Canada’s veterinarians are using Animal Health Week in early October to remind everyone that vaccines are as important to the health of pets and livestock as they are to humans.
The spread of communicable disease has not only become an increasing concern for humans but among animals as well, says the Canadian Veterinary Medicine Association (CVMA).
“It is even more relevant given the increase in international travel and importation of animals from foreign countries,” a CVMA statement reads. “Furthermore, disease-spreading parasite populations have grown and the regions in which they live have amplified.”
Egan Brockhoff, a swine veterinarian in Red Deer, Alta, and a CVMA spokesman on the topic, said the introduction of vaccinations in livestock is one of the key reasons for Canada’s safe food supply.
“All the misinformation out there about the negative health effects of vaccinations” ignores both the science that supports vaccinations and the benefit healthy animals provide in terms of food security, he said, adding the opposition to vaccines “is uninformed and ridiculous.”
Vaccination is an ounce of prevention rather than the proverbial pound of cure required in a sick animal whose disease can always spread to other animals and even humans, he said. Vaccination is far cheaper than trying to nurse sick people and animals back to health.
Vets will tailor vaccination programs to the age, breed, overall health and disease risk facing animals.
Brockhoff said he gets no resistance when he advocates for vaccination programs.
“People want safe and wholesome food and healthy animals,” he said.
Treatment with vaccines provides immediate feedback and “we can recognize the value of the medicine for the animals.”
His example of the importance of vaccinations involves a pig disease called porcine circovirus that emerged in the mid-2000s and used to cause up to a 30 per cent mortality rate in swine herds. The adoption of a vaccination against it has achieved almost 100 per cent protection of the North American pig population.
“It’s one of the most successful examples of a vaccination program,” he said.
Vaccination programs also eliminated rabies in many animals, which also improved human health, he said. Internationally, vaccination campaigns have gone a long way toward ending the cattle disease rinderpest.
CVMA’s theme this year is ‘Vaccines Save Lives!’
“It’s an opportunity to remind animal owners about one of the most important components of animal health – disease prevention,” the CVMA statement reads. “We will focus on prevention through immunization and remind animal owners to discuss the best vaccination protocols for their animals based on their breed, age, overall health, risk of exposure, and region in which they reside. A vaccinated animal is a happy, safe, and healthy animal.”
The CVMA has a wealth of information on vaccinations on its website about the importance of vaccinations and health programs.
Inoculating an animal with an innocuous or less virulent form of a disease agent to stimulate an animal’s natural immune response against that disease plays an important role in preventive medicine and will continue to be a mainstay for promoting animal health and reducing the risk of human exposure to zoonotic diseases, it said.