Why Vaccination is Important to Pets and Humans – Some History

Vaccination against disease has a long and fascinating history in human and animal health. The first record of inoculation of humans began in 1000 CE (BC for us old schoolers) when the Chinese used a technique called variolation to protect them against smallpox. It was also practiced in Turkey and Africa before spreading to Europe and the Americas. In 1796 Edward Jenner innovated this by using cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox and after 200 years of medical and technological changes, eventually smallpox was eradicated. If you want to explore more check out this website.


What is the history behind vaccines?

In 1885 Louis Pasteur developed another human/animal life saver when he created a vaccination against Rabies. According to the World Health Organization about 59,000 people still die of Rabies each year in the world but fortunately in the US that number is only 1-3 because of our concerted effort to vaccinate animals. You may find it interesting that all veterinarians are required to be vaccinated when they attend veterinary school and continue to get titers and vaccinations the rest of their career. So do licensed veterinary technicians.

According to the CDC, “The number of human rabies deaths in the United States has been steadily declining since the 1970’s thanks to animal control and vaccination programs, successful outreach programs, public health capacity and laboratory diagnostics, and the availability of modern rabies biologics. Yet each year, hundreds of thousands of animals need to be placed under observation or be tested for rabies, and between 30,000 to 60,000 people need to receive rabies postexposure prophylaxis.”

Note that when animals must be tested for Rabies it is a death sentence as the only way to test is to remove the brain and study the material for signs of disease. Observation requires a 6-month quarantine.

In the 1900’s the dawn of bacteriology caused many life-saving developments such as vaccines against diphtheria, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis and more. These diseases have almost been eradicated in the US, but a quick Google search will show horrifying numbers of worldwide deaths from these diseases in unvaccinated populations.

What does this all have to do with my pets?

The same model holds true for our animals. In the mid 1970’s Parvovirus invaded the canine population and caused the death of multitudes of dogs worldwide. It’s severe gastrointestinal symptoms literally kill the lining of the intestines causing the dead cells to slough off in the accompanying diarrhea.

Thus, the horrible” rotting flesh” smell any veterinarian can instantly recognize. The mortality rate for untreated Parvo is 90%. Fortunately, a couple of years after Parvovirus was isolated, a vaccine was created and now we can save our dogs from this horrible death.

Canine distemper was first reported in 1761 in Spain. A French veterinarian determined it was caused by a virus in 1905 and a vaccine was developed in 1924 and commercially available in 1950. Unvaccinated dogs not only are unprotected from a disease with a 50% death rate in adults and 80% in puppies, but now cause a serious conservation threat to many species of carnivores and some species of marsupials. The virus contributed to the near-extinction of the black-footed ferret. It also may have played a considerable role in the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger and recurrently causes mortality among African wild dogs.

In 1991, the lion population in Serengeti, Tanzania, experienced a 20% decline because of the disease. Feline distemper (panleukopenia) has a 90% death rate. Like canine distemper it can cross species. For example, the second leading cause of death of raccoons is distemper (the first being humans). Raccoons are susceptible to infection by both canine and feline distemper.

But what vaccinations does your pet need living in Matthews, NC?

Caring Hearts Animal Hospital recommends CORE vaccines for all pets which are Rabies, Distemper, Parvo for dogs and Rabies and Feline Distemper for cats.

Because of the increasing prevalence of Leptospirosis in both animals and humans our team will discuss risk factors and recommend accordingly. Canine Influenza (CIV) is another “lifestyle” vaccine that is determined necessary for dogs who board in kennels, get groomed, go to doggie daycare, perform in agility trials, or dog shows. CIV is a newer disease that recently appeared in the canine population (like COVID 19 appeared in humans) which caused hundreds of deaths in pets in the last few years. Fortunately, we now have a vaccine to protect against it.

There is one very important fact about vaccines that many pet owners don’t think about or know.

It is vital that vaccines are properly shipped in temperature-controlled containers along with housed in refrigeration at proper temperature. Since we purchase all our vaccines direct from veterinary distribution channels, they come to us on ice at proper temperatures. It is also imperative that they not be expired. Too many times expiration and temperature control are found lacking when purchased at nonveterinary sources, causing pet owners to mistakenly think their pet is protected and wasting good money on a product that is ineffective.

We understand there are many “theories” on the internet about vaccines and pharmaceutical companies but understanding that in 1000 CE these companies certainly did not exist puts conspiracy on pretty shaky ground. What we do know for certain is vaccinations have saved millions of lives – animal and human.

Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It was true then and it holds true today.

If your pet is due for vaccinations, please give us a call or download our new app from VitusVet and search for “Caring Hearts Animal Hospital” to request an appointment. We are here to protect your pet family!