For more than 200 years, vaccines have been used to effectively decrease the prevalence of many diseases. Since the first vaccine against smallpox in 1796, vaccines have saved the lives of many species of animals, as well as humans.
It's important that vaccines are given prior to exposure to a potential disease causing virus or bacteria. This allows time for the body to create an immune system response, so that if the animal is exposed to the virus/bacteria that it can find the agent in the body before it has the opportunity to cause major disease.
Vaccines can be either live particles of the disease causing agent, or killed. If they are live, they are typically pieces of the disease agent that do not cause disease, but work effectively to attach to and kill the disease agent if exposed. Many killed vaccines are the entire disease agent, but seeing that it's killed when administered, allows the body to create an immune response but does not cause disease.
There are many vaccines routinely used in animals, including our large animals. Food producing animals such as cattle will often receive vaccines to protect against Clostridial diseases such as Blackleg, as well as vaccines to help fight off respiratory disease, as well as others to help limit scours in calves.
Clostridial vaccines against Blackleg are highly effective. On farms that don't have a vaccine program, large losses of fast growing calves can be seen. Although not every animal that isn’t vaccinated is going to die from Blackleg, with the right environmental conditions on certain years the cost of the losses is much more significant than the cost of this highly effective, reasonably inexpensive vaccine.
Cattle respiratory vaccines help reduce the prevalence of pneumonia all ages of cattle, but are especially important for young calves and those that will be going to a feedlot in the fall. Scour vaccines are given to cows while they are pregnant, and the immune response is transferred into the milk which the calves drink when first born. Scour vaccines can be highly effective against some forms of diarrhea in young growing calves.
Many horses are also routinely vaccinated to prevent infectious diseases. Since many vaccinated against diseases are spread through close contact and mosquitoes, vaccines are especially important for those horses that are in close contact with other horses, travel, and go to events. In our area, horses are commonly vaccinated against Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, West Nile Virus, Equine Herpes Virus, Strangles, Tetanus and Equine Influenza Virus.
Deciding which vaccines and when to give them can be a difficult decision, as there are numerous different vaccines available. Depending on your animal’s lifestyle, age and other factors, working with your veterinarian will help ease the decision-making process. Vaccines are very important in preventing disease, but it’s often too late for them to help once disease is already spreading!
For over 200 years, vaccines have been used to help prevent illness associated with many infectious diseases. Throughout this time, vaccines have saved the lives of not only humans, but also many different animals for which vaccines have been developed for.
Dr. Corinna Jensen was born and raised in the Fort St. John Community and discovered her passion for veterinary medicine at an early age. In June 2015 she completed her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from The Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She is excited and enthusiastic about joining the veterinary team as a mixed animal practitioner with special interests in beef cattle and small animal medicine and surgery.