Immunization Series Part 1

06 Jul Immunization Series Part 1

August is Immunization Awareness Month, and to celebrate we would like to introduce the first blog in a four-part series providing more detail about immunizations for your pets. The series will begin with this introduction, followed by blogs with further details about how vaccines work and why immunizations are important for your pets, what vaccinations your dog or cat needs, and finally the benefits and risks of immunizations. Read further to learn more about why vaccinating your pets is an important part of their wellness!

What are vaccines?

  • Vaccines are a biological preparation designed to stimulate the immune system to prepare the body for future exposures to a specific disease.
  • If a vaccinated animal is exposed to the disease, the body will already have antibodies ready to fight off or even prevent the disease from infecting the body further.

Why does my pet need vaccines?

  • Routine vaccination is the best way to protect your pet from highly infectious and deadly diseases.
  • It may seem like the risk of disease is low and unlikely, but being immunized is the best way to protect your pet in the case of an outbreak or exposure to disease.
  • If your pet was exposed to a disease, you may not recognize it until they are very sick. Some infected animals may not show symptoms until long after infection.
  • Many wild animals carry disease that can easily transmit to your pet through feces and urine found in the environment.
  • While some diseases that we vaccinate our pets against are treatable, such treatments can be quite expensive. Vaccinating your pet is ultimately a healthier and more cost-effective option.
  • Some diseases are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread from animals to people. Vaccinating your pets will better protect you and your family from exposure to zoonotic diseases like rabies and leptospirosis.

Are vaccines worth the risk? What side effects are there?

  • Yes, the health and safety of your pet greatly outweigh the risks associated with vaccinating.
  • Most pets have no negative reaction to vaccines.
  • FEW pets have mild, short-term negative reactions like local swelling at the injection site, decreased general activity, decreased appetite, or mild fever.
  • VERY few have serious life-threatening reactions which are called an anaphylactic reaction.
  • Your pet is often at a greater risk of disease while being unvaccinated versus  the minimal risk of immunization.
  • Your veterinarian will share the signs and symptoms of a vaccine reaction to watch for just to be safe!

What immunizations are recommended for my pet?

  • Vaccines are split up into two categories “Core” and “Non-Core”
    • Core vaccines are recommended for all pets, based on the severity of the disease and where they live. Core vaccines are considered the essential vaccines necessary for your pet’s wellness.
    • Non-Core vaccines may also be recommended, but vary depending on lifestyle, travel, your pet’s environment, and potential contact with other animals.
  • Your veterinarian will complete a full history assessment of your pet and then make the appropriate immunization recommendations best for your pet’s health.
  • Some vaccines, like the rabies vaccine, are required by law in most states. Indiana DOES require all dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed and accredited veterinarian before the age of 6 months. Rabies vaccine boosters must also be completed and kept up-to-date to meet Indiana law. Your veterinarian will determine an appropriate vaccine and booster schedule to comply with these laws.

Immunizations provide the best means to reduce your pet’s risk of developing a disease which may lead to very serious medical problem or even death. Your veterinarian is most knowledgeable to consider all information about your pet to provide the safest immunization plan. The purpose of immunizations is to protect both you and your pet!