What Is Vaccination?

What is a Vaccination?

What is a Vaccine?

How do I Know Which Viral Diseases my Pet  Should be Vaccinated Against?

How Often Should I Vaccinate My Pet?




  What a Vaccine?

    A vaccine is a preparation that contains an antigen that is a part of a particular disease causing organism or the genetic material necessary to produce this antigen.  This antigen may be in the form or a whole disease-causing organism that has been weakened or killed, or a part of an organism such as an important protein.  A segment of viral genetic material, which will produce a protein antigen by use of the host’s cells machinery, can also be used and this type of vaccine may become more common in the future.  Vaccines are used to produce active immunity against the disease that the organism causes by activating the animal’s immune system without causing actual disease. The animals' immune system components (eg antibodies) are then prepared to quickly recognize and vanquish those particular pathogens when they later enter the body. The idea is to "educate" the immune system so that exposure will not catch the body off guard; it will already have antibodies designed to neutralize the bug.  Vaccines are administered through needle injections, by mouth or nose and by aerosol.

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    How do I Know Which Viral Diseases My Pet Should be Vaccinated Against?

Core vaccines are vaccines that most veterinarians believe all animals should receive. Recommendations for designating a particular vaccine as core are determined by the severity of disease caused by the agent, the risk of spread of the agent to susceptible animals, and the potential for a particular infection to be zoonotic, or passed from animals to humans.  Core vaccines for dogs include Distemper, Parvo, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus type 2 and Rabies.  For cats, the core vaccines are Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis, Panleukopenia and Rabies (Vaccination Programs for Cats, Vaccination Programs for Dogs).

Optional vaccines should be administered selectively based on an animal’s geographic and lifestyle exposure taking into account the benefits and risks associated with the particular vaccine.  Optional vaccines for cats include Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodefficency Virus.

Vaccines that are not recommended are either lacking in scientific proof of efficacy or demonstrate an unacceptable risk of side effects.

Bear in mind that veterinarians assess each patient individually.  The guidelines presented on this website only provide general suggestions as to which vaccines should be considered for use in each pet.  Vaccination is a medical decision and a procedure that must be individualized based on the lifestyle and level of risk posed to each individual animal.  You and your veterinarian should discuss the matter together in order to formulate a plan to best suit your pet taking into account emerging diseases, changes in incidence of known diseases and adverse events associated with vaccine administration.

How Often Should I Vaccinate My Pet? 

Although the duration of immunity resulting from common dog and cat vaccines has been poorly studied up to this point, there is growing support for the idea that an extended vaccine interval is reasonable, safe and effective in preventing most infectious diseases.  This new protocol recommends that core vaccines be boostered at three-year intervals in adult dogs and cats.  More and more scientific data supporting this protocol is emerging every year and new vaccines are being formulated with guarantees and licensing for use every three years.

On the other hand, it is also currently recognized that some vaccines which are licensed for use every year may not consistently produce immunity lasting even this long.  Examples of such vaccines include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Leptospirosis and Feline Chlamidia. Despite the fact that the package insert, or product label, reccomends annual boosters, biannual boosters may be prudent in animals with high levels of exposure.

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