What are vaccines?
Vaccines are designed to trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections. Vaccines can lessen the severity or prevent future diseases.
Why do I need to vaccinate?
Pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases. If an unvaccinated pet develops one of these diseases, treatment can become very expensive and many of these diseases can be fatal despite treatment. Even though some formerly common diseases have now become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because these serious disease agents continue to be present in the environment.
Are there risks to vaccination?
Any treatment carries some risk, but these risks should be weighed against the benefits of protecting your pet from potentially fatal diseases. Most pets respond well to vaccines. The most common adverse responses are mild and include fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite. Pets may also experience temporary swelling at the site of vaccination. Most adverse reactions will resolve within 12-24 hours.
Rarely, more serious adverse reactions can occur. Allergic reactions appear within minutes or hours of a vaccination and may include repeated vomiting, swelling of the face or legs, difficulty breathing, or collapse. Contact your veterinarian immediately if any of these symptoms are seen. There are other uncommon but serious adverse reactions including injection site tumors (sarcomas) in cats and immune mediated diseases in dogs or cats, which can develop weeks or months after a vaccination.
Which vaccinations should my pet receive and how often?
Not all pets should be vaccinated with all available vaccines. Your veterinarian will consider your pet’s age, risk of exposure, and any previous adverse vaccine reactions in order to customize a vaccination program for your pet. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle including its expected travel and contact with other animals (such as exposure at kennels, obedience classes, dog parks, and outside cats) since these factors impact your pet’s risk of exposure to disease.
What are antibody titers, and do they replace vaccinations?
Antibody titers are blood tests that measure the amount of antibodies in the blood. Following exposure to a disease-causing organism (such as a virus) or a vaccine, the body generates antibodies that help destroy the organism and prevent, or minimize, illness if the body is exposed to the same organism again.
Antibody titers do not replace vaccination programs, as a higher antibody titer does not necessarily mean your pet will be protected if exposed to the disease, and a lower titer may not mean that your pet’s protection is lacking.
A final thought
Many factors are taken into consideration when establishing a pet’s vaccination plan. Your veterinarian will tailor a program of vaccinations and patient health care that will help your pet maintain a lifetime of infectious disease protection.