Many people are unsure about what vaccines are, how they can benefit us, and what may be required before or after a vaccination.
Here are a few of the questions we get…
What are vaccines?
In simple terms, vaccines are injections of an inactivated part of a virus or bacteria, given to an animal so that if he or she is exposed to the actual bacteria or virus, his or her immune system will already be prepared to fight off the infection and prevent illness.
At what age do I need to bring my new puppy or kitten to the clinic to get its first set of shots?
We recommend bringing your new pup or kitten in at six weeks of age for a thorough exam to check for any congenital abnormalities or other problems that may exist. At that time we will give the first set of vaccines, perform a check of the feces for intestinal parasites, give a routine dewormer for roundworms and hookworms, and start heartworm prevention. In cats, we will also want to test for the presence of feline leukemia virus and feline AIDS virus prior to the first vaccination.
What vaccines will be recommended for my pet?
In dogs, rabies and DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza) are core vaccines and recommended in every dog (rabies vaccine is required by law). Bordetella vaccine (kennel cough) and canine influenza (dog flu) are recommended in all dogs that will be in a boarding or grooming setting, or have contact with other dogs. Leptospirosis vaccine is recommended in most dogs unless they are strictly indoors or toy breeds.
In cats, rabies and FVRCP (feline distemper, calicivirus, and panleukopenia) are core vaccines and recommended in every cat (rabies vaccine is required by law). Feline leukemia vaccine is recommended for cats at risk of contracting the virus (cats that go outdoors, roam, or live with multiple other cats).
Why is an exam required before my pet can get his/her vaccines?
Vaccines should only be given to healthy animals. If vaccines are given to sick animals, the vaccine a) may not be as effective, and b) may cause the pet's immune system to weaken, making the pre-existing illness worse. An examination allows the doctor to identify any illness that may interfere with the effectiveness or safety of a vaccine. It also allows the doctor to check on your pet's overall health at least once a year and catch any problems or illnesses in their early stages.
How often do I have to bring my pup or kitten in for an exam and vaccines?
A puppy or kitten's immune system is different than an adult’s, so frequent boosters are required to provide adequate protection against these common diseases. We recommend vaccine boosters at 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks. The pup or kitten should not be exposed to other animals (pet park, obedience classes, etc.) until all four boosters have been given.
How often are vaccines necessary in adult dogs and cats?
Each animal's potential for exposure to infectious diseases is different. Therefore, the veterinarian will decide the best plan for vaccinating your pet on a case-by-case basis. In general, adult dogs and cats do not require vaccines as often as a pup or kitten. Until recently, the standard of care was to administer all vaccines on an annual basis. However, recent studies have shown that some vaccines last much longer than one year in adult animals. Generally, all vaccines are administered at least once every three years. At Lakeside Animal Clinic, we follow the recommendations of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). The City of Houston and Harris County have both recently adopted protocol to allow Rabies vaccination every three years, with certain conditions.
Can you explain the new Three-Year Rabies vaccine protocol?
If your adult dog is vaccinated for rabies and then given a booster within 365 days, the next booster will not be necessary until three years later. The City of Houston and Harris County are both very strict on the 365-day rule. If your dog is even one day late in getting the rabies booster, he or she will have to be given another booster within one year.
Is the rabies vaccine protocol different for cats?
Yes. At Lakeside Animal Clinic, we use a different Rabies vaccine in cats. This vaccine, called Purevax, is safer for cats because it doesn't have an adjuvant (an additive that increases the effectiveness of the vaccine, but which has been found to potentially cause tumors at the injection site in cats). The downside of this vaccine is that it is currently only labeled for once-yearly administration because, without this adjuvant, it does not protect the cat as long. Thus, we currently vaccinate cats yearly for rabies.
Can vaccines cause my pet to have a reaction?
The vaccines that we administer to your pet are very safe. However, in rare instances, they can cause a reaction in your pet. These reactions can vary from mild to severe and potentially fatal. Small breed dogs are more likely to have a vaccine reaction than large breed dogs. Since reactions to vaccines are very uncommon, the risk of exposure to the potentially serious illnesses the vaccine is designed to protect against far outweigh the slight risk of a serious reaction. You should monitor your pet closely in the hours and days following the vaccination, and immediately report to us any fever, facial or limb swelling, vomiting, hives, or any other symptoms your pet is exhibiting.