Understanding Pet Vaccinations
Getting your pet his or her “shots” is a traditional part of pet ownership. Vaccines, however, can be a touchy topic in modern society, especially in the realm of our human population.
While there are risks to vaccinating our pets, serious consequences are fortunately rare and there is overwhelming evidence that the protection pet vaccinations offer both our four-legged friends as well as ourselves far outweigh any potential negatives.
That being said, it is important for us at Blue Valley Animal Hospital to be sure that we are vaccinating pets in a smart manner and educating our pet parents about why we recommend the vaccines that we do. Pet vaccinations are an important part of animal care, and we want our clients to be an active part of the process.
What Vaccines Do
When we vaccinate a pet, we are trying to prepare our patient’s immune system to better fight off a disease should they ever be exposed to it.
When the body, be it human or animal, encounters a virus or bacteria for the first time, it can take several days to mount an attack against the invading germ. As the body does this, though, it commits this process to memory in the form of T-lymphocyte cells. In the future these cells are able to begin an attack almost immediately should the same germ strike twice.
The goal of vaccination is to encourage the body to produce these memory T-lymphocytes against particular diseases by tricking it into thinking its been exposed. We can do this by injecting modified disease organisms that cannot really cause sickness.
Sometimes after a vaccination, you or a pet may have minor symptoms such as a fever or soreness. These symptoms are the result of the immune system activating and not a symptom of the actual disease.
Pet vaccinations in our animal friends protect them against serious diseases. They can also protect us. Many animal diseases such as rabies and leptospirosis are zoonotic, meaning people and pets can share them.
A Personalized Approach to Pet Vaccinations
While vaccinations are vital for keeping pets (and people) healthy, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to what vaccines an individual animal should receive. When you call us for an appointment to vaccinate your pet, we sit down with you in order to evaluate what vaccines are appropriate for your individual needs.
When evaluating a vaccination strategy for your pet, we will take into account your pet’s age, health status, and lifestyle. This information can help us to determine what vaccines are recommended.
Some vaccines are considered core, meaning they are essential for almost all pets. These include rabies, canine DHPP(canine distemper, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus), and feline FVRCP (feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, also called feline distemper).
Other non-core pet vaccinations are given based on risk of exposure. Non-core vaccines include:
- Bordetella (kennel cough), which is a contagious respiratory disease encountered in areas with lots of dogs such as grooming facilities, boarding kennels, and dog parks
- Leptospirosis, a bacteria carried in the urine of wildlife that can lead to kidney and liver failure
- Lyme disease, a tick borne disease
- Rattlesnake toxoid, a vaccine to help mitigate the effects of a rattlesnake bite
- Canine influenza, a respiratory disease contracted by dogs who are exposed to other dogs in kennel-type situations
- Feline leukemia, a contagious retrovirus that can lead to severe illness and death in cats who are exposed to other cats outdoors or in homes with infected cats
Frequency of vaccination is also assessed by your pet’s status. Younger animals without previous vaccines or pets receiving a new vaccination often need to receive a vaccine booster in a few weeks. Boosters remind the immune system of the exposure, strengthening the response.
After the early years of life, boosters occur annually for some vaccines. Others may be spaced further out depending on the type of vaccine and exposure risk. Senior pets or those with weakened immune systems may be recommended to be vaccinated more often than young adult animals due to their increased vulnerability.
No one vaccine protocol is best for every pet. We pledge to assess your pet’s individual needs before just moving forward with a bunch of vaccines your furry ward may or may not really need. Our staff at Blue Valley Animal Hospital takes the health of our pet patients seriously, and smart vaccination protocols is just one way we demonstrate that commitment to our pet owners.