, Salem, MA


January 10, 2014

Vet Connection: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?


Rhinderpest is a killer disease of cattle, and it is very similar to viruses that cause canine distemper in dogs and measles in people. Rhinderpest was eradicated in 2001 via herd vaccination, but the dog and human viruses still kill dogs and people. The symptoms of the virus in dogs and people are similar: diarrhea, pneumonia, rash, thickened nose and footpads, encephalitis and death. Both of these viruses are making a comeback as people have cut back on vaccinating their dogs and children. According to the CDC, in 2013 there were outbreaks of measles occurring in 16 states, with the largest in New York, because more people in New York City are declining to vaccinate their children. The death rate for children with measles in the U.S. is three per 1,000. To give each child maximum protection, 100 percent should be vaccinated. That way, if some do not mount immunity, there will still be more than 90 percent with immunity and an epidemic will be unlikely.

Clusters of canine distemper have broken out in dog populations in the United States in California and Massachusetts — in nearby Amesbury — in August 2013. No one knows if the outbreaks are due to people not vaccinating their dogs or the veterinary profession changing from a one-year to a three-year canine distemper protocol several years ago. Raccoons can carry canine distemper and spread it to dogs through their urine and feces. Raccoons are in almost every backyard in America. If your dog is exposed to raccoons or their excrement, then it is exposed to distemper on a frequent basis.

The U.S. Army now vaccinates all its dogs for leptospirosis, a non-core vaccine to a killer spirochete bacterial disease, because its highly trained dogs were succumbing to leptospirosis when they were not vaccinated. The U.S. Army invests a lot of money to train these dogs, and it only made sense to protect its investment.

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