The Perfect Guide to Vaccination of Dogs and Cats

As pet owners, you know that vaccination is one of the most important things you can do for your furry friends. Not only is it important for their health, but it also helps to prevent dog and cat diseases from spreading to other people and animals. In this article, we’ll provide you with the best guide to vaccination of dogs and cats, covering everything from the most common vaccinations to which ones are most important. We hope this will help make choosing the right vaccines easier for you!

Among dog and cat caretakers few topics are more debated than that regarding the vaccination of dogs and cats.  In years past, vaccinations for all sorts of diseases were recommended to be given annually…

year after year.  That protocol was followed by Open communication with animal hospital personnel is important!veterinarians because they were told to do so by the vaccine manufacturers in order to ensure optimal immunity for as many pets as possible.  If a veterinarian independently decided not to follow the label recommendations on the vaccines, and an animal subsequently developed a disease that the veterinarian decided vaccination for wasn’t needed, the veterinarian was vulnerable to being sued.  Ethically and legally the veterinarian must follow label recommendations for the administration of biologicals.  

Vaccination of Dogs and Cats

In recent years, the vaccine manufacturers have been under some pressure to show data that truly demonstrates a need for annual vaccinations for dogs and cats.  Part of the drive for reconsideration of vaccine protocols has been coming from Holistic veterinary practitioners, many of whom believe that repeated vaccinations diminish the animal’s immune resources and can actually create disorders such as degenerative joint diseases, immune mediated disorders such as Lupus, and can actually depress the animal’s ability to ward off diseases “naturally”.  A few Holistic veterinarians believe that all vaccines are harmful.

On the other hand there are veterinarians, from general practitioners to research scientists with advanced degrees in Immunology, who contend that vaccinations are a modern marvel, responsible for saving uncountable animal lives…. just as vaccines have helped rid the world of savage human diseases such as Small Pox and Polio.  So how is today’s dog and cat caretaker going to make an informed decision about their own pet’s vaccine needs?  I will share a recent email I received from a pet caretaker expressing just such a dilemma…

Dear Dr. Dunn,
I was wondering if you would share with me your opinion about yearly shot or shots for my Yorkie.  He will be one year old soon and has had all his shots to date.  I read on a Yorkie site the opinions of three Veterinarians who expressed that dogs only need shots two or three times in their entire life. Thank you for your help with this question.  N. H.

Dr. Dunn’s response:
The problem is this… most dogs will hold protective immunity longer than a year when given vaccines (but there are variables).  So when a veterinarian sees a dog in practice and the owner asks “Does my dog need that Distemper or Parvo vaccine this year?”, the veterinarian has no way of KNOWING what the dog’s immune status is for those diseases.  You and the doctor can only guess.  What if you skip a few years and in fact the dog’s immune status is low… and actually contracts the disease?  You would be pretty upset that the veterinarian “said the dog didn’t need a vaccine this year”.  You might even be able to sue the doctor for suggesting that the dog “didn’t need a vaccine this year” without having any proof for the veracity of that statement.  The veterinarian can only guess what the dog or cat’s immune status is.

Some Holistic veterinarians think all vaccinations are actually harmful and destructive (and ignore the fact that diseases such as Smallpox and Polio are almost non-existent today due solely to the use of vaccines to protect the population from the diseases).  My personal belief is that we may not NEED to vaccinate dogs and cats yearly for a number of diseases.  Conversely, if the goal is protective levels of immunity, maybe we should vaccinate more often than once a year for some others (such as Kennel Cough).  But since I have NO WAY to know which individual dogs/cats do need protection and what individuals do not need additional vaccination, I must take a stand for vaccinating to provide my patient (with the owners’ informed consent, of course) with the best level of protection I have available.  And that is to vaccinate.  Through 38 years of managing pet diseases and seeing tens of thousands of patients live well into their teens that have had numerous vaccines almost yearly throughout their entire lives, I am not convinced by experience that vaccinating has a destructive effect on the overwhelming majority of animals.  I am convinced, though, that vaccinating has saved uncountable lives from the ravages of Parvovirus and Distemper… not to mention potential Rabies cases.  If a animal has an allergic reaction to a vaccine (see for a page on that) then obviously, a different approach is needed than to repeat that vaccine.

If I see a very old pet that has very little exposure potential to contagious diseases and that has been vaccinated numerous time throughout its life, I intellectually and experientially have less inclination to revaccinate that animal yearly.  But I must assume it has some level of immunity because I have no way of really knowing.  In addition, older pets are known to have less potential to contract Parvovirus and Distemper.  The Rabies topic needs to be treated very carefully because any warm blooded animal of any age or health status has potential to contract Rabies if exposed.  Not to be forgotten, unlike some other animal diseases, Rabies is nearly always fatal in humans.

The response above is my personal opinion, based upon 32 years of small animal practice and seven years of college study.It's your decision to make for your pet's health.  My personal, experience-driven practice protocols may be different from another veterinarian’s.  So the bottom line for per caretakers is this…  In arriving at a decision about vaccinating your dog or cat, get the FACTS about vaccinations, listen to your veterinarian, then get a few other opinions from other veterinarians. (Remember that any individual could have an adverse reaction to a vaccine.  If that does happen, of course it might be risky to revaccinate for that disease and it may be best not to vaccinate for that disease in the future.  See a vaccine reactions here.)  If someone tells you that vaccines cause disease or weaken an animal’s immune capabilities, ask to see the data that proves that position. Then YOU make the call.  You are the final authority regarding your pet’s health care.  Once you feel you are comfortable with your assessment of the vaccine topic, no one should pressure you into doing something different.

The vaccination of dogs and cats one of the most important steps you can take to ensure its long-term health and well being. If not taken care of regularly, the risk of catching diseases like rabies increases exponentially.

In case you are planning to get a new furry friend or have just adopted a cat from an animal shelter, make sure it gets all the necessary vaccines before releasing it into your home! It also helps that you educate yourself about what vaccinations your new best friend needs before bringing it home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of vaccination of dogs?

When it comes to your pet’s health, you can’t go wrong by immunizing them against various diseases. Here is a guide about the vaccination of dogs and cats, including the types of vaccines that are necessary for both pets.

What is the most common route for vaccine administration in dogs and cats?

The most popular way to administer vaccines is via SC or IM injection. This method works well for diseases where systemic immunity is crucial and very few animals. The veterinarian can also confirm that an animal has received the proper vaccination dose.

What happens if rabies vaccination is delayed?

You will require a total of 5 doses over the course of 1 month if you haven’t had the vaccine and have been exposed to the rabies virus. An injection of rabies immune globulin will also be given to you.

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