Vaccines protect against contagious and potentially life threatening diseases such as Rabies. Vaccines are a cost effective way to help prevent diseases that can otherwise cost a considerable amount for treatment or that are not treatable. Not only do some of the vaccines, such as the Rabies vaccine, protect your pet but they also protect you and your family as Rabies is a disease that can be transmitted to humans and is nontreatable.
Vaccines do not guarantee that an animal is fully protected against a given disease however, vaccinations have proven to be the simplest, safest and most effective means of preventing a number of diseases in pets.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain viruses or bacteria that have been modified so that they will not cause disease. Vaccines trigger an immune response in your pet which prepares them to fight future infections by building up antibodies against the bacteria or virus. When the body is exposed to the actual disease the immune system is then able to react quickly to prevent the disease causing agent from causing disease or to make the impact of the disease less serious.
Which pets should be vaccinated?
All healthy pets should be vaccinated. Vaccines are only administered to healthy animals. If your pet is already ill or is receiving certain drugs, its immune system may not be able to respond to the vaccine properly and vaccinating it may overwhelm it’s immune system. For that reason, prior to vaccinating your pet, your veterinarian will ask you about your pet’s medical history and perform a complete physical examination.
Even indoor animals should be vaccinated as some of the diseases are transmitted through the air and can come in an open window. In addition there is always the chance that your pet could sneak out and come into contact with other pets or wildlife. Boarding kennels, dog parks and grooming salons are all areas where your pet is likely to be exposed to contagious diseases.
When to vaccinate?
Puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations during their first four months of life. Nursing pups and kittens receive antibodies (immunity) from their mother’s milk which helps protect them from disease during their first months of life. These same antibodies can prevent a vaccine from being totally effective. Therefore as the antibodies provided from the mother is wearing off your pet needs a series of vaccines spread over a period of 6 to 16 weeks of age, to provide your pet with the best possible protection as they are very suceptible to disease during this time.
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 there are a lot of other animals (off leash dog parks etc.) until they have completed their puppy or kitten series of vaccinations.
Once puppies and kittens are fully vaccinated they require annual vaccine boosters in order to have the highest level of protection against the diseases we are most concerned about. The protection provided by each vaccine gradually declines over time and booster vaccines ensure that they will have ongoing immunity. The duration of immunity for each vaccine is not currently known. Until more is known about the duration of immunity vaccines are delivered annually to ensure the highest level of protection. Blood tests are available to check titre levels for immunity to the different diseases we vaccinate for as each animals immune system is different. If you are interested in vaccine titres discuss this with your veterinarian at the time of your annual physical exam.
In addition to having regular vaccinations, it is 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. Early diagnosis allows for early treatment and a longer life of improved quality for your pet.
Which vaccines should my pet receive?
Core Vaccines–These vaccines are generally recommended for all pets of their species to protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are found throughout North America and are easily transmitted.
Noncore Vaccines-These vaccines are reserved for pets at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle.
• Kennel Cough
• Lyme Disease
• Panleukopenia (distemper)
• Peritonitis (FIP)
• Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
• Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
What are vaccine reactions?
Although uncommon, vaccine reactions can and do occur. Some of these reactions are mild and consist of only some discomfort at the injection site, lethargy, or anorexia which will only last a few days. Some reactions can be more severe and can present as an allergic reaction (swollen face, trouble breathing etc.) which can can be fatal. This can happen minutes or hours after vaccination. If you think your pet is having a severe vaccine reaction contact your veterinarian immediately. If your pet has reacted to a vaccine in the past inform your veterinarian prior to vaccination so they can be pretreated with an antihistamine or have their vaccines split so that a reaction does not occur. In rare instances, vaccines can result in a tumor developing at the vaccination site or diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints, or nervous system. Contact your veterinarian for more information.