Vaccinations are an important part of preventive care for your pet. Thanks to the development of vaccines, our companions have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, feline leukemia and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from dogs to people — so canine vaccinations have protected human health as well.
In recent years we, like many veterinarians, have changed our recommended approach to vaccinations. Traditionally, many vaccines have been given annually. However, a growing number of studies have shown that vaccines are effective for longer than what was previously believed.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) there are two broad categories of vaccinations: core and non-core.
Core Vaccines are those vaccines which every dog of cat should receive, regardless of lifestyle and exposure to other pets. These include rabies, distemper and parvovirus for dogs and FVRCP and rabies for cats. These are given as a series of vaccinations as a puppy or kitten (or, in the case of rabies, as a single dose), then an “adult booster” a year later. The rabies vaccine is then given every 3 years. (This interval is mandated by state law). Current recommendation for adult dogs is a distemper/parvovirus booster every 3 years after the first adult booster and a FVRCP booster after 3 years for cats after the first adult booster. Alternately, titer tests can be done to test antibodies.
Non-Core Vaccines are those vaccines which may or may not be necessary, depending on your pets’ specific risk factors. These include bordetella for dogs and FELV for cats. These vaccines can be given based on your pet’s risk.
We recommend that vaccination decisions should always be made on an individual basis, based on risk and lifestyle factors. Issues to consider include the age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits of the pet.
“Vaccines are a critical component to protecting both pets and humans from rabies and other infectious diseases,” says Daniel Aja, DVM, AAHA president. “While it’s important to protect all pets through vaccines, it is just as important to work closely with your veterinarian to tailor a vaccine program that is most appropriate for your individual pet.”
Prevent health problems: it is much easier to stay well than to get well.
So, does all this mean you should bring your pet to the vet only every three years? Absolutely not! It’s imperative that you bring your furry companions in for yearly checkups. Yearly wellness examinations help your veterinarian develop a good baseline on our pet’s health, be better able to take notice of subtle changes in his health over time and to develop a relationship to foster a stronger health care team comprised of you and your veterinarian.
- Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the antigens must be recognized, responded to, and remembered by the immune system. In most animals, disease protection does not begin until five days after vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to fourteen days. In some instances, two or more vaccinations several weeks apart must be given to achieve protection.
- As with any medical procedure, there are always risks of adverse reactions or side effects. These risks must be compared to the benefits of the procedure. Many of the diseases against which we vaccinate can be serious and even lethal. In almost all cases, the risks associated with vaccination are very small compared to the risk of developing disease. As new vaccines and methods of administration become available, the adverse risks of vaccination should be reduced even more.
- As we gain more knowledge regarding the length of immunity produced by vaccinations, vaccines improve to provide a longer duration of immunity, and better methods to test immunity are developed, we will continue to see changes in the recommended vaccine schedule for your pets. Most vaccines will not be given annually, nor will multiple types normally be given simultaneously. Vaccine schedules will be more individually tailored to your pet.
Finally, a word about titer testing:
A vaccine titer test may often be recommended for your pet as an alternative to routine vaccinations. Current studies indicate that vaccines may last longer than one year and over vaccination has been known to cause adverse reactions.
Vaccine antibody titer testing measures and analyzes antibodies to certain diseases to determine whether your pet’s immune system has responded to previous vaccinations. This simple blood test helps to determine whether or not your pet should be protected from the infectious disease if they were to be exposed. We believe that your canine companion or feline friend’s vaccination needs should be individually based on overall health, breed and environment.