Posted October 18, 2013
Vaccinations are a critical component to the
preventive care of your companion animal. Your health, as well as
your pet's, depends on it. While this may seem like common
knowledge to some, the topic of pet vaccination can be quite
controversial, making it a hot topic in veterinary medicine
Most veterinary professionals agree that
vaccinating your pets is the best way to protect them from various
life threatening illnesses. "Controversy about vaccinating your pet
is usually centered around misinformation or the false concept in
humans that suggest vaccinations cause autism," said Dr. Bethany
Schilling, Clinical Instructor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Choosing
vaccinations specific to your animal's health and lifestyle should
be an informed decision made between you and your veterinarian.
Many pet owners believe that the possible dangers
of pet vaccinations outweigh the positive aspects. One risk that
worries pet owners is the chance that their pet will have a
negative reaction from the vaccination. While this is a viable
concern, Schilling and many other veterinarians agree that this
occurrence is rare. "Vaccine reactions are usually non-life
threatening, are easily treated, and can typically be prevented in
the future," said Schilling. "Reactions in dogs are typically
swelling of the face or hives, and reactions in cats are typically
vomiting or diarrhea."
Vaccines do not guarantee that your pet will not
become sick, just like a human getting the flu vaccine can still
catch the flu, but it will likely minimize the seriousness of
illness in your pet.
Vaccines help build up your pets' immune system so
that their chances of becoming ill when exposed to disease are much
lower. They can prevent many upper respiratory diseases in cats
such as herpes, calicivirus, and panleukemia, as well as
feline leukemia and rabies. There are vaccines to prevent various
diseases, such as parvovirus, leptospirosis, Lyme disease,
Bordetella, and rabies, in dogs as well. Bordetella is found
to be one of the causes of "kennel cough," a highly contagious
respiratory disease in dogs.
The two classifications of pet vaccines are core
and non-core vaccines. "Core vaccines are things the entire pet
population should be vaccinated against, due to universal risk,"
said Schilling. "Non-core vaccines are recommended based on region
of the country in which the patient lives and individual patient
risk factors, like lifestyle and travel." Core vaccines would
include vaccines against common diseases, like rabies, whereas
vaccines against Lyme disease or kennel cough are among the
non-core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are not usually considered
necessary, but are available to pets that are at risk for illness
due to geographic locations or specific lifestyle needs.
Another debate among many pet owners is whether
performing at home vaccinations on your pet is easier and more
efficient than taking them to a veterinary clinic. When making this
decision, it is important to keep in mind that vaccines are
extremely sensitive to handling. Various factors such as extreme
temperatures can inactivate them, and vaccines purchased at a feed
store are not guaranteed to be effective. "Vaccines administered at
a vet clinic are handled appropriately and care can be made to make
sure the pet is vaccinated at appropriate intervals to ensure
protection," said Schilling. "The pet is examined prior to
receiving vaccines each visit to make sure they are healthy."
Companion animals today have the opportunity to
live longer, healthier lives than ever before. This is partly due
to the availability of vaccines to prevent them from many
infectious diseases. There are always risks accompanying any
medical procedure, but the chances of your pet having an adverse
effect to vaccine are minimal. Just think, if we had stopped
administering the smallpox vaccine after someone got sick from it,
where would we be today?
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk.
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