The cat was sick. He was flat out on the table with a low body temperature and diarrhea just running out of him. The history was that he had been vomiting and having diarrhea for a couple of days. The bloodwork would tell the tale. He only had 100 white blood cells, instead of the normal 12,000. It was Panleukopenia and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him. He was humanely euthanized. The saddest part is that this didn’t need to happen. It was totally preventable. He never received his full set of vaccines, which would have protected him.
In this age of anti-vaccines, this case is a stark reminder of why we vaccinate in the first place. The diseases that are covered in the core vaccines are still lurking out there, waiting for a drop in your pet’s immunity or lack of vaccines to strike. They are often deadly diseases. The reason we don’t see these diseases anymore is precisely because of the vaccines most of our pets receive. As of the end of March, we already had 77 cases of rabies diagnosed in Pennsylvania this year. Herd immunity (the immunity around your pet from other vaccinated pets) does provide a small degree of protection, but to achieve full immunity you need to vaccinate your individual pet.
The most frustrating part of the anti-vaccine movement is that the original article that started this movement was totally false. In 1998 Dr. Wakefield published an article in the Lancet linking the MMR vaccine and autism. Since it’s publication, Dr. Wakefield has admitted that he falsified all the data. The article has been rescinded, and he has lost his license. However, the damage was done. Now a portion of the public doesn’t trust vaccines. That is sad because vaccines have literally been a lifesaver. Yes, nothing is perfect. Which is why we tailor our recommendations to your pet’s lifestyle, and the frequency of vaccines has changed. However, that doesn’t mean that you can totally skip vaccines. Vaccines are safe and can prevent a whole lot of heartache. Do you really want to take that chance?
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.