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MVA Monthly Mouthful – July/August – Identify & Inoculate!

By Alyssa Mages, BS, CVT, Education and Development Coordinator

Microchips, collars & tags

The unthinkable has happened – Fluffy has gotten out and is nowhere to be found!  She had just joined your family less than a month ago, but thankfully she had come to you with a microchip already in place, a rabies tag as she was fully vaccinated, and in your excitement in her arrival she had a ID tag with your phone number and address engraved upon it.  This made it very easy for your primary veterinarian to reunite her with you and this story has a happy ending.

So how does this whole ID process work?  This typically falls under the realm of your primary veterinarian who will place a microchip underneath your pet’s skin  – this is generally well tolerated – and when a rabies vaccine is administered, the injection is licensed to a specific doctor and the ID tag is given to your pet as a physical representation of vaccination status and a bonus of identification.  When this becomes prevalent in the ER field is when an accident or other potentially traumatic event occurs, a pet is brought in by someone who is not the owner.  We can then identify this animal by utilizing a tool that scans for the microchip, enabling us to contact the pet’s family to relay that their pet is under our care, reuniting them once more.

Lyme, Leptospirosis, KCV, DA2PP, FeLV & FVRCP – Vaccines and then some!

Veterinary medicine loves its acronyms, and the world of immunology and vaccinations are no exception! Vaccinations have tended to get an unfairly bad rep over the years, and I say unfairly because the diseases that they address are not something that should be taken lightly, nor are they ones that necessarily impact each pet in the same way.  The 1st four that are mentioned in this section title are specific to our canine companions, and the latter two are feline specific.

It is worth mentioning that Pennsylvania has overtaken the remainder of the country in the increased documented cases of Lyme positive patients, and that the general tick population has increased to include the Lone Star Tick which can also be a potential carrier of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.  While the Lyme vaccine does not offer complete immunity from the disease, it can and in the majority of cases, will mitigate the severity of the symptoms and lessen the duration of the illness for the majority of patients.  That being said, if you and your dog do not reside in a high-risk area, nor are a fully outdoor animal, this is not a legally required vaccination to receive.  If, however, you are in a more rural setting, your pet has a history of traipsing off into the meadows and wooded areas, this may be something to very seriously consider.

Regarding Leptospirosis, this is another vaccination that is not required by Pennsylvania state law for your dog to receive.  This is another example of a vaccine that is a helpful preventative to have on board should you reside in areas that have a higher rodent (racoons, possums, rats, etc.) population, and your pup likes to drink out of puddles in the path or small, local streams.  Leptospirosis is a bacterium that is excreted most commonly in the urine of the above-mentioned species, and dogs tend to be in a higher risk category given they’re typically in the environments where they have the most potential exposure.

Kennel cough is a common ailment in our canine population, and in some [rare] occasions, our feline friends contract this illness as well.  It is an upper respiratory infection, that is typically viral in origin and HIGHLY contagious.  It is more of a risk in densely populated regions (think urban dog parks, doggie daycares, etc.), and is typically preventable if the vaccine – KCV = Kennel Cough Vaccine –  is given at the appropriate times – part of the puppy regimen – and annually particularly if the risk of exposure is high.

DA2PP is more commonly known as the distemper combination vaccine, and while the “D” does stand for the distemper virus, the remaining letters within this acronym are equally important.  The exact combination of your dog’s distemper combination vaccine depends on your dog’s age and individual disease-risk profile, but in general, the most important diseases to protect against are canine distemper, canine adenovirus-2 infection (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus infection, and parainfluenza. The abbreviation for this combination vaccine is frequently written as “DHPPV,” “DHPP,” “DA2PP,” or “DA2PPV”. The letters in these abbreviations are defined as follows:

  • D = Canine distemper virus. 
    • Infection with this virus is serious, with a death rate approaching 50% in untreated dogs. The virus attacks the respiratory, digestive, and brain/nervous systems of dogs.
  • H = Hepatitisà Canine Adenovirus-1
    • Canine adenovirus-1 causes canine infectious hepatitis, a serious disease that affects the liver.
  • A2 = Canine Adenovirus-2.
    • This virus causes a respiratory disease in dogs (see above).
    • ONE of the infectious agents that can be associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis a.k.a. Kennel Cough
    • Since this portion of the combination vaccine protects against canine adenovirus-1 and adenovirus-2, it is often referred to as A2.
    • Infection with this virus is serious as well as extremely contagious, that can be fatal in 9/10 dogs if left untreated.
    • The virus attacks the digestive and immune systems of those animals who are unvaccinated, causing debilitating diarrhea and vomiting.
  • P = Parainfluenza.
    • This is a [mild] respiratory viral disease in dogs.
  • V = Vaccine

FeLV is the shorthand version of Feline Leukemia Virus, and the vaccine for this has played a significant role in reducing the prevalence of of FeLV over the past 25 years.  This is great news for many reasons, not the least of which is that FeLV is the most common cause – typically in the sense of being a precursor – of lymphoma or other cancers in cats, can cause various blood disorders, and may lead to a state of immune deficiency that prevents a cat from being able to protect itself against other infections. Because of this, common bacteria, viruses, and fungi that usually do not affect healthy cats can cause severe illness in FeLV-infected cats.

Having listed the above, it is also important to note that some cats that have contracted FeLV can live normal & relatively healthy lives.  Additional supportive care may likely be necessary, and please be aware that complications may also arise, so having your cat tested for FeLV at its 1st veterinary visit as a kitten and afterwards at least annually to ensure there is no exposure risk especially for our indoor/outdoor kitties is an excellent idea!

FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Calicivirus and Panleukopenia and are the viruses that this vaccine is designed to at least mitigate but, in most cases, it does prevent them from occurring.  The remainder of the acronym’s components are as follows:

  • Rhinotracheitis is a mutation of the feline herpes virus, and if left untreated this can lead to severe dehydration, anorexia, and in severe cases can be fatal.
  • Calicivirus has similar symptoms to rhinotracheitis but has an additional one that includes oral ulcers that affect the lips, inner cheek, and/or tongue. This infection can also lead to pneumonia if left untreated, and our kittens and geriatric kitties are most susceptible.
  • Panleukopenia is also known as Feline Distemper and is EXTREMELY contagious between cats. Not only that, but it is so prevalent that the majority of cats will at least be exposed to it at some point in their lifetime.  This virus progresses rapidly and requires immediate veterinary medical attention as it too can be fatal.

Relevance in ER/Specialty Settings

The above information is not likely new to you as this is what your primary veterinarian has been discussing with you over the years, so why revisit this information here with MVA?  Because these preventative measures if NOT taken can, and in some cases MUST, necessitate a trip to our ER, or continual follow-up care with one of our specialists.

There is a very real concern for the progression of these diseases into their more severe counterparts such as Lyme nephropathy & other Lyme disease related issues, leptospirosis negatively impacts kidney & liver function that requires aggressive IV fluid therapy and long-term supportive care, Kennel cough and the feline upper respiratory viruses can worsen and mutate into pneumonia requiring heavy duty antibiotics and other interventional therapies, and sadly Parvovirus still claims more lives than it should each year.

So, when you’re at your furry kids’ annual visits, really listen to what your veterinarian and their team is discussing with you, as what they’re recommending can quite literally save your pet’s life!  But, should you find yourself in a concerning situation in the middle of the night that’s when you give us a call to talk it over with one of our nurses or clinicians.  Remember, we’re here for you and your pets 24/7/365!

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