Prevention of infectious diseases in dogs and cats

It is always preferred to prevent rather than treat infections in dogs and cats. Consequently, avoiding exposure is the most effective way to prevent infections. Most infectious agents of dogs and cats are transmitted in fecal material, respiratory secretions, reproductive tract secretions, or urine; by bites or scratches; or by contact with vectors or reservoirs. Some infectious agents can be transmitted by direct contact with clinically normal, infected animals. Many infectious agents are environmentally resistant and can be transmitted by contact with a contaminated environment (fomites).

It is extremely important to avoid zoonotic transfer of infectious agents, because some zoonotic diseases, such as plague and rabies, are life-threatening. Recognition of risk factors associated with infectious agents is the initial step in prevention of infectious diseases.

Veterinarians should strive to understand the biology of each infectious agent so that they can counsel clients and staff on the best strategies for prevention. Vaccines available for some infectious agents can prevent infections or lessen clinical illness when infection occurs. However, vaccines are not uniformly effective, are not available for all pathogens, and sometimes induce serious adverse effects; thus it is paramount to develop sound biosecurity procedures to avoid exposure to infectious agents when developing a preventive medicine program.

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