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MDARD Encourages Owners to Work with Their Veterinarian to Help Protect their Animals’ Health with Vaccinations

From rabies to mosquito-borne illnesses, one visit to a veterinarian can make a significant impact on animal and human health

LANSING, MI - With the potential for pets and livestock to be exposed to wild and other domestic animals or bitten by insects (like mosquitoes) that could carry disease, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) encourages animal owners to talk to their veterinarian about what vaccinations are needed to best protect their animals, benefiting not only the animals’ health but also human health.

“While you should always work with your veterinarian to determine what is best for the health of your animal, vaccines play a critical role in preventing numerous diseases,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland. “Some of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can affect both animals and people. By vaccinating animals, it can keep animals and people healthy.”

For dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and other animals, a core vaccination they should have is for rabies. In fact, Michigan law requires dogs and ferrets to be vaccinated against this disease. Rabies is zoonotic, often fatal, and carried by certain wildlife species in Michigan. Last year, within the state, there were 48 cases of rabies detected in bats and one case confirmed in a dog. Highly safe and effective vaccines are available to protect animals against this virus.

There are other important vaccinations available for dogs and cats to help protect them from diseases common to their species. Dogs can be vaccinated against a number of serious diseases such as parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. Like rabies, leptospirosis is zoonotic and carried by some of Michigan’s native wildlife, making the vaccine more of a necessity. For cats, some of the key vaccines they can receive are for feline leukemia, panleukopenia, herpes virus, and calicivirus.

Beyond dogs and cats, domestic rabbits can now be vaccinated against rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2), an extremely contagious and fatal virus that affects only rabbits and hares. Even though RHDV2 has not been detected in the state of Michigan, cases of the virus have been found in other U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. In 2021, a U.S.-based vaccine was developed for RHDV2, which is a vital tool for protecting Michigan’s domestic rabbits and keeping the disease out of the state.

Vaccinations are also vital to protecting the health of horses, especially from several mosquito-borne diseases—such as West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE). WNV and EEE are regularly seen in Michigan; and EEE is particularly fatal. In 2021, seven cases of WNV in horses were discovered, and there were nine confirmed cases of EEE in horses. For a majority of these detections, the animals were either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, and many of the horses died or were euthanized due to the severity their illness.

It should also be noted one other core vaccine for horses is for tetanus.

While there are many diseases out there that can impact animal health, contacting your veterinarian can help you to determine what vaccinations are best for your animals and make sure these vaccinations are up to date. One simple visit can make a big difference in protecting animal and human health.

More information on animal diseases can be found on MDARD’s website. Also, for more resources on equine diseases (including cases in Michigan), please visit the Equine Disease Communication Center’s website.