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A Primer on Pet Vaccines, Part One

cat health dog health pet health


Vaccinations are a hot topic, and the conversation isn’t going away any time soon. People are concerned about the necessity of vaccinations for children, for adults, and for those who travel. The core of these discussions is whether there is more risk posed by the disease or by the vaccine. This conversation has also crossed into the world of pet vaccines. Here are some of the need-to-know basics regarding pet vaccines. This series provides important details, gives clarity regarding common misconceptions, and takes a look at some real numbers. Then make the decision for yourself and your family.

Pet Vaccine Basics

A Primer on Pet Vaccines, Part One | Vet OrganicsBefore we can dive into the specific concerns, we need a quick primer about pet vaccines. Vaccines for humans and pets prepare the body’s immune system to fight particular diseases. They contain antigens, which are essentially disease look-alikes that help the body to recognize the disease in the future, which allows the body to fight it off. It’s sort of like a dress rehearsal. Not everything will look or be exactly like opening night, but the dress rehearsal allows everyone to see what it will be like, identify and practice weak lines, and do a final run-through with props and costumes to make sure they are as prepared as possible for the big opening night. Once the body’s immune system has been prepared with this disease dress rehearsal by the vaccine, the body’s immune system will now be prepared to recognize and fight the illness, or at least reduce the severity of the disease, ongoing.

Vaccines are necessary, and they prevent incredibly painful deadly diseases. That being said, not every cat- or canine-companion needs to be vaccinated against every disease. There are factors that come into consideration such as, age, environment, geographic region, medical history, and lifestyle. For this reason, there are core vaccines that are required to ensure the health of our fur-babies. And there are recommended vaccines that may or may not be right our pets. The discussion about which vaccines are best for each family should be discussed with a trusted veterinarian.

Examples of Core and Recommended Vaccines

Core vaccines are considered vital to the health and well-being of our fur-babies and the community. Examples include:

  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Hepatitis
  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)
  • Feline Calicivirus
  • Feline Herpesvirus type I (Rhinotracheitis)
  • Rabies for cats and dogs

Vaccinations that do not fall into the core vaccine category, but may be recommended by a vet are considered based on risk factors. Examples of vaccines that may be recommended:

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica (canine)
  • Borrelia Burgdorferi (canine)
  • Leptospira Bacteria (canine)
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (feline)
  • Bordetella (feline)
  • Chlamydophila Felis (feline)
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (feline)

The Vaccination Schedule

A Primer on Pet Vaccines, Part One | Vet OrganicsA trusted veterinarian will have recommendations for the best vaccination schedule, which is the frequency and timing of the shots. Puppies and kittens will get antibodies from their mother’s milk, so if they aren’t weaned too early, vaccinations won’t begin their series until six to eight weeks, administered in three- to four-week intervals. As adults, they may get boosters. For example, the Rabies vaccine falls within the core category and is required by law in most states. This may be administered every year or every three years to keep our fur-babies and communities safe. By checking local laws and consulting our trusted vet, we may be able to request the 3-year rabies vaccine to limit the number of vaccines administered. Another example is Leptospirosis. This one is given every year, but it’s dependent upon the region we live in and whether our pup is at risk.

People have a lot of questions about vaccination risks and safety. Some of this is because people who don’t understand vaccines bash all of them instead of the ones creating the problems. It’s also because there are legitimate concerns about the few vaccines that do create statistically relevant health risks. In Part Two, we take a look at reactions, health risks, and real concerns versus misconceptions.

Michelle Lievense

Michelle is a writer and ghostwriter, specializing in wellness, sustainability, and global social change. She is particularly fond of serving ethical organizations who contribute to a better life for people and animals through humane and environmentally responsible missions. At Vet Organics, Michelle uses her time as a vet tech, her academic studies in animal science and behavior, and nearly a decade working on a ranch teaching animal husbandry to write on a variety of cat and canine health topics. When she isn't writing, Michelle can be found hiking in the mountains of Colorado with her dogs or snuggled up with a good book and her cats.

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