5 reasons to vaccinate your pet:
1. Vaccinations prevent many pet illnesses.
2. Vaccinations can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented.
3. Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be passed between animals and also from animals to people.
4. Diseases prevalent in wildlife, such as rabies and distemper, can infect unvaccinated pets.
5. In many areas, local or state ordinances require certain vaccinations of household pets
Why do puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations?
Very young animals are highly susceptible to infectious disease because their immune system is not yet fully mature. They receive protection through antibodies in their mother’s milk, but the protection is not long-lasting and there may be gaps in protection as the milk antibodies decrease and their immune system is still maturing. Maternal antibodies can also interfere with a puppy’s or kitten’s vaccine response, so a series of vaccines is typically recommended to ensure that the puppy or kitten receives a vaccine as early as possible after maternal antibodies subside.
In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the animal’s immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help further stimulate the immune system to produce the important antibodies needed for long-term protection.
Finish the series
An incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, making puppies and kittens vulnerable to infection.
To provide optimal protection against disease in the first few months of life, a series of vaccinations are scheduled, usually 3-4 weeks apart. For most puppies and kittens, the final vaccination in the series is administered at about 4 months of age; however, a veterinarian may alter the schedule based on an individual animal’s risk factors.
Which vaccinations should my pet receive?
“Core” vaccines are recommended for most pets in a particular area or geographical location because they protect from diseases most common in that area. “Non-core” vaccinations are for individual pets with unique needs. Your veterinarian will consider your pet’s risk of exposure to a variety of preventable diseases in order to customize a vaccination program for optimal protection throughout your pet’s life.
Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle, including any expected travel to other geographical locations and/or contact with other pets or wild animals, since these factors impact your pet’s risk of exposure to certain diseases.
How often will my pet need to be vaccinated?
Many vaccinations provide adequate immunity when administered every few years, while others require more frequent schedules to maintain an acceptable level of immunity that will continually protect your pet. Your veterinarian will determine a vaccination schedule that’s appropriate for your pet.
Do vaccinations have side effects?
It is common for pets to experience some or all of the following mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. If these side effects last for more than a day or two or cause your pet significant discomfort, it is important for you to contact your veterinarian:
- Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
- Mild fever
- Decreased appetite and activity
More serious, but less common side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur within minutes to hours after vaccination. Contact your veterinarian if any of these symptoms occur:
- Itchy skin that may seem bumpy (“hives”)
- Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
- A small, firm swelling under the skin may develop at the site of a recent vaccination. It should start to disappear within a couple of weeks. If it persists more than three weeks or seems to be getting larger, you should contact your veterinarian.
Always inform your veterinarian if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication. If in doubt, wait for 30-60 minutes following vaccination before taking your pet home.