Vaccines are an important part of your pet’s healthcare. They protect pets from severe infections caused by certain viruses and bacteria. Without them, these infectious agents would have a chance to spread through our pet populations, causing frequent epidemics and pet loss.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines are designed to simulate the situation whereby a specific virus or bacteria enters a pet’s body and is met by their immune system. The immune system recognizes the vaccine as “foreign” and immediately develops an attack, creating antibodies, and recruiting immune cells to fight the invader. This situation trains the immune system to be ready to fight anything that looks like the vaccine, namely, the virus or bacteria it was designed to look like. This way, if your pet is exposed to this infection, the body can quickly neutralize it before it has a chance to cause severe disease.
Why do puppies and kittens need so many vaccinations?
Puppies and kittens get a large number of antibodies from their mothers (via the placenta before birth and via the milk after birth). These maternal antibodies stay in their bodies, offering immune protection, for period of time after birth. During this time, they neutralize any vaccine that is administered; so instead of the vaccine stimulating the puppy or kitten’s own immune system to react, it’s wiped out by the maternal antibodies. As it is hard to know when the maternal antibody level has fallen sufficiently to allow the puppy/kitten’s immune system to respond, we need to vaccinate them several times to catch that window of opportunity , all while keeping them protected from disease as best as possible.
Does vaccination mean protection?
For many pets, vaccination will protect(immunize) them against disease; however, some pets may not receive protection. Although rare, vaccine “failure” can occur for several reasons:
- Maternal immunity interferes with vaccine effectiveness.
- Pets that have already contracted the disease or are exposed shortly after vaccination will still develop disease as it takes several weeks for the vaccine to take full effect.
- The pet was unable to respond to the vaccine because of disease or being on immune-suppressing medication.
- The pet fails to produce a response – these pets are known as “non-responders” and this is believed to be a genetic (inherited) trait.
- Lastly a pet may not respond if the vaccine is of poor quality, or is handled or administered inappropriately.
Rest assured the vaccines we recommend and use are carefully selected from major reputable pharmaceutical companies and our staff is well trained in their correct handling and administration.
The essential (or “core”) vaccines provide protection against rabies, as well as severe respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses.
Core Canine Vaccines
Core Feline Vaccines
- Feline calicivirus
- Panleukopenia (also called feline parvovirus or feline distemper)
- Rhinotracheitis (feline herpesvirus type 1)
Some of these vaccines are given together, as a combination vaccine.
Other vaccines are available to help protect pets based on exposure risk. These are referred to as lifestyle vaccines.
Canine Lifestyle Vaccines
- Bordetella bronchiseptica (to protect against canine infectious respiratory disease complex or, as it’s more commonly known, kennel cough)
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease)
Feline Lifestyle Vaccines
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
Does my pet need to be vaccinated every year?
This depends on a lot of factors, including age of your pet, risk of exposure to specific diseases, and what disease we are trying to prevent. For example, currently there are no vaccines against bacterial disease (like leptospirosis) that provide protection for much longer than one year. This is why we need to discuss your pet’s lifestyle and risks at least once a year.
How can I protect my pet?
By following your veterinarian’s recommendations making sure your pet is vaccinated, you’ll be helping to keep your pet protected against highly contagious, potentially deadly diseases.
Our veterinary team will tailor a vaccination program to your individual pet. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions about your pet’s vaccines or schedule your pet’s wellness exam today.