Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vaccinations: Keeping Your Pets Protected

Each year when we bring our pets in for their annual wellness visits they get a physical exam, possibly some bloodwork run and their all important vaccinations. But just what vaccines are really necessary? Why are some more important than others? Why do some vaccines last for only a year while others for longer? It can be a lot to absorb at one time, especially when being bombarded with all the information you typically receive while visiting the veterinarian. To help simplify the topic of your pets and their vaccines we have provided a quick refresher on what vaccines are available and why they are important.

*It is important to remember that all vaccinations carry a minimal risk of adverse reaction. Depending on your pet’s age, health, and history of previous vaccination reactions, your veterinarian may request you pre-medicate your pet and/or that only one vaccination be given at a time.

In the most general terms vaccines can be classified as either Core Vaccinations or Non-Core Vaccinations. Core vaccinations are recommended for almost all pets. The frequency of vaccination with the core vaccines will depend on your pet’s age, health, and life style.

Core Vaccinations: A rabies vaccination is required for all cats and dogs by Pennsylvania State Law. The first vaccination is to be given when the puppy or kitten is at least 12 weeks of age. The vaccination must be boostered 1 year later, and then at least every three years thereafter (when using a 3 year approved vaccine).  Some practices may recommend re-vaccinating every other year if you live in an area with a high rabies risk.  For dogs, the distemper combination, (DA2PP), and, for cats, the upper respiratory combination, (FCVRC), are also considered core vaccinations. Puppies and kittens need a series of boosters, spaced 3-4 weeks apart, to be considered fully protected.  Most puppies and kittens receive their first distemper vaccination at 6 weeks of age and their last one around 16 weeks of age.  Booster distemper vaccinations are then given on a yearly schedule.

However, recent studies suggest the protection from these vaccines may last longer in pets who are good responders. Because every vaccination procedure carries a minimal risk, if you wish to have these booster vaccinations be given every other to every third year, your veterinarian may recommend a yearly blood test to determine if the antibody level in your pet is high enough to provide sufficient protection. For pets with minimal exposure to these diseases, decreasing the frequency of vaccination simply makes sense.

Non-Core vaccinations: (Feline Leukemia virus, Lyme disease, and Bordetella, or kennel cough) are recommended based on your pet’s life style (e.g. outside cats, dogs with high tick exposures, dogs going to groomers, training classes, dog shows, or boarding facilities). These vaccinations require yearly boosters after their initial series to remain effective though they can be discontinued at any time if you feel your pet will no longer be needing them.  Be sure to inform your veterinarian if your pet is at risk for these diseases so they can vaccinate your pet appropriately.

Please remember it is important to discuss all aspects of your pet’s lifestyle with with your veterinarian to assure your pet gets the care they need. Together, you and your veterinarian can determine the best vaccination schedule for your pet.

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