A vaccine is designed to trigger an immune response within the pet's immune system to help the body to recognize and appropriately respond to future infections caused by disease. Vaccines can both lessen the effect of and prevent potential disease. Vaccination is extremely important as it protects pets from highly contagious diseases they can get through simple contact with other dogs or from the environment, especially in high traffic areas such as dog parks, dog beaches, and grooming facilities. These diseases can be very costly to treat and can be fatal. Some of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they also pose a risk to you and your family as they can be spread from animals to humans.
Recommended vaccinations include "core" and "non-core" vaccines. Our "core" vaccines for dogs include the Rabies vaccine, DAP or distemper-adenovirus-parvo vaccine, and the Bordetella vaccine based on the area we live in and the potential risk factors within our environment. For cats, the "core" vaccines vary for indoor and outdoor cats. Indoor cats we recommend the FVRCP or feline distemper vaccine. For outdoor cats, we recommend Rabies vaccine, FVRCP or feline distemper vaccine, and FELV or feline leukemia vaccine. The FELV vaccine requires testing before administration to ensure the cat is not positive as vaccinating an affected pet can be harmful and potentially fatal.
Vaccination like any other medical treatment does carry risk. Potential allergic reactions can occur and will appear within minutes or hours of vaccinating. Signs of allergic reactions include vomiting or diarrhea, whole body itching, swelling of the face or legs, difficulty breathing, or collapse. To monitor for and prevent allergic reactions, we recommend giving vaccines 3-4 weeks apart especially in small pets. As pets get older, the risks vaccines carry can increase and aggravate underlying health conditions or cause potential health issues due to the effects of aging on the immune system. We recommend switching to vaccine titers after ten years of age if not before. This age can vary on a case to case basis if recommended by our veterinarians.
A vaccine titer is a blood test performed to assess the level of antibody present within the blood and determine if additional vaccination is needed. Antibodies become present in the blood either upon exposure to a disease causing organism such as a virus or from the vaccine. An adequate vaccine titer does not guarantee protection against the disease and the veterinarian will help to determine the risk of the disease to ensure there is adequate protection if needed. A titer can help reduce the potential risk factors of vaccinating senior pets and can be a great tool in maintaining the health of your pet.