Are Vaccines Safe for my Pet?
Vaccinations for pets has been a standard of care for quite a while. In more recent years, there has been various pet articles and opinions questioning the need for vaccinations as well as the risk of vaccines. There are now some investigations in veterinary medicine into what is the best vaccination schedule for dogs and cats. Not all studies are finished, so there is still some conflicting information out there, especially if one consults Dr. Google only about vaccination in pets. I will share what I am aware of as a veterinarian in general practice.
First understand that diseases such as canine and feline distemper still exist in our world. The incidence is far less than in years past due to vaccination. The unvaccinated or under-vaccinated pet is the one at risk. Wildlife can carry some of these diseases and they get into our yards, under our crawlspaces or on hiking trails.
I recently read a report in my veterinary journal of a veterinarian who was bitten by a dog during a routine exam. It turned out the dog was not vaccinated for Rabies. In keeping the dog for quarantine, the dog began to show signs of Rabies and was euthanized as required by law. The brain tissue was examined and YES this dog had Rabies. Now the veterinarian and staff had were exposed to Rabies and needed emergency care to try to stop the disease from spreading to them. I do not know how sick or affected the staff was, but Rabies is not treatable. "Treatment" is getting antibody to the affected person before the Rabies takes a hold of them. Pretty scary. So how was it that this dog was never vaccinated by Rabies, as required by law? It was never brought into the veterinarian for care as a young dog. It may have roamed outside where raccoons, foxes or bats may have hissed or bitten at this dog and spread it to the dog. If no one reported this dog or family for not caring for their dog, how would they get caught? We have plenty of bats here in central Illinois who are positive for Rabies. This is one vaccine that is safe, and effective. All pets, including house cats need to be vaccinated for this.
Canine distemper, feline distemper, parvo - a blood test can be run to check and see how well protected your pet is before boostering vaccination. We offer these tests at my office and often find pets are protected for a year or 2 longer than is expected. There are some cases where the pet is low in protection so we can vaccinate for what is needing added protection. We draw a blood sample that is sent off to the Michigan State University veterinary lab. They check a group of diseases that the vaccines protect for and give the level of protection. This way we have an accurate measure of what the pet is protected from and may need boostering.
Some pets do react to vaccines with muscle soreness or swelling. I have also seen other pets have severe reaction with fever and inflammation. It is best to discuss with your veterinarian what the lifestyle of your pet is (indoor only - indoor out door or lots of outside time) - visiting pets, and health of your pet. Also, support your veterinarian in separating vaccines - doing only the rabies on one visit then the other vaccine 3-6 months later. This can help decrease reactions since there is less the body has to process and your pet is getting another check up at that time. Even if you choose to do titers and vaccines are not needed, a check up on weight, heart, how the body is moving, teeth and skin is so important for both dogs and cats to keep them out of pain and problems.
- written by Dr. Sally Foote