Lucky for us, there are vaccines to help prevent many illnesses that affect dogs and cats. Vaccinating has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help your pet live a long, healthy life. Not only are there different vaccines for different diseases, but there are also different types and combinations of vaccines.
Although vaccination has the potential to protect pets against life-threatening diseases, vaccination is not without its risks. Recently, there has been some controversy regarding the duration of protection and timing of vaccination, as well as the safety and necessity of certain vaccines. What does this all mean for your dog? Vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed for every dog relative to his lifestyle and health. At East Bend Animal Hospital, we can determine a vaccination regime that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual dog.
Here are answers to some of your most frequently asked questions regarding vaccines:
What Exactly Are Vaccines?
Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a dog or cat is ever exposed to a real disease, their immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.
How Important Are Vaccines to the Health of My Pet?
Vaccines are very important in managing the health of your pet. That said, not every dog and cat needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that’s right for your pet. Factors that should be examined include age, medical history, environment, travel habits, and lifestyle. Most vets highly recommend administering core vaccines to healthy dogs and cats.
What Are Core Vaccines?
In 2011, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force published a revised version of guidelines regarding canine and feline vaccinations. The guidelines divide vaccines into three categories—core, non-core, and not recommended.
– Core vaccines are considered vital based on the risk of exposure, the severity of disease, or transmissibility to humans.
– Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk.
Dog Core Vaccines: Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies.
Dog non-core Vaccines: Bordetella bronchiseptic, Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme), Leptospirosis
Feline Core Vaccines: Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia, Rabies
Feline non-core vaccines: Feline Leukemia virus
Are Any Vaccines Required By Law?
Each state has its own laws governing the administration of the rabies vaccine. Some areas require yearly rabies vaccination. Other areas call for vaccines every three years. Up-to-date canine rabies vaccination is a legal requirement. Be sure to keep proof of your dog’s rabies vaccines with his medical records.
How Often Should My Adult Dog or Cat Be Vaccinated?
Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your dog or cat. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment, and lifestyle. Some adult dogs and cats might receive certain vaccines annually, while other vaccines might be given every 3 years or longer.
When Should My Puppy/Kitten Be Vaccinated?
If their mother has a healthy immune system, a puppy/kitten will most likely receive antibodies in the mother’s milk while nursing. Puppies and kittens should receive a series of vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks of age. A veterinarian should administer a minimum of three vaccinations at three- to four-week intervals. The final dose should be administered at 16 weeks of age.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Vaccines?
Immunizations mildly stimulate an animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions. Another less common side effect is the development of immune-mediated disease following vaccination.
That said, it is important to realize that vaccines have saved countless lives and play a vital role in the battle against canine infectious disease. Additionally, rabies vaccinations have saved the lives of countless dogs—and many humans as well. In some developing countries, hundreds of people die each year due to rabies contracted from dog bites.
As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of side effects. In most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of the disease itself. But it is important to talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s medical history before he is vaccinated.