So what exactly is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a weakened or killed form of the disease we wish to prevent that when injected causes the body to attack it and kill it. When the body kills it, it also remembers it so if it comes into future contact with it, can be killed again.
Naturally, a mother provides the same immunity to baby animals through her milk. However, when she stops feeding them, the immunity also stops. This is why we recommend a series of booster vaccines as a puppy. The vaccines usually start at 6 weeks of age (at the time of weaning,) and last until they are around 16 weeks of age when they can produce their own immune response. The vaccines are boostered every 2-4 weeks until that time. Once the puppy or kitten has reached adulthood, they receive vaccinations every year for life.
So if a vaccine lasts a person his or her whole life, why should you vaccinate your pets annually?
Vaccines are licensed based on the minimum duration they can be expected to last. Human testing of vaccines is more widely available than animal testing of vaccines simply because of expense and availability. We know that most vaccines last one year and have not been willing to take a chance on whether they last longer without knowing for sure. Recently vaccines for Rabies and Distemper as well as some feline infectious diseases have been developed for administration every 3 years. These vaccines are made to generate immunity for the entire body and therefore last longer. Vaccines such as Kennel Cough made specifically for upper respiratory diseases need to be boostered more frequently.
So what vaccines should you give your pet?
Well, that all depends on your pets’ lifestyle. The “core” vaccines, or those recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association are: Rabies for both dogs and cats, and Distemper, Parainfluenza, Parvo for dogs and Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia for cats. The “non-core” vaccines are those that your pet may or may not normally be exposed to. Bordetella vaccines or Kennel Cough for dogs are generally given if they get groomed, board, or go to dog parks frequently. Leptospirosis vaccine is given if there are wild animals that frequent in the area, if you live on a farm or near horses, or if your dog goes to the lake with you. Cats on the other hand receive a Feline Leukemia vaccine if they are allowed to go outdoors.
There has been recent talk whether or not elderly pets should receive vaccines yearly. In the state of Georgia, Rabies is required by law to be given yearly or every 3 years depending on the type of vaccine. Sometimes, in older pets, a veterinarian will use his or her discretion in suggesting that vaccines should be skipped based on lifestyle and concurrent disease status. In this case, vaccine titers can be run via a blood sample to make sure the pet has adequate immunity to what was being vaccinated for.
Can vaccines hurt your pet?
The most common vaccine reactions are lethargy and mild soreness. Beyond this, reactions are unusual, but possible. Sometimes facial swelling, vomiting, and diarrhea are seen. If vaccine reactions are noted, they can be prevented in the future by pre-medicating for future vaccines.
So what are the repercussions of not vaccinating your pet?
Rabies is 100% fatal and contagious to humans as well as other animals. There have been cases reported in Cherokee county as recently as this year.
Distemper and parvo are both disease that can be treated, but not without long-lasting effects. Both diseases are very expensive and time consuming to treat and can have a very poor outcome.
Feline leukemia is spread as easy as drinking from the same water source or using the same litter box and has no cure.
Panleukopenia is also spread from using the same litter box. This disease is however a mutation of a virus and is also 100% fatal leading to death in weeks to months.
A simple vaccine can cost as little as 1/10 of what it costs to treat the disease it protects from and it only takes about 30 minutes for a yearly wellness. Yearly wellness exams can be done at any time and can be adjusted to fit your pets’ needs. If you have any questions regarding your pets’ vaccines or any health concerns please do not hesitate to call, our staff will be happy to answer your questions.