Those of you who may have adopted puppies or kittens over the holidays may feel overwhelmed by your veterinarian’s vaccination recommendations. Some of you also may be concerned with the potential risks vaccines may pose and consider the risk-benefit ratio for your pet’s health. Here’s some valuable help to understand which vaccines are most important and which ones your pet may be able to do without.
“Vaccines protect both the individual animal and all the other animals of that species in the community,” says Dr. Jason Nicholas of The Preventive Vet, which helps which helps pet owners prevent emergencies. There are some vaccines that all pets should get, which are known as ‘core vaccines.’ Current vaccinations for rabies, which poses a health threat to humans, are legally required for pets (cats AND dogs) in most areas and are considered core vaccines for both cats and dogs. In Pima County, it is required by law to register your dogs and keep their rabies vaccine (and “tag”) up to date. It is not required to register your cats; however, their vaccine must be up to date as well. Owners need to keep paperwork on file that they can present the county if asked to do so. If your cats are not vaccinated or you cannot produce proof of vaccination, you can be hit with very heavy fines by the county.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has parameters for feline and canine core vaccines. Aside from rabies, dogs should be receive a combination vaccine that protects against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. These all highly contagious canine diseases and the standard vaccine protocols have gone a long way to eradicate them. Aside from rabies, cats should receive a combination vaccine known as FVRCP, which protects against the upper respiratory infections rhinotracheitis and calicivirus, as well as feline distemper (panleukopenia). While all vaccines have different protocols, most of the core puppy and kitten vaccines come in a series, beginning at about eight weeks of age and continuing at three- to four-week intervals until about 16 weeks of age. The animal should receive all of the vaccines in the series to be fully inoculated. They won’t be less effective; there’s just a potential window for exposure to disease and they won’t be protected if the vaccines are not given inside the appropriate windows. Following the series, the usual recommendation is a one-year booster shot and once every three years (for canine rabies and feline FVCRP) after that. Rita Ranch Pet Hospital’s canine DA2P, bordetella/parainfluenza and feline rabies vaccines are recommended annually. If you’re concerned with cost, consider this: Canine parvovirus, meanwhile, can cost between $3,000 and $6,000 to treat. That is ten-fold the cost for check-ups and proper vaccines to protect them!
Determining which non-core vaccines to administer depends on your pet’s lifestyle. Your veterinarian will take into account details such as how often your dog goes to the dog park or whether you like to hike and camp, to determine which vaccines your pet really needs. For instance, people who live in (or travel to) the Northeast USA might opt to protect their dog from Lyme disease.
If your dog stays in a boarding facility, attends doggie day care or visits a groomer, he’ll likely be required to show proof of a Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccination. This vaccine has a lower risk of side effects, she says. As for cats, the feline leukemia vaccine is recommended mainly for outdoor cats. We strongly recommend testing kittens for FeLV/FiV and having your kitten immunized as a part of their kitten series. You can discontinue future vaccines if your cat remains indoor-only. There is a vaccine for FIV, although many vets don’t recommend it. Cats that receive the vaccine will test positive for the disease and therefore risk euthanasia if they wind up in a shelter.
Vaccine-related health issues have stirred controversy that has led some people to question their necessity. Those containing adjuvants, or chemicals that stimulate the immune system, have been linked to cancerous tumors known as fibrosarcomas. The worst reactions have been connected with the feline leukemia and rabies vaccines. While incidences are relatively low (affecting about one to 10 cases per 10,000 vaccinated cats), researchers are trying to reduce risks. Animal health company Merial has come out with a line of non-adjuvant feline leukemia and rabies vaccines; the latter is good for one year, as opposed to the three-year, adjuvant vaccine. Rita Ranch Pet Hospital uses only non-adjuvant vaccines!
Whatever vaccines you choose, make sure you’ve weighed the risks and benefits before proceeding. Every pet doesn’t need every vaccine, but every cat or dog does need some vaccine. It’s a matter of coming up with a personalized vaccine schedule with your vet that’s going to provide them with the best protection.
Source: “Pet Talk: The Vaccine Conundrum: Which One’s Does Your Pet Really Need?” www.oregonlive.com