August is National Immunization Awareness Month, created to remind people how important it is to keep their vaccinations up to date. But that advice isn’t just for humans—it’s vital for pets as well.
Vaccinating your pet is a relatively inexpensive but very important way to protect his or her health. In addition to preventing many life-threatening illnesses, vaccinations can keep your pet and family safe from diseases prevalent in wildlife and those that can be passed to humans.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we get about vaccinations:
Q: Are vaccines safe?
A: There is a risk associated with all medical procedures, but serious reactions from vaccines are rare. Given the fact that vaccinations have protected millions of animals from illness and death caused by disease, the benefit far outweighs any risk. At Duvall Vet, we have seen VERY FEW adverse reactions and it’s our policy to minimize any risk by spacing out the administration of “killed vaccines”, which are the ones more likely to cause a reaction.
Q: Why is it important to vaccinate?
A: Vaccinations are your pet’s first line of defense and can also keep them from transmitting some diseases to your family. Scientific evidence proves that the widespread use of vaccines in the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. Even diseases that have become uncommon can still be present in the environment and if pets aren’t protected, they can initiate an outbreak.
Q: Which vaccines does my pet need?
A: “Core” vaccines are those recommended—and possibly mandated by law—for most pets. Core vaccines include:
- Rabies (dogs and cats)
- DA2PPV – Distemper, Hepatitis, Adenovirus 2, Parvo and Parainfluenza (dogs)
- FVRCP – Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (cats)
Other non-core, but highly suggested vaccinations for outdoor cats include FIV for feline immunodeficiency virus and FeLV to protect against feline leukemia. For dogs, bordetella and canine influenza (CIV) shots are a must if they frequent dog parks, boarding kennels, or any place where they’re socializing with other canines. Your DVH doctor may also recommend leptospirosis and Lyme disease vaccinations depending on your dog’s lifestyle.
Q: Does my indoor cat really need vaccinations?
Yes! It’s important to note that even pets who live primarily indoors should be vaccinated, as they can still be exposed to disease if they accidentally escape or are exposed to other animals in or outside the home. We can advise you about which vaccinations are right for your pet.
Q: How often does my pet need to be vaccinated?
A: Annual vaccinations had been the rule for veterinarians, but they are now learning that some vaccines provide less than a year’s worth of immunity while others last well after a year has passed. That’s why most hospitals, including Duvall Vet, customize vaccination plans based on the needs of their patients.
Q: What kind of reaction should I watch for after my pet is vaccinated?
A: It’s pretty common for pets to experience some mild side effects after getting their shots. These include localized swelling, itching, sneezing, lethargy, and decreased appetite. You should make a call to the vet immediately, however, if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms:
- Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
- Itchy skin that develops into hives
- Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
- Severe coughing or difficulty breathing
Q: What about titer testing? Can it prove immunity and eliminate the need for a vaccination?
A: Tests that measure antibody response, aka serologic titer tests, can help vets determine the need for revaccination in limited cases. Unfortunately, the tests don’t tell us if the specific concentration of an antibody is really protective or that a lower concentration means an animal is unprotected. Also, titer tests are not accepted as establishing immunity anywhere in the U.S. and cannot be used as proof of immunity.