This week has brought a number of big developments in the field of preventing illnesses that can be deadly to pets.
First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that a vaccine to prevent parvovirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea and vomiting in cats and dogs, is “as effective and safe as any other known kennel vaccine” — echoing a report last month that the vaccine was effective and safe enough for the FDA to clear it for use.
Meanwhile, a new study released Thursday by the CDC finds that both parvo and more deadly parvovirus had begun to decline in the last decade — an impressive trend, considering parvo’s prevalence rose after it peaked in the mid-1990s.
All of this good news came about after pressure from the veterinary community, animal lovers and politicians. By 2015, there were so many public concerns about the risks of parvo in particular that a number of state and federal entities had moved to clean up the risk by requiring owners of parvo-infected pets to get the vaccine. That policy didn’t stop parvo from becoming a leading cause of infectious disease in animals — but it cut off the back door the illness could have used.
Even as parvo has largely disappeared from the headlines, this development comes at a moment when public health authorities are concerned about another deadly and virulent canine illness. In February, the FDA approved the first vaccine for rabies in more than four decades. Now, additional government agencies are working on rabies vaccines for dogs that are similar to those administered to dogs to protect them against being infected with rabies in the wild.
Both of these new vaccines are a long way from being routine treatments for people’s pets, which are not even covered by the vaccine coverage required in the U.S. for people with rabies. But the vaccines’ efficacy and safety are so promising that the CDC and the FDA have pressed the companies that produce the vaccines — Merial Laboratories, Merkin Technologies, and Pfizer Vaccines — to seek FDA approval for distribution to all 50 states.