Vaccines are a hot topic in the U.S. these days, and we get a lot of questions about which vaccines are necessary, if they are safe, and if pets can skip them altogether. We’ve broken down some of this important information, so our clients can stay more informed, and make the best decisions for their pets. Here’s what pet owners need to know about vaccines:

Some vaccines are absolutely mandatory

No matter where you live in the U.S., you simply can’t—and shouldn’t—avoid certain vaccines. The rabies vaccine is required by law in all 50 states for all dogs and cats by age 4, for good reason—rabies causes a debilitating neurologic disease in both humans and animals, and no reliable treatment is available. Remember, not only is the initial vaccination mandatory, but pet owners also must keep up with boosters. Depending on your pet’s age, condition, and vaccine type they receive, boosters may be required every one to three years. Additionally, while not required by law, many boarding, daycare, and training facilities are requiring Bordetella and/or canine influenza vaccines for entry. Contact our veterinary team and your pet’s accommodation facility to see what immunizations they may need. 

Not every pet needs every vaccine

In human medicine, the recommended vaccines don’t change much from person to person. Healthcare workers and those working in veterinary medicine may require additional immunizations but, for the most part, the guidelines are fairly consistent. For pets, we split vaccines into two categories: core and non-core. While core vaccines are typically administered to all pets regardless of age or lifestyle, non-core vaccines are recommended only for pets who are particularly susceptible to certain diseases. For instance, all dogs should receive timely vaccines for distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus, but not every dog needs the rattlesnake or Lyme vaccine. Our veterinary team will work with you to determine what is best for your individual pet. 

“Indoor” pets should be immunized

Your pet may not accompany you to the park or the office, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk for certain diseases. If you have multiple pets at home, some of whom venture outside, your more introverted furry friends may still be exposed to harmful pathogens. Additionally, if your pet spends most of their time lounging by the window, but sneaks in a few naps on the patio, they’re spending more time outdoors than you think. Be transparent with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle and habits, so we can best protect them. 

Boosters aren’t only for puppies and kittens

It’s true—those initial puppy and kitten vaccines are absolutely essential for establishing an adequate immune response to detrimental infectious diseases. But, it doesn’t stop there. Many pet owners forget that re-immunizations are often necessary to maintain proper immunity to diseases like rabies, feline herpesvirus, canine parvovirus, and others as pets age. In fact, according to an American Veterinary Medical Association 2016 study, only 47.2% of cat owners brought their pets in for veterinary care, including vaccinations. While antibody and titer testing are available for certain diseases, they aren’t 100% reliable, and boosters are often recommended anyway. 

There are no vaccine “dosages”

It may seem counterintuitive that a 5-pound Chihuahua receives the same amount of vaccine (usually 1mL) as a 100-pound Great Dane. A vaccine undergoes extensive clinical trials before being distributed and made available for the pet population, to ensure not only its safety but also its effectiveness. This includes testing different doses in various sizes and breeds of the intended species. Simply put, your pet’s vaccines have been deemed safe and effective at a particular dose—not more, not less. Altering that dose could threaten your pet’s immunity toward the disease the vaccine is given for protection. And, since vaccine reactions are rare, why put your pet at risk?

Life-threatening vaccine reactions are rare

Dogs and cats commonly have mild signs, such as mild fever, upset stomach, pain, or slight swelling at the injection site, in the hours after a vaccination. Serious, anaphylactic reactions are exceptionally rare, but possible, and you should always monitor your pet closely after they receive any vaccines for signs like vomiting, diarrhea, hives, facial or periocular swelling, intense itching, difficulty breathing, or collapse. If your pet experiences any of these signs, contact WesVet right away, or head to your nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency clinic for immediate care. 

If you have questions or concerns about vaccinating your pet, contact WesVet, or set up a consultation with our team.