Vaccinating your pet- what you need to know
When pet owners think about their yearly visit to the veterinarian it usually includes some sort of
vaccination. Vaccines have been a very important part of keeping humans and pets healthy for a long
time. They are a very important part of preventing life threatening communicable diseases from
spreading. However, vaccines work by stimulating the immune system and this can have consequences.
It is important that the risks and benefits be considered for every vaccination.
Vaccines are put into two categories; core and non core vaccines. Core being recommended vaccines
regardless of the lifestyle of a pet and non core recommended based on a pets lifestyle. Some
recommended vaccinations are going to be based on geographic location as well. There are also
different types of vaccinations; modified live, killed, vaccines which contain an adjuvant, and vaccines
without an adjuvant are some of these types. This has to do with how the vaccine is formulated and
how the body processes the vaccine.
It is important to understand that when a puppy or kitten is born they are dependent on antibodies
from their mother in getting their immune system off in the right direction. As your puppy or kitten
ages vaccines take over the role of boosting the immune system so the body can prevent infection. This
is why puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccinations before they are considered to be protected
against certain diseases. As the pet ages the immune system as had time to develop and mature and
therefore the body becomes better at protecting itself against disease and illness.
Vaccine protocols are going to vary from clinic to clinic and there is no set answer as to what is the right
vaccine and how often to give each vaccine. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine what are
the appropriate vaccines for your pet and how often should they be given. Again, this will depend on
your pets lifestyle, age, and overall health. As mentioned above since vaccines to directly influence the
immune system that has to be taken into consideration in geriatric animals, immunocompromised
animals, and/or animals with chronic illness or who are on long term medication. There are also some
cases where vaccinations can have an adverse reaction and can lead to immune mediated diseases
where the body starts to make antibodies against its own cells. In these cases future vaccinations must
be very carefully decided upon as these diseases can be life threatening.
Ultimately, vaccines are becoming safer every year but it is important to remember they can have side
effects. On the same hand without vaccinations there would be an outbreak of disease amongst our pet
population leading to significant illness and loss. When deciding on which vaccinations are best for your
pet please always consult your veterinarian. He/she will help determine what is best for your pet to
keep him/her as healthy for as long as possible.