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Stay up-to-date on your pets’ vaccines
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Thanks to advances in science and medicine, veterinarians have been able to better understand some fatal diseases in pets over the past several decades and develop vaccines to keep them safe.

Most pet owners are familiar with the rabies vaccine. Rabies is one of the few diseases pets can carry that is fatal to humans, which is why laws require the vaccine for our pets.

But vaccines can protect our pets from a number of other fatal illnesses, too. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and it’s a good time to ask your vet if your pet is up-to-date on necessary vaccines and have their annual visit.

One of the most important portions of your pet’s annual checkup is the lifestyle risk assessment. Your vet will typically ask a lot of questions to determine if anything about your dog or cat’s lifestyle could put them at risk for diseases, illnesses or conditions.

For example, your veterinarian will want to know how old your dog is, whether they spend most of their time at home, whether they go to a dog park or dog beach often, if there are other dogs in the house, and so on. For cats, your veterinarian will want to know if your cat typically spends any time outdoors.

These questions are important because while there are core vaccines that most vets agree are vital for any cat or dog, there are other vaccines that might protect your pet if there are health concerns based on certain lifestyle factors.

For example, indoor cats don’t usually need to be vaccinated against feline leukemia, but your cat would need this vaccine if they start to spend any time outside and may come into contact with other cats, which is how the disease is spread.

And dogs, for example, may benefit from being vaccinated against canine influenza virus, also known as “dog flu.” While most dogs recover well at home from this respiratory infection, it’s highly contagious and dogs may still be contagious two weeks after recovering. It can keep dogs healthy that frequently encounter other dogs.

Talk to your veterinarian about what vaccines your pet needs, and how often they should receive them. For more information on Pinellas County’s rabies vaccine requirements, talk to your veterinarian or call Pinellas County Animal Services at 727-582-2600.

Rizal Lopez, DVM, is the senior director of veterinary services for SPCA Tampa Bay in Largo, and leads the staff of the SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center in St. Petersburg, which offers full-service veterinary care, preventive care and a spay/neuter clinic. With more than 15 years of experience, Dr. Lopez oversees medical care for more than 10,000 animals every year.

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