The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 4, 2013

Ryan Richardson: Vaccines are imperative for new pets

By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Since starting this column I have received a steady stream of emails asking great follow-up questions to previous columns.

I am extremely appreciative of the fact that I am engaging people on something I care deeply about. The one question that appears in my inbox on a regular basis is the pet equivalent to "what to expect when you are expecting."

Most people I talk to have at least an idea of what happens in those first six months when welcoming a new pet into their home. But the most overlooked aspect is the financial investment that a new pet will cost. Nothing more reflects the cost than the price of immunizations and health checkups that you should be doing for your family's addition.

Luckily, you may be more ahead of the game than you think, depending on where you adopted your pet.

Many local shelters, including the Joplin Humane Society, have the basics knocked out for you already when you adopt. Most times your adoption fee goes toward a spay/neuter, appropriate vaccines and deworming, regardless of your pet's age. That is a great step in the right direction.

After that, the first year of vaccinations is something you should discuss with your veterinarian. In 2006 the American Animal Hospital Association outlined core vaccines for cats and dogs, which I feel is a great outline.

The big one that you need to take care of is rabies vaccine. While it's no longer required by Missouri state law after 2012, it is still a safety issue for your pet and your family.

The only measure against rabies is the vaccine. If your animal ends up with rabies, it will almost certainly be fatal. It's a tragedy that can be prevented with a simple vaccine.

For dogs, the following are strongly recommended by several groups and are needed within the first year of life: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus (pet hepatitis) and bordetella. All of those are core vaccines, excluding bordetella (or kennel cough), which is highly recommended within the first 12 weeks -- especially if your dog will be around other dogs.

For cats, it's a bit different, but there is some overlap. Distemper, herpesvirus and calicivirus are the core vaccines that the AAHA recommends, but I would also recommend feline leukemia and bordetella.

Many of these manifest themselves as respiratory ailments and are highly contagious to other animals. You aren't just protecting your new pet, you are also protecting the pets you already may have.

I mention the communicability issue because I want to open a discussion about a pet park in Jasper County, and I also want to explore options for apartment-dwelling residents in the area. I know Joplin residents have very little public pet options.

But I feel that vaccinations aren't a "maybe" thing for a new pet. If you are going to take the responsibility of welcoming a new pet into your home, please take the time to make sure that pet will be with your family for a long time. Keep your pets healthy, and they will be happy to oblige you with their presence.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at or 417-627-7363.