Low vaccination rate of U.S. puppies and kittens poses larger risks

January 22, 2008

It's hard to believe that in an advanced country like the United States, fewer than half of all puppies and kittens are being vaccinated.

Yet that's exactly what was found in a study recently completed by veterinarians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, in cooperation with the Dane County Humane Society.

"This is an issue, because a population must reach a certain threshold of immunity - called 'herd immunity' - in order to protect the whole group," says Ronald Schultz, a vaccinologist at the School of Veterinary Medicine who has devoted his career to studying the effectiveness of vaccines. "If not enough individuals in a population are protected, disease can always find a new foothold."

That fact is especially problematic at no-kill shelters, he says, where bringing in one diseased animal can quickly ignite illness throughout a facility.

"Letting animals die in their own feces and vomit rather than euthanizing them is not a humane way to reduce a population of unwanted animals," Schultz says.

He stresses that we must make an effort to vaccinate a higher percentage of puppies and kittens and at the same time vaccinate the pet animal less often. That is the program that will improve herd immunity in the safest and most effective way.

Based on samples taken from various animal shelters around the nation, he and his colleagues found that only about 50 percent of dogs had been exposed (either naturally or by vaccination) to canine distemper and parvovirus. If they had ever been vaccinated, they would have carried antibodies against distemper and canine parvovirus for a lifetime because all commercial vaccines carry both.

"These results suggest that there would be a high percentage of dogs not vaccinated for rabies virus as well, even though we didn't test for that," Schultz says.

Only 25 percent of cats had been vaccinated against panleukopenia, the feline version of distemper.

Schultz reminds pet owners that unvaccinated animals can spread disease when they defecate in yards, thereby exposing even seemingly isolated pets. Unvaccinated pets are also at risk whenever they visit a high-risk exposure area such as a dog park or puppy socialization class.

The core diseases of distemper and parvovirus (canine and feline) can cause severe respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological problems, as well as death, in a high percentage of unvaccinated animals.

Without the general immunity offered by broad vaccination, diseases such as parvovirus remain active in the environment, waiting to infect any animal that hasn't been immunized.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Explore further: New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

Related Stories

New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

October 20, 2017
A new study by scientists at UMass Medical School shows that using a technique called "nuclease-free" gene editing to correct cells with the mutation that causes a rare liver disease leads to repopulation of the diseased ...

Vaccines fail to protect obese mice from severe influenza infections

August 2, 2016
A study led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital found that obese mice are not protected against influenza infections by vaccines that include adjuvants, raising concerns about vaccine effectiveness in obese humans who ...

The Zuelch Prize 2013—reward for brain researchers

September 11, 2013
Maximum reward, minimum punishment: these are the maxims humans and animals often apply when making decisions. A network of nerve cells in the brain conveys gratification. This reward system uses the messenger substance dopamine ...

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015
When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

Studies of cow antibodies help scientists understand how our own bodies work

February 18, 2014
Understanding how antibodies work is important for designing new vaccines to fight infectious diseases and certain types of cancer and for treating disorders of the immune system in animals and humans.

Penn study identifies potent inhibitor of Zika entry into human cells

January 17, 2017
A panel of small molecules that inhibit Zika virus infection, including one that stands out as a potent inhibitor of Zika viral entry into relevant human cell types, was discovered by researchers from the Perelman School ...

Recommended for you

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.