations for kittens are usually given at around nine weeks of age with a booster four weeks later. Once again, annual vaccination is necessary, with the added recommendation that cats going into a boarding establishment or to a cat show should have been vaccinated within the previous six months.
- Virginia Williams & Bert Westera
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Its easy to ignore teeth. For one thing, theyre out of sight most of the time. For another - well, lets face it - theyre a form of defence - a weapon if you like. Now many animals would never dream of using their teeth in such a way against their intimate acquaintances, but there are certainly the odd few out there who, objecting to having their mouths inspected, will quite happily at least threaten to use their choppers for a non-digestive function on owners and vets alike.
But we shouldnt let such issues detract from caring for our pets teeth. For teeth are important - they start the whole process of digestion by beginning the break down of food. They should be cared for from the beginning. Just like humans, pups and kittens have a set of baby teeth. Their appearance in the first few weeks of life is helped if the young animals are given something to chew on, as this helps the teeth to come through cleanly, thus helping avoid gum inflammation and infection.
The next crucial phase in dental care is when the young animal loses its milk teeth and starts to produce the permanent set. Usually what happens is that the root of the temporary tooth is absorbed by the gum, with the rest of the tooth coming loose and falling out. Sometimes however, the root is not fully absorbed and the new tooth comes through before the old one is lost. This can hinder development of the new one, or even push it out of place, so it is important that persistent milk teeth are removed.
Once the adult teeth are through, the most common problem we see is the formation of tartar on the teeth, partly as a result of the preponderance of soft tinned food our pets eat. Even eating the relatively harder biscuits does not exercise the teeth and gums enough to prevent the formation of tartar, which is made up largely of bacteria. The tartar eventually hardens, sticking to the teeth and causing the gum inflammation which is the first sign of the more serious periodontal disease.
In this condition, bacterial infection of the gums, if left untreated, can result in retraction of the gum away from the tooth root, exposing it to the possibility of infection and, eventually, loss of the tooth. In serious cases, bacteria from chronically infected gums can enter the bloodstream, spreading through the body to infect other organs, particularly the heart and kidneys, causing disease and even death.
So what can you as a pet owner do to prevent tooth problems? Well, there are several lines of attack:
1. You can brush their teeth every day. "Oh horrors!" people cry. "Hed never let me brush his teeth". While this is certainly true of some animals, many owners are surprised at how little trouble they have with the brushings. Its certainly an advantage to start them young so that it simply becomes part of daily grooming, but many older animals adapt to having their teeth brushed without too much fuss. Dont use human toothpaste - animals dont care for the way it foams or for its minty flavour. On the other hand, the chicken flavoured paste you can get from your vet may well go down a treat!
2. There are now special high fibre biscuits available which will help remove soft tartar from your pets teeth.
3. You can also get dental toys for your pet to chew on. These toys, usually made of rubber, are designed in such a way as to help remove soft tartar as well.
4. Regular dental checks with your vet are important so that problems can be forestalled - teeth may need to be cleaned, filled or even removed under anaesthetic, or periodontal disease may need to be treated. Checks should be annual for younger animals; every six months for older pets.
The importance of teeth to nutritional wellbeing is even more important in horses, where poor teeth can prevent the ability to bite off the grass and chew it properly, resulting in weight loss and failure to thrive. One of the major problems is that sharp edges can develop on the back teeth, meaning that food is not adequately chewed before being swallowed, and is therefore much more difficult for the horse to digest. For this reason, horses should have their teeth examined annually, so that any sharp edges or overgrowth can be rasped back, a relatively simple procedure.
- Virginia Williams & Bert Westera