If you’re like many pet parents, you want your furry family member to live a long, healthy life. Many pet owners go out of their way to ensure the health of their fur friends, including choosing their pet’s food carefully, investing in vitamins and supplements, and carefully vetting pet-sitters, doggy daycares, and boarding facilities.
But what about vaccines?
Keep reading to learn more about pet vaccines and how they can impact your pet's overall health.
Vaccines help prepare your pet’s body to fight off disease-causing agents. Vaccines contain foreign agents that look like the diseases they are designed to fight. However, they do not cause illness.
Introducing the vaccines into the body stimulates the immune system to respond by producing antibodies to the illness. Once armed with the antibodies, your pet’s immune system is prepared to recognize certain diseases and fight them off.
Vaccinating your pet does not guarantee he will not contract an illness. However, the widespread use of vaccinations within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
In cases where a vaccinated pet contracts an illness, the pet usually experiences less severe symptoms.
There are a very small number of animals who simply do not respond to vaccinations at all, according to Susan Nelson, DVM, at the Kansas State University Veterinary Pet Health Center.2 The animals in this subset are referred to as non-responders.
Your veterinarian can help determine which vaccines your pet will need. Some of the factors he or she will consider when determining a vaccination regimen are:
- The type of vaccine
- Your pet’s age
- Your pet’s breed and gender
- Your pet’s medical history
- Your pet’s genetic history
- Your family and pet’s lifestyle (For Example: do you take your dog hunting,fishing, or hiking? Do you board your dog?)
- Travel habits
- Local animal laws
The American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) guidelines for dogs and the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s (AAFP) guidelines for cats both break vaccines into two categories: Core and Noncore.
Core vaccines are considered essential for all healthy pets. These protect against illnesses that are serious in nature, can cause significant illness or death, and are easily transmitted from animals to humans.
Core vaccines include:
- Canine Distemper
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Hepatitis
- Panleukopenia (feline distemper)
- Rhinotracheitis (feline herpes)
- Feline Calicivirus (an upper respiratory infection)
Noncore vaccines are given depending on your pet’s lifestyle and risk of exposure to certain illnesses. Some of these may be considered necessary based on the prevalence of certain illnesses in certain locations.
Canine noncore vaccines include:
- Canine Influenza
- Rattlesnake vaccine
Feline noncore vaccines include:
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
- Chlamydophila Felis Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Most states require dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies. Some states require the vaccine to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, while other states allow veterinary technicians or similarly licensed people to administer it. Additionally, some states require that the rabies vaccine be administered every year, while others require it every three years.
Many states often require proof of vaccination records in order to register your pet as well. If you are unsure of the requirements where you live, check out the AVMA State Rabies Vaccination Laws.
Most animals have very little reaction to vaccinations. However, like any medical procedure, there is always some risk. The most common side effects are mild and usually resolve within a day or two. Some side effects can include:
- Temporary pain at the injection site
- Temporary swelling at the injection site
- Mild respiratory symptoms
Even if your pet spends the majority of his or her time indoors, keeping your fur-friend up-to-date on vaccinations will protect both your pet, other pets, and your family from common diseases.
Additionally, wild animals are known to be carriers of certain diseases (like rabies). Mice, bats, squirrels, and birds can end up in your home through chimneys, garages, and crawl spaces. If you travel with your pet or board him or her in a facility, you will likely be required to have proof of vaccination.
Most importantly, when vaccinating your pet you will protect your furry friend from contracting what could be life-threatening diseases.
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