National Immunization Awareness Month : Why Vaccinations Are Important For Pets

By Dr. Janet Weistock, Veterinarian

Why are vaccinations important to your pet?

Plain and simple, they protect them from diseases that can be harmful to your pets, some of the diseases can even be fatal. Prevention of disease is better, safer and cheaper than treating the disease or symptoms, or worse, losing your beloved pet.

Why does my pet need more than one booster of the same vaccine?

Most vaccines when started (or if no history available on the pet) require a booster 2-4 weeks apart to make sure the pet builds an adequate immune response to protect them if they were to be exposed to those infections. After the initial series, vaccinations are then given annually or in the case of Rabies, DHPP in dogs and FVRCP in cats every 3 years.

Why do veterinarians sometimes split up vaccinations?

We often split up vaccines when first starting them to make sure patients develop an adequate immune response to each vaccine given.  Sometimes as adult dogs, vaccines are still split up, especially in smaller dogs to prevent vaccine reactions and also to make sure your pet builds an adequate response to each vaccine given.

What are possible vaccine reactions that my pet may have?

Vaccine reactions although rare, can occur. 

Transient / non-specific signs which do not often require medical treatment include pain or slight discomfort, mild fever, and mild lethargy.  These signs can occur within minutes and last up to 48 hours. If symptoms are lasting longer or more severe, then it is recommended to contact your veterinarian. 

Moderate reactions can include hives, facial swelling, injection site swelling, vomiting and/or diarrhea.  If these occur, again usually minutes to hours after vaccination, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

Severe reactions, although rare, can occur. These symptoms can be anaphylaxis, shock, or immune mediated anemia.  These patients need hospitalization and medical treatment immediately.  These animals are often not vaccinated again.

Whether mild, moderate or severe reactions, be sure to notify your current or any new veterinarians that see your pet of prior reactions and what type of reaction so they can document in your pet’s record and determine whether to pre-treat them with an antihistamine before getting that vaccine in the future or whether your pet would not get that vaccine in the future.

If you have any doubt or concerns, always contact / communicate with your veterinarian as we are all here to keep your pets healthy.

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