2011-06-17 / Columnists

Paws For A Moment

Shots, Shots & More Shots!
Commentary by Karina B. Salvo, MS, DVM, Belle Harbor House Calls

I have received many questions about vaccines; Which ones should my pet have? Does he need all of them at once? Every year?

Put your seat belts on … here we go!

Today there are many vaccines available on the market. Vaccines are given to our pets to facilitate a stronger immune system so that in the event of contagious disease exposure, our pets have a lessened severity of disease or infection is even prevented. Vaccines are divided into two groups, core and noncore. Core, meaning vaccines recommended for most pets by the American Veterinary Medical Association, versus vaccines that are given to specific pets due to those pets’ specific lifestyle (noncore).

Choices! Choices!

Ok, not that we have a menu that you can pick and choose which vaccines …

How many shots or vaccines does your pet need? All of them? No. Half of them? Probably not …

There are many vaccines available, but not every pet needs every vaccine! Why? Each dog lives a different lifestyle. For instance, the cushy couch potato pooch versus the rugged Labrador that goes for a run on the beach, through the trees, frequents his other dog friends at the park … both come in contact with different exposures in their life. Same with our feline friends …some like to go outside and others prefer to jump where they aren’t supposed to be (usually a table or counter) and watch the world outside through the window … again, different exposures. So each pet’s lifestyle should always be taken into account when determining which vaccines are best for that specific pet.

Vaccines each and every year?

Well … there are some veterinarians that have done titers in the past. Titers measure where your pet’s immune system “is” in relation to immunity. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association there is no established confirmation that a low titer makes a pet less vulnerable or a high titer confirms a pet to have better immunity against disease. So what do we do? We base our vaccine schedule on our pet’s lifestyle and need for specific vaccines. Today there are various vaccines that are formulated as a single year vaccine and others as a three year vaccine. This means that some vaccines are to be given once a year as others are every three years. The rabies vaccine is one of them! Currently, the rabies vaccine is the only vaccine required by law. Thankfully the New York State Department of Heath accepts the three year vaccination schedule ... so we don’t have to give that rabies vaccine each and every year!

Let’s talk numbers!

How many vaccines should our pets receive at one time? That depends …on age, breed, size, stress and past reactions. Yes, vaccines can cause allergic reactions, but it occurs infrequently and the chance of a reaction decreases by separating the vaccines out over multiple visits.

This means that the vaccines that have been determined to be best for that specific pet are not all given at the same visit. Age is a concern as younger pets may not have ever had vaccines before and their response to them is not yet known. Some breeds are more susceptible to allergic reactions to specific vaccines. Smaller pets can also be more at risk for having a reaction if multiple vaccines are given at once. Stress effects all of us, there is nothing that can replace gentleness and bedside manner … administering multiple vaccines can lead to increased pain or discomfort in the days that follow, reducing overall stress, fear, discomfort and providing the best in care should be our number one priority in veterinary medicine ... one of the most important factors of veterinary medicine.

We want our pets protected as best we can! Vaccines are only one avenue of protection. Over vaccination is not the answer. Acknowledging that each pet has a different lifestyle with different exposure risks, spacing out vaccine administration for each pet and minimizing stress should always be the determinate of which vaccines we administer, when and how often.

I welcome questions, comments and suggestions for this column and future column ideas of interest.

Please email me at BelleHarborVet@gmail.com. Visit me at www.BelleHarborHouseCalls.com.

Find me on Facebook or call me at 718-945-2358.

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