By the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association
As a pet owner, one of your most important responsibilities is getting your pet vaccinated. If you follow the recommendations of your veterinarian and keep your pet up to date on his vaccinations, you can help keep your pet healthy.
A vaccination triggers protective immune responses and prepares your petâ€™s immune system to fight off diseases when exposed. Vaccines are designed to either completely prevent future infection of a disease or to lessen the severity of a disease. Many vaccines are administered to pets via injection with syringe and needle, while others are administered into the animalâ€™s nose or on the skin (transdermally).
All pets should receive vaccinations. Your veterinarian will discuss with you the recommended vaccinations for your pet. When you ensure that your pet is up to date on his vaccinations, you are protecting him from potentially life-threatening illnesses and preventing the spread of serious diseases. If you leave your pet unvaccinated, you are risking serious illness and death as well as costly and potentially ineffective treatment methods. To prevent hazards to your family (such as rabies) and your furry friend, all it takes is ensuring your pet is up to date on his immunizations.Do vaccinations ensure protection?
In most cases, vaccinations prevent infectious diseases. In rare instances, your pet may have an adverse reaction or not develop adequate immunity. Keep in mind that these adverse reactions are rare and that most appropriately vaccinated pets are able to fight off infectious diseases.What are the risks?
While most pets respond well to vaccines, some side effects may occur, including sluggishness, fever and reduced appetite. However, the risks outweigh the benefits, because you are taking action to protect your pet from potentially deadly diseases.
In rare cases, severe reactions may occur. An allergic reaction to the vaccine can show up minutes to hours after the immunization is administered. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, swelling of the face or legs, itching, collapse or difficulty with breathing. Death may occur in very rare cases. Another very rare but serious condition called sarcomas (injection site tumors) may occur in cats weeks or months after the injection. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities after your pet is vaccinated.Why do young pets require a series of vaccinations?
Young puppies and kittens are highly susceptible to disease because they do not have fully developed immune systems. When they are nursing, a motherâ€™s milk provides some antibodies, but these antibodies do not last long. There may be gaps in protection once these antibodies wear off, so it is crucial that you establish a vaccination program with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to determine your petâ€™s individual risk factors.
A series of vaccinations will be scheduled, typically three to four weeks apart. To ensure that your puppy or kitten has complete protection, all vaccinations in a series should be administered according to schedule.Which vaccinations and how often?
Not all pets need to be vaccinated with all available vaccines. â€œCoreâ€ vaccinations are those recommended for all pets in a specific geographic location based on the diseases that are most common in that area. â€œNon-coreâ€ vaccinations include those reserved for pets with specific needs. Your veterinarian will be able to determine which vaccinations are appropriate based on your petâ€™s individual needs as well has how often these vaccinations should be scheduled.