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Vaccinations

Vaccinations for Dogs


Vaccinations are a critical component to preventive care for your dog. Thanks to the development of vaccines, dogs have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from dogs to people — so canine vaccinations have protected human health as well. Recently, studies have shown that vaccines protect dogs for longer than previously believed. There have also been improvements in the type of vaccines produced. In addition, there is increased awareness and concern that vaccination is not as harmless a procedure as once thought. These factors have led to a growing number of veterinarians who recommend reduced frequency of vaccinations while at the same time tailoring vaccine recommendations to specific risk situations.

To assist veterinarians with making vaccine recommendations for dogs, the American Animal Hospital Association has issued a set of canine vaccine guidelines. Developed by a group of infectious disease experts, immunologists, researchers and practicing veterinarians, these guidelines were first released in 2003 and revised with new information in 2006. One of AAHA’s key recommendations is that all dogs are different — and thus vaccine decisions should be made on an individual basis for each dog. Issues to consider include the age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits of the dog. Health threats vary from city to city and even in various sections of cities. You can work with our veterinarian to tailor an immunization program that best protects your dog based on his risk and lifestyle factors.


Is vaccinating my pet a risk to his or her health?
- Vaccination against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the benefits must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines. As is the case with any medical decision, you and our veterinarian should make vaccination decisions after considering your dog’s age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.


What possible risks are associated with vaccination?
- Vaccine reactions, of all types, are infrequent. In general, most vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common, but if untreated can be fatal. These can occur soon after vaccination. If you see such a reaction, please contact our veterinarian as soon as possible. In a small number of patients, vaccines can stimulate the patient’s immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints or nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent but can be life threatening. There is a possible complication of a tumor developing at the vaccination site in a small number of pets, most frequently cats. Please contact our veterinarian for more information.


How do I know which vaccines my pet needs?
- There are two general groups of vaccines to consider: core and noncore vaccines.
- Core vaccines are generally recommended for all dogs and protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are found in all areas of North America and are more easily transmitted than noncore diseases. The AAHA guidelines define the following as core vaccines: distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and rabies. Noncore vaccines are those reserved for patients at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. The AAHA guidelines classify kennel cough, Lyme disease and leptospirosis vaccines within the noncore group.

How often should my dog be vaccinated?
- Make sure that your dog completes the initial series of core vaccines administered at the puppy stage, as well as booster shots at one year of age. Following these one-year boosters, the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines recommend that the distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus core vaccines be administered once every three years. States and municipalities govern how often rabies boosters are administered. Some areas require a rabies booster be administered annually. Others require a three-year-effective rabies booster be given every three years. Still others allow either a one-year or a three-year rabies vaccine to be utilized. Noncore vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination. For example, kennel cough vaccine may need to be administered up to every six months in a dog repeatedly being kenneled or exposed to groups of dogs at grooming salons or dog shows. There is a history of yearly vaccinations boosters, and some veterinarians do not feel it is prudent to change that recommendation just yet. However, the AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines reflect that there is growing support for extended duration of protection. Thus more veterinarians are vaccinating less frequently and more selectively.

Can my veterinarian conduct a test to see if my dog needs to be vaccinated?
- Tests that measure protective antibody levels for diseases are called titers. In recent years reliable titer tests for some diseases such as canine distemper and parvovirus have become more readily available and economical. Veterinarians may recommend using these titer tests in some cases to determine whether or not vaccinations are needed. We can provide you with more information on titer testing.

Vaccinations for Cats

Vaccinations are the most important preventive measure you can take for the health of your pet. Health threats vary from city to city and even in various sections of cities. Therefore, we can tailor an immunization program for your pet based on local conditions. Your dog or cat generally can be immunized for the following diseases: Dogs can be immunized against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, coronavirus, Bordetella, rabies, and Lyme disease. Cats can be immunized against feline panleukopenia (distemper), rabies, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, chlamydia, feline leukemia, and FIP.
In recent years some veterinarians have changed their recommendations regarding the frequency of vaccinations. The following fact sheet provides answers to important questions concerning vaccinations.

My whole life I have been told my pet needed yearly vaccinations. What has changed?
- First you need to know that veterinarians have always acted in what they believed to be the best interest of pets and pet owners. Vaccines against infectious diseases have done much to reduce sickness and death in companion animals.
- The tradition of annual boosters was based on manufacturers’ recommendations and labeling. To date, few studies have been done to prove how long vaccines are effective. In addition, veterinarians found vaccination to be a safe procedure that was generally free of side effects and risk.
- Recently, there has been a growing degree of evidence indicating protection from vaccination is longer lasting than previously believed. In addition, there is increased awareness and concern that vaccination is not as harmless a procedure as once thought. This awareness and concern have led to a growing number of authorities (such as infectious disease experts, immunologists, and researchers) as well as practitioners who recommend reduced frequency of vaccinations while at the same time tailoring vaccine recommendations to specific risk situations.

Is vaccinating my pet a risk to his or her health?
- Vaccination against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the advantages must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines.
- As is the case with any medical decision, you and our veterinarian should make vaccination decisions after considering your pet’s age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.

What possible risks are associated with vaccination?
- Again, severe reactions are uncommon, but any needless risk is unacceptable. In general, vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common, but if untreated can be fatal.
- In a small number of patients, vaccines can stimulate the patient’s immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, the skin, the joints, or the nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent.
- In a tiny percentage of cats, there has been an increase in a particular form of tumor that is strongly associated with vaccine administration. The reported incidence of this side effect is one in 10,000. Researchers are currently studying this phenomenon to learn what causes the problem so that vaccines can be redesigned to avoid this unacceptable side effect. Meanwhile, reducing risk by reducing the number of unnecessary vaccines given to cats is the safest option.