In the past year, the national debate surrounding vaccines in humans has reached a boiling point in large part stemming from an outbreak of measles that occurred at Disneyland but has now continued to spread across the country. Through studies, experts and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown there is no link between childhood vaccines and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) some parents still avoid vaccinations because they think they’re protecting their children.
These same misconceptions are also impacting pets, as pet owners with increasing frequency are questioning and outright declining to vaccinate their pets even against severe diseases like rabies.
What is not in debate is that the widespread use of vaccinations within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. Vaccinations protect your pet from highly contagious and deadly diseases and improve your pet’s overall quality of life.
Reasons to vaccinate your pet
1. Vaccinations prevent individual pet illnesses but also help prevent the spread of infection to unvaccinated individuals by reducing the number of individuals that can become infected.
2. Vaccinations can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented.
3. Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be passed between animals and also, more importantly, from animals to people.
4. Diseases prevalent in wildlife, such as rabies and distemper, can and do infect unvaccinated pets.
5. In many areas, local or state ordinances require certain vaccinations of household pets.
What are vaccines, and why do they matter?
Vaccines are biological products designed to trigger protective immune responses in an individual and prepare the body’s immune system to fight future infections from disease-causing agents. Vaccines stimulate the immune system’s production of proteins called antibodies and cells within the immune system that will go on to identify and destroy a specific disease-causing organism that may enter the body thereby helping to prevent illness.
Vaccines can provide immunity against one or several diseases at one-time; they will either lessen the severity of the infection or will prevent the disease(s) altogether.
Do vaccinations ensure protection?
For most pets, vaccination is effective in preventing future disease and only rarely will a vaccinated pet have insufficient immunity to fight off the disease. It is important to follow the vaccination schedule provided by your veterinarian to reduce the possibility of a gap in protection.
Are there risks to vaccinating my pet?
Any type of medical treatment has associated risks, but the risk should be weighed against the benefits of protecting your pet, your family, and your community from potentially fatal diseases. The majority of pets respond well to vaccines. The most common adverse responses to vaccination are mild and short-term. Serious reactions are rare. An uncommon but serious adverse reaction that can occur in cats is tumor growth (sarcomas), which can develop weeks, months, or even years after vaccination. Improvements in vaccination technology and technique have significantly reduced the occurrence of sarcomas.
Why do puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations?
Very young animals are highly susceptible to infectious disease because their immune system is not yet fully mature. They receive protection through antibodies in their mother’s milk (colostrum), but this protection is not long-lasting, and there may be gaps in protection as the milk antibodies decrease and their immune system is still maturing.
In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the animal’s immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help further stimulate the immune system to produce the essential antibodies needed to protect an animal from diseases.
Finish the Series!!!!
An incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, making puppies and kittens vulnerable to infection.
To provide optimal protection against disease in the first few months of life, a series of vaccinations are scheduled, usually 3-4 weeks apart. For most puppies and kittens, the final vaccination in the series is administered at about four months of age; however, a veterinarian may alter the schedule based on an individual animal’s risk factors.
Which vaccinations should my pet receive?
“Core” vaccines are recommended for pets in a particular area or geographical location because they protect from diseases most common in that area. “Non-core” vaccinations are for individual pets with unique needs. Your veterinarian will consider your pet’s risk of exposure to a variety of preventable diseases to customize a vaccination program for optimal protection throughout your pet’s life.
Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle, including any expected travel to other geographical locations and contact with other animals, since these factors impact your pet’s risk of exposure to certain diseases.
How often will my pet need to be vaccinated?
Many vaccinations provide adequate immunity when administered every few years, while others require more frequent schedules to maintain an acceptable level of immunity that will continually protect your pet. Your veterinarian will determine a vaccination schedule that’s appropriate for your pet.
What are antibody titers, and do they replace vaccinations?
Antibody titers are blood tests that measure the number of antibodies in the blood. While antibody titers do not replace vaccination programs, they may help your veterinarian determine if your pet has a reasonable expectation of protection against disease.
Many factors are taken into consideration when establishing a pet’s vaccination plan. Your veterinarian will tailor a program of vaccinations and preventive health care that will help your pet maintain a lifetime of infectious disease protection.
Do vaccinations have side effects?
It is common for pets to experience some or all of the following mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. If the following side effects last for more than a day or two or cause your pet significant discomfort, it is vital that you contact your veterinarian:
- Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
- Mild fever
- Decreased appetite and activity
- Sneezing, mild coughing, “snotty nose” or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine
More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur within minutes to hours after vaccination. These reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Itchy skin that may seem bumpy (“hives”)
- Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
- Severe coughing or difficulty breathing
- A small, firm swelling under the skin may develop at the site of a recent vaccination. It should start to disappear within a couple of weeks. If it persists more than three weeks or seems to be getting larger, you should contact your veterinarian. Always inform your veterinarian if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication.
Vaccines Save Countless Lives
Millions of pets are vaccinated annually, with the vast majority having no problems. The best advice is to discuss your pet, your lifestyle, etc. with your veterinarian and tailor the vaccine plan to the best one to prevent illness in your pet. Closely monitor your pet, and report any problems to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Vaccines save countless lives and prevent devastating infectious diseases from threatening our pet loved ones; they help control diseases in the general pet population and help prevent infections from occurring in our human families as well. If you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with your veterinarian. You can also contact Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care Inc.
Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital and Exotic Care, Inc. is a full-service veterinary hospital offering an extensive range of comprehensive medical, dental, diagnostic and surgical services to meet the varying needs of all patients. Brook-Falls Veterinary also offers informational and educational media and seminars for pets and their owners by way of Blogs, Digital TV Series (Expert Veterinary Television), e-books, whitepapers, infographics and more. For more information, contact Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, Inc.