Vaccinating Your Pet
- Are vaccinations really necessary?
Yes. Vaccinations help protect your pet from a number of potentially serious and even fatal diseases, such as rabies. Not only that, vaccinations cost considerably less than the treatments available for the diseases pets are normally vaccinated against. Every pet should be vaccinated — even indoor dogs and cats can be exposed to a rabid bat.
- How do vaccinations work?
Vaccines contain viruses or bacteria that have been modified so that they will not cause disease. When an animal is vaccinated, it stimulates the animal's immune system. If the dog or cat is later exposed to that disease, the immune system will react quickly to destroy the disease-causing agent.
- Why does my pet need regular booster vaccinations for the same disease?
The protection provided by a vaccine gradually declines over time. Your pet needs regular "booster" vaccinations to ensure ongoing immunity from disease.
- Do I need to get my pet vaccinated every year?
This is a topic which is currently under investigation within veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, the duration of immunity for each vaccine is not currently known.
While pet owners can have blood tests done to test their pet's antibody level, this does not test the level of immunity. Until more is known about the duration of immunity, the frequency and type of vaccines administered will vary. Talk to your veterinarian about the risk of viral and bacterial diseases in your area, and what type of vaccines are necessary.
When considering what is best for you pet, please remember that pets age faster than people. Pets can't talk, and because "survival of the fittest" meant that only the healthy and strong survived in the wild, animals will try to hide any evidence of illness as long as possible. This means that there may not be any outward signs that your pet is ill until the disease is quite advanced.
That's why, in addition to having regular vaccinations, it's extremely important that your pet has an annual physical examination. By performing a yearly physical examination, your veterinarian can detect early signs of organ dysfunction and illness. With early diagnosis comes early treatment. Early treatment in turn leads to an increased life span and an improved quality of life for your pet.
- What diseases are vaccines available for?
Vaccines available for dogs include:
- Parvo virus
- Lyme Disease
- Corona virus
- Feline calicivirus
- Feline rhinotracheitis
- Feline leukemia
- Feline infectious peritonitis
- Are vaccinations 100 per cent safe and effective?
Although your veterinarian cannot guarantee a vaccine will fully protect an animal, vaccinations are the simplest, safest and most effective means of preventing a number of diseases in pets.
It's important to administer vaccines only to healthy animals. If the animal is already suffering from an illness, or is receiving certain drugs, its immune system may not be able to respond to the vaccine. For that reason, prior to vaccinating your pet, your veterinarian will ask you about the animal's medical history and perform a complete physical examination.Puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations during their first four months of life. Nursing pups and kittens receive antibodies from their mother's milk that protect them from disease during the first months of life. These same antibodies can prevent a vaccine from being totally effective. Consequently, as maternal antibodies decrease, your veterinarian will give your pet a series of vaccines over six to 16 weeks to provide your pet with the best possible protection. It is very important that you follow the vaccination schedule provided by your veterinarian. Missing a vaccine booster or being more than a few days late could put your pet at risk of contracting disease.
Puppies and kittens should not be exposed to unvaccinated dogs and cats, sick dogs and cats, or places where dogs and cats roam until they have completed their puppy or kitten series of vaccinations.
Despite your veterinarian's efforts to design a safe vaccination protocol for every pet, vaccine reactions can and do occur. Thankfully, they aren't common. Some of these reactions are mild (some discomfort at the injection site, lethargy or loss of appetite for a day or so). Some of these reactions are more severe (allergic reaction, immunologic reactions). If your pet has reacted to a vaccine in the past, inform your veterinarian.
- I've heard that some vaccinations cause cancer in cats. Is this true?
Vaccination-induced sarcomas (a form of cancer) in cats are rare. They occur most commonly with rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations. It's important for you and your veterinarian to decide if the risk of your cat being exposed to these diseases is greater than the potential risk of developing a vaccine-induced sarcoma. If your cat develops a lump at the injection site, call your veterinarian.