We believe informed pet owners are better able to make the right decisions to help their pets live longer healthier lives. Veterinarians have studied immunology, physiology and other topics for years which give them a unique perspective on determining vaccine needs for their patients. We are here to help determine the needs of your pet while minimizing risks.
In most instances vaccination is completely harmless however pet owners should be aware of possible adverse reactions and responses some pets may have to vaccinations.
Some breeds or traits of patients may correlate to their incidence of adverse reactions. Adverse reactions also vary with the brand of vaccine used as well as other factors.
Vaccine reactions are possible with any vaccination. Mild reactions may include facial swelling/edema and/or hives within hours of vaccination administration. Other mild responses may include post-vaccinal fever, sluggishness, reduced appetite and swelling at the vaccination site.
A life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Anaphylaxis may occur within minutes to hours of vaccination and is a serious but rare event which may include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse and death.
Some pets immune systems will stimulate abnormally and may lead to immune mediated disease such as immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). It should be noted that IMHA may be stimulated by causes other than vaccinations.
Other local reactions may occur at the vaccine site including changes in the skin or under the skin.
A specific and uncommon cancer called fibrosarcoma is associated with the sites where vaccines have been administered. Most of these vaccine site cancers have been found in cats. Again, these vaccine site cancers are rare to uncommon in cats, and even rarer in dogs. In my practice years, I have not found yet (2013 today) found such a tumor at a vaccine site that I use. I believe vaccine site reactions are more common with a vaccine brand that I do not use.
If a vaccine reaction occurs, medical expenses likely will incur and are the responsibility of the pet owner.
What to expect from vaccinations:
Vaccinations are common procedures that have reduced illness in humans and pets to such an extent that they are considered routine. Vaccines are biological agents that are meant to stimulate a protective immune response pets against disease causing agents. In many cases vaccines prevent disease from occurring; alternatively they may reduce the severity of infection. In rare cases pets will not develop immunity from vaccination.
There is evidence that shows the effectiveness and duration of immunity after vaccination will vary. There is no clinical test that can determine if your pet has lost immunity. Not all vaccines are created equal nor are they all transported and handled and administered equally. There are many manufacturers, types of vaccines and preparation forms.
Rabies vaccine for dogs and cats will be administered based on our state law requirements. The initial rabies vaccine given to a puppy or kitten will be repeated 1 year later, and thereafter every 3 years. Given that rabies is a zoonosis (a disease shared by both man and animals), I require all patients be kept current with rabies vaccine administered in compliance with Washington State regulations.
Core vs Noncore
Core vaccines are recommended for most pets while Non-Core vaccines are for those whose lifestyle and thus disease exposure puts the pets at risk. Core vaccines will vary or change from area to area as infectious disease incidence varies or changes. Information you provide to us about your pets anticipated lifestyle will help us determine which vaccines should be considered for your pet.
Core Vaccines for dogs
Core vaccines for dogs include Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and ParvoVirus (DHPP) for dogs. We recommend puppies have this vaccine at approximately 7-8 weeks old, then again in 3 and 6 weeks later. I currently repeat this vaccine yearly until the dog is 2 years old, then I readminister it every 3-4 years thereafter.
Noncore Vaccines for dogs
I recommend vaccination for Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough, or Infectious Tracheo-Bronchitis) two or three times yearly for dogs in our area. The immunity for this common and troublesome bacterial disease is short lived (less than one year). Dogs have a high exposure rate in our area even if they are not boarded. If not given regularly this vaccine is given 2 weeks prior to boarding. There is information that the strain of Bordetella in our current vaccines is not covering all the strains of Kennel Cough. That may be so, but, in my clinical experience, I have found that vaccinating 2 times yearly is effective for most pets to prevent the disease. This vaccine is available as either an intranasal liquid (dropped into the nose) or as an injection. The intranasal form is the preferred form used here as we believe it provides the best protection. Additional reaction to the intranasal vaccines include reverse sneezing and the vaccine may induce a cough. If a cough is induced it is a self limiting cough ? and actually is suggestive the pet may have been very susceptible to the disease.
Leptospirosis is a bacterin component that we used to include in the core vaccines. We found that many of the vaccine reactions we saw in dogs were from the Lepto component. With that knowledge, many veterinarians discontinued using this vaccine. While cases of Leptospirosis are uncommon in our area, the disease is again beginning to emerge. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. There are several types of this bacterium. People and dogs can both become infected with these bacteria if they are exposed to the urine of infected animals typically wildlife. The disease can cause kidney and/or liver failure. A specific vaccine is required to protect against each type. We offer vaccination against 4 types of Leptospirosis, but do not require it. We will not use it until a pup is older than 12 weeks old. We provide a handout to owners to help determine to vaccinate their dog against Lepto.
Per current recommendations, I do not vaccinate against Corona (gastrointestinal) virus in dogs or cats. According to the literature, in dogs, this virus primarily affects pups less than 6 weeks old, and is not a significant disease in otherwise healthy puppies or dogs. Just a note, there is also a respiratory corona virus but there is no vaccine available for it.
I do not carry or recommend vaccination against Lyme disease for several reasons. We do not live in a Lyme disease endemic area, the vaccine against it is related to a higher degree of post-vaccinal diseases (worse than the disease itself), most of our pets have low exposure to ticks, and the disease is treatable with proper antibiotics.
Core vaccinations for cats
Core vaccinations for cats include Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Panleukopenia Virus (FVRCP). I recommend this vaccine 2 times in the initial kitten series for all unvaccinated felines. This vaccine is repeated 1 year later then is given once every 3 years.
Noncore Vaccines for cats
I recommend Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) vaccine 2 times in the initial kitten series. This vaccine is repeated 1 year later then is given once every 1 to 3 years depending on exposure factors. For cats that are indoor only, the FELV vaccine may be discontinued.
We currently do not carry the vaccine against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). In the United States and in many other countries the vaccine is not protective of the virus cats are exposed to.
We do not carry or recommend the Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus vaccine. In studies, this vaccine has shown to be ineffective.
Revaccination of your pet will be determined on a yearly basis given medically accepted evidence about vaccine duration of immunity and the information you provide to us about your pet.
Words of wisdom
Vaccination should be a medical decision which should be considered seriously. Although we may make it look like a simple shot there are many variables that we have considered. Pets should only be vaccinated when they appear healthy upon physical exam. Giving vaccines to sick or infected pets may not help the pet, and may put the pet at risk for other problems. Since vaccines are meant to stimulate the immune system, giving the pet too many vaccines at one time may cause problems. We take careful consideration in selecting the manufacturers and components of our vaccines. As well, we ensure proper transportation, storage and handling of vaccination products. You should allow your pet to only be vaccinated by trained veterinary staff with vaccines that have been chosen for their known effectiveness. You should only allow vaccines to be given to your pet if you are satisfied the vaccine product has been properly handled and refrigerated from manufacturer to administration.
Vaccine Owner Information from Zoetis.pdf