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Vaccinating Your Pets

Pet owners understand in order to keep pets healthy, they must provide both therapeutic and preventive healthcare. Therapeutic healthcare includes well-visits, dental cleaning, parasite control (worms) and flea/tick control. Preventive healthcare includes spay/neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. Recently, the guidelines for vaccinations have been updated by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in order to prevent unnecessary vaccines, reduce the overall cost of preventive care and educate pet owners about vaccines.

Reasons to Vaccinate Your Pets

There are several reasons to vaccinate your pets:

  1. Prevent many pet illnesses and even death. Vaccinations keep animal populations healthy and dangerous diseases under control.
  2. Save time and money. Vaccinations are less expensive than the cost of treatments for the contracted disease.
  3. Reduce human exposure. Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be transferred not only from animal to animal but also from animal to human.
  4. Follow the law. All states have mandatory laws requiring your pets to be vaccinated against rabies. Also, many local municipalities require certain vaccinations of household pets.

Categories of Vaccines

Vaccines can be divided into three distinct categories:

  1. Rabies vaccine – Because rabies can be transferred from animals to humans, this is the only vaccine that is required by law.
  2. Core vaccines – Consist of diseases that are highly infectious and potentially fatal. They can include canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus, feline distemper (panleukopenia), feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus.
  3. Non-core vaccines – These vaccines are considered optional and may be given to an animal based on the risk of exposure. Exposure is determined by where the animal lives, the lifestyle of the animal (indoor/outdoor), and how often an animal is around other animals (dog parks, kennels or day care facilities). They can include canine Lyme, canine Bordetella, feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia.

Updated Vaccination Protocols

  1. Rabies vaccine – Pet owners can choose from a one year rabies shot or a three year rabies shot depending on the state you live in.
  2. Core vaccines – Core vaccines have changed from the previous once a year protocol to an every three year protocol. Since the AAHA has admitted that immunity can last for between 5-7 year for distemper and parvo, titer tests can now be used to check an animal’s immunity and a more informed decision can be made about future vaccines. A titer test is a blood test that determines whether your animal is still protected by a previous vaccine.
  3. Non-core vaccines - Optional based on risk of exposure. Having a frank discussion with your veterinarian can identify any criteria for administering a non-core vaccine to your animal. Other risk factors can include the age of your pet, the overall health of your pet and previous vaccine reactions.

Future of Vaccinations

Vaccinations have always been used to protect pets against disease and prevent unnecessary suffering and/or death. With greater focus on preventive medicine, safe and effective vaccines are still the key to happy and healthy pets. It is equally important to develop a relationship with a veterinarian and work together to decide what vaccine protocols will work for your pet’s needs.