This Just In – Vaccines Aren’t Going to Kill You (or your pet…)

This Just In – Vaccines Aren’t Going to Kill You (or your pet…)


In recent years, using the word “vaccine” can be akin to uttering a 4-letter word in some circles. What was once a miracle of modern science (No more smallpox? Yes, please!) has come under intense scrutiny, primarily by concerned parents and now concerned pet parents.   There has been increasing concern about vaccines and their potentially harmful side effects.  While countless studies have proven that today’s vaccines are safer and more effective than their previous counterparts, skepticism still looms.  Below is an attempt to dispel myths, discuss the benefits of vaccination in healthy pets, and which vaccines we recommend for your pet and why.

Why do puppies and kittens require so many vaccines? Is it overkill?

                Like human babies, puppies and kittens are not born with a mature immune system.  Nursing from mom transfers mom’s antibodies to provide passive immunity to protect newborns through the first few weeks of life.  As early as 6 weeks, but as late as 12 weeks, mom’s antibodies wear off.  If a puppy or kitten’s immune system is not challenged during this time frame, they are vulnerable to disease.  Vaccination and boosters are important to help their immune system mature and provide active immunity.  Think of it as the immune system hitting the gym.  Because of how the immune system works and because individual puppies and kittens vary in the age when mom’s antibodies wear off, several boosters are required to make sure vaccinations given provide adequate protection.


Core Vaccines

                The first group of vaccines in veterinary medicine are called core vaccines.  These vaccines are recommended for all animals healthy enough to receive them regardless of lifestyle.  The reasons can range from public health concerns (as is the case for Rabies) to preventing canine and feline diseases that can cause severe clinical signs or even death.  For dogs, core vaccines include Rabies and the DA2PP combo vaccine.  For cats, core vaccines include Rabies and the FVRCP combo vaccine.


Noncore Vaccines

                Because lifestyles vary from pet to pet, some pets may be in environments that put them at higher risk of being exposed to diseases than other pets.  This is why there are sometimes “lifestyle” vaccines that veterinarians will recommend for some pets and not others.  Having a conversation with your veterinarian about your dog or cat’s lifestyle is the best way to determine what noncore vaccines he or she may need.


Herd Immunity

                No, we’re not turning this into a blog about farm animals.  In practical terms, herd immunity means if enough healthy individuals are immune to a disease through vaccination, there will be less disease overall “available” to spread to other individuals who may not be healthy enough to be vaccinated.  For example, if every healthy dog were vaccinated against Bordetella (the bacteria that causes kennel cough), less dogs would become sick with Bordetella and, therefore, there would be less Bordetella bacteria to spread to other dogs.  Just as in human medicine, there are some dogs and cats who are not healthy enough to receive vaccines (for example, due to chemotherapy, an underlying immune disorder, or other illness).  Because of this, when you vaccinate your healthy dog or cat, you’re not only keeping him/her healthy, you’re also keeping the general dog/cat population healthy.  Think of it as your dog or cat being a crime (or, disease) fighting superhero.  In my book, that deserves a hearty pat on the back (and/or scratch behind the ears)!


                It’s always hard to sift through all the information floating around online about vaccines. While we know that preventing disease is always better than treating it, we understand that many people still have questions.  We encourage all of our clients to have open and honest discussions about any questions or concerns they have about vaccines to make sure we are all doing our best to keep every cat and dog as healthy as possible.  After all, the world could use all the furry superheroes it can get!  

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