There has been a lot of information in the media lately about vaccinations for children and why some parents opt to delay vaccinations or choose not to vaccinate altogether.
This debate also occurs within the pet owner community, albeit for different reasons. The one truism for both, however, is that like children, pets rely on others to make an informed decision on their behalf about their long-term well-being.
Vaccines are products designed to trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents.
They can effectively lessen the severity of future diseases and can prevent them. Vaccination can help prolong the life of your pet, and contribute to overall health and wellness and can save their life in the instance of direct exposure to many viruses. Some vaccines are one-timers, while many require boosters in the future to effectively maintain the pet’s immunity.
In dogs, there are vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvo virus, corona virus, bordetella (kennel cough), rabies, lyme, and even giardia.
In cats, there are vaccinations for Panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis (herpes), feline leukemia, rabies, Chlamydia, and several others that are less commonly used.
The types of vaccinations that are recommended for your pet will depend on the geographic area and an assessment of the pet’s lifestyle and general risk of exposure.
A large dog that runs around outside and frequents dog parks, daycares, or obedience classes will certainly have a higher risk for exposure to viruses than an older poodle living in an apartment with no contact with other dogs. Although we never want to over-vaccinate pets, we do have to make sure they are adequately protected.
Some pet owners may feel the pet never goes outside, therefore does not need vaccinations. This may be unrealistic, as cats can escape outside quite often, and even if they only go in the backyard, they may be exposed to birds, bats, squirrels, raccoons, stray cats, etc. If they go to a boarding kennel when on vacation, they should have vaccinations up-to-date at least two weeks prior to the boarding – for their safety and that of other pets around them.
Boosters are required because the protection provided by a vaccine gradually declines with time. Some people prefer to have a titer test to measure the antibody levels. This can be done for distemper and parvovirus. However, it can be quite expensive and the results may not always be easily correlated with protective immunity.
Certainly if a pet is very old and has little exposure to contagious diseases then vaccinations may not be paramount, especially if there are other medical conditions that require more immediate attention.
Rabies is a serious disease that is fatal in humans and it is recommended that all dogs and cats be vaccinated for Rabies regardless of being indoors or outdoors. Sadly, I have been present when a family pet died from an infectious disease. It is made even more tragic by the fact that the death could have been prevented by vaccination. Your pet is counting on you to make the best decisions to help them live long and healthy lives. Vaccinations are an easy way to meet that responsibility.