As the airwaves run hot with enthusiastic reminders for humans to get vaccinated, pet owners are urged to remember to keep their furkids’ shots up to date too.
While pet health is the primary concern, PD Insurance says there’s more at stake - if your pup or puss falls ill with a disease there is a vaccine for, the vet bills could fall outside your insurance policy’s cover.
"Regular shots for dogs and cats help protect against a range of preventable diseases," says PD Insurance NZ COO Michelle Le Long.
"Keeping your pet fighting fit not only saves them from discomfort and pain, but it eliminates the need for medical care. And because these diseases are preventable to a certain extent, most insurance policies will have exclusions."
That’s not all – if your pet isn’t up to date with vaccinations, the local doggy daycare, boarding kennel or cattery might not take them in.
With prevention always better than cure, make sure pets are just as well-protected as the rest of your family as everyone gears up for winter’s flu season.
Huge spike in canine cough cases
PD Insurance has seen a tremendous increase in member claims for canine cough treatment.
Also known as ‘kennel cough’, the highly contagious disease spreads easily between dogs.
While multiple pathogens (germs) can cause it, a bordetella vaccine administered to puppies and adult dogs is the best bet for preventing severe disease and the resulting complications.
In May, the incidence of canine cough claims paid by the pet insurance specialist increased by a multiple of 13 times the monthly average seen over the nine months to February.
"In March our canine cough claims spiked significantly and then in April they more than tripled," says Michelle.
"That hasn’t slowed at all over May, which is why we’re strongly urging New Zealanders to vaccinate their dogs.
"Vaccination will help reduce the likelihood of catching this and other diseases and potentially reduce their severity if they do catch them."
When are shots necessary? A view from the vet
Healthy Pets NZ chair and vet Dr Cath Watson says, “the ‘core’ vaccines should be given to every kitten and puppy as these are the vaccines that protect against the most common and dangerous diseases like parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis in dogs, and panleukopaenia and ‘flu’ in cats”.
“Revaccination intervals, and the use of non-core vaccines like leptospirosis in dogs and feline immunodeficiency virus in cats, should be discussed with your veterinarian as they really come down to individual risks.”
For example, Cath recommends a ‘flu’ booster every three years for an always-indoor cat.
"However, for cats who are routinely outdoors, part of a multi-pet family, or visit the cattery, annual boosters are more suitable, providing protection according to risk.
"While for dogs, any time spent socialising with other dogs and visiting boarding kennels, doggy daycare, groomers, club events etc significantly increases the risk of the canine cough transmission, so vaccination would be strongly recommended.
"There can also be regional differences, with local experience with diseases like leptospirosis helping guide whether vaccination for this disease is recommended for your dog."
Further, if you want to use a boarding facility for your cat or dog you should ask what their requirements are well in advance.
They may require more frequent vaccination than would otherwise be recommended by vaccine manufacturers.
"We see outbreaks of parvovirus, canine cough and cat flu every year as a result of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated animals, but this year seems to have been particularly bad," says Michelle.
"We have witnessed a significant outbreak of parvovirus this year, especially in Auckland, which seems to have stemmed from many puppies missing out on any vaccines or the critical boosters due to Covid restrictions."
Why consulting your vet is essential
Vaccines should only be administered to healthy animals, so the health check provided when you visit your vet not only gets your furbaby’s vaccinations up to date, but the advice they will provide is essential, says Michelle.
That’s not all; while many vaccines are considered essential, not all are recommended by all.
Your vet can provide the facts on this and will know of any diseases ‘going around’ and advise accordingly. Michelle points out the recent canine cough outbreak as a key example.
Tackle the ticks and fleas, too
Winter does mean fewer ticks and fleas, but these pesky critters don’t die during the cold months and nor do they hibernate.
While getting vaccines up to date, staying on top of worms and fleas is an equally good idea. New Zealand is home to only one endemic tick (meaning it only occurs here), but fleas are very common and make their presence felt all too often.
Michelle points out that fleas can be more than a painful pest.
"They are known carriers and transmitters of a blood parasite that can affect your cat, and can cause annoying bites to us as well."
What your insurance will and won’t cover
Pet insurance means being able to quickly access quality pet healthcare when needed, without worrying about the bills. But it’s important to know what is and what isn’t covered.
Treatment for dog diseases like canine cough, parvovirus, distemper and infectious hepatitis, as well as cat diseases like feline calicivirus and panleukopenia, won’t be covered if vaccinations are not up to date.
"As an insurance provider, we’re here to help, and we want the best for you and your fur family. Part of that is ensuring their health is well protected," says Michelle.