Fatal diseases can be prevented

Dr Karin Wilson injects a pet during a recent mass spay and vaccination day in the Helderberg.

With three cases of rabies having been reported in the Swartland district this month, it is necessary to highlight the life-saving importance of keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date.

Wednesday September 28 is World Rabies Day, and below are the most dangerous of the commonly seen viruses that your pet can be vaccinated and protected against.

Also, sticking to the recommended puppy and kitten vaccination schedule, as well as keeping up to date, with their annual health check and vaccination boosters, can help ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life.

Rabies (dogs, cats, humans)

Why are we so serious about keeping our pets vaccinated against rabies? Quite simply, rabies kills – wildlife, pets and humans.

This viral disease, which is preventable through vaccination, affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals and is transmitted to humans mainly through the saliva of an infected animal who licks, bites or scratches.

The disease can present in two ways – the aggressive form, and then the more dangerous “dumb” or tame form. In this form the animal seems calm, tame and loses its fear of humans.

They often show profuse salivation. Please teach your children never to approach a strange animal, especially a wild one, even if it seems friendly.

Distemper (dogs)

Distemper is a highly contagious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory and nervous system of the dog.

It is transmitted through direct or indirect contact with infected animals, and may even be transmitted via the air.

There is no treatment, and almost all animals that get this virus will need to be euthanized due to the damaging effects on the brain and nervous system (seizures, paralysis, behavioural changes).

Parvovirus aka “Cat Flu” (dogs)

Parvo is one of the most common viruses we see in unvaccinated young dogs (although older dogs can get it too).

This small and very tough virus attacks and destroys the intestines, resulting in vomiting, lack of appetite, and a severe watery bloody diarrhoea.

Even with intensive supportive treatment this disease is usually fatal. Adequate vaccination of the pup’s mother, ensuring she passes on essential protective antibodies to her pups, and a complete puppy vaccination program from 6 weeks of age onwards is the best way to help ensure that your dog is protected from this common virus.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (dogs)

This is a contagious disease (caused by Canine Adenovirus-1) affecting the liver that is carried by a number of wild canids and causes signs varying from a mild fever to severe depression, white blood cell deficiency, and bleeding tendencies. The main route of infection occurs through ingestion of urine, faeces, or saliva of infected animal.

Feline Panleukopenia (cats)

Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious, often fatal, viral disease of cats that destroys actively dividing cells in bone marrow, lymphoid tissues, intestinal cells, and the nervous system. The virus is very resistant and can persist in the environment for a long time.

Cats are infected by exposure to the stools or other secretions of infected animals or contaminated objects.

Feline panleukopenia attacks the bone marrow, lymphoid tissues and nervous system of cats.

Large amounts of the virus are excreted in the saliva so the most common mode of transmission is through mutual grooming, nose-to-nose contact, and shared food and water bowls.

Bites are also a very efficient way to transmit the virus and it can also be transmitted across the placenta and through the milk.

Most cats with FeLV, especially those that contract the virus early on in life, will either develop lymphoid cancers or severe anemia and will need to be euthanaised.

In a nut shell: What should you know about vaccinations? It’s simple – they save lives.

If you are in any doubt as to when your animals should be vaccinated or what diseases they should be vaccinated against, speak to your vet, to make sure you keep your animals safe from potentially fatal diseases.


 Karin Wilson is a vet with Teva Veterinary Clinic in Somerset West.