I've always been told that my pet needs to be vaccinated annually. What has changed?
In the past, the annual vaccines protocol was based on the vaccine manufacturers' recommendations. The technology used to produce vaccines has improved, and growing evidence shows that the vaccines protect pets longer than previously believed. In addition, there has been increasing concern that vaccination is not as harmless as was once thought.
Based on this new information, a growing number of authorities (including infectious-disease experts, immunologists, researchers, and veterinarians) recommend reducing the frequency of vaccination and tailoring vaccine recommendations to each pet. We will create a vaccination program for your pet that is based on your geographical region and your pet's lifestyle and potential exposure to disease.
What are the possible risks associated with vaccination?
Vaccinations, like any medical procedure, do have some risk associated with it. Severe reactions although uncommon are possible, and, in general, reactions and side effects (such as pain and swelling at the site of injection) are only temporary. Allergic reactions are less common but can be fatal if left untreated. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice swelling in the pet's neck or face after a vaccine has been administered.
In a very small percentage of cats, there has been an increase in a particular form of cancer that may be associated with the administration of a vaccine. The reported incidence of this side effect is 1 in 10,000 cats. Research related to this issue has led to a number of positive changes in vaccines, and study continues on this topic.
As is the case with any medical decision, you and your veterinarian should make decisions about vaccination after considering your pet's age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious disease.
How often should my pet be vaccinated?
Puppies and kittens receive an initial series of vaccines during their first 16 weeks of life. After the initial series, your veterinarian will recommend a vaccination protocol for your pet. No set vaccination frequency is right for every pet. Yearly vaccine boosters have a history of success, and some veterinarians do not feel it is prudent to change the annual booster recommendation just yet. On the other hand, a growing number of veterinarians are vaccinating less frequently and more selectively.
Vaccine protocol at Nucci Veterinary Clinic
We currently recommend vaccinating most dogs at 1 year with a 3 year rabies plus or minus a distemper - parvo booster vaccine and thereafter giving a monovalent vaccine each year; ie a parvo vaccine 1 year, followed by a distemper vaccine the following year, and a rabies vaccine in the third year. Studies have shown that these monovalent vaccines will cut the number of vaccine reactions approximately 75% of those seen with multivalent vaccinations.
Some breeds may be vaccinated with a different protocol and some vaccines such as Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, Lymes, etc may have to be given yearly.
Is there a test that determines whether or not my pet needs to be vaccinated?
Veterinarians can test a pet's antibody levels yearly and vaccinate only when the "protection" or antibody levels drop below a certain limit. Tests for antibodies are available for some, but not all, diseases. They may not be reliable indicators of protection against disease, though, because there may not be a strong correlation between the results of an antibody test and the immunity to a particular disease in an individual pet. Discuss the pros and cons of using antibody titers with your veterinarian.