Understanding Rabies and Vaccines
When most people consider their pets, they wish to do everything they can to ensure that their pet lives a long life while remaining happy and healthy. Vaccines are an important part of that, so let’s try to improve our understanding of rabies and vaccines.
Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect your pet from many illnesses and can help them to live a longer, healthier life. Just as there are many diseases that can pose a threat to your pet, there are different types and combinations of vaccines that can help protect them.
Vaccination comes with many benefits, but also some risks that you should be aware of. As always, your veterinarian is the one who is best able to determine what is appropriate for your pet. By evaluating your pet’s health and lifestyle, your vet will find the best vaccination regime for their safety and protection.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines are designed to help your pet’s immune system fight off disease-causing organisms. They contain antigens which stimulate the body’s immune system by resembling disease-causing organisms, while not actually causing the diseases. As a result, if your pet does encounter the real disease, their immune system is capable of recognizing it and better able to either completely eradicate it or at least reduce its severity.
Although there are many types of vaccines, not all are necessary for every pet. Your vet will consider the pet’s medical history, age, environment, and lifestyle to determine which ones are appropriate. Most vets will start by suggesting the core vaccines for healthy pets.
What Are Core Vaccines?
Certain vaccines are considered especially important. This can be due to risk of exposure, the severity of the disease, or the possibility of transmission to humans.
The core vaccines for dogs are canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis, distemper, and rabies. Other, non-core vaccines may be recommended due to exposure risk. Non-core vaccines include those for Borrelia burgdorferi, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and Leptospira bacteria.
Core vaccines for cats are feline distemper (panleukopenia), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies. Non-core vaccines include vaccines for feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, Chlamydophila felis, and Bordetella. As with dogs, the decision to administer these vaccines is based on lifestyle and risk.
Vaccines: What and When?
Your vet will determine not only the necessary types of vaccine, but also the most appropriate vaccination schedule, based on the pet’s age, history, and lifestyle.
Puppies with a healthy mother generally receive antibodies in mother’s milk when they nurse. A series of vaccinations should begin at about six to eight weeks of age. A maximum of three vaccinations will be given at three- to four-week intervals. At 16 weeks, the puppy should be receiving their final dose.
Upon reaching adulthood, dogs may receive certain vaccines annually, with others are administered every three years, or even less frequently.
Kittens also receive antibodies through mother’s milk, provided their mother has a healthy immune system. At six to eight weeks of age, your vet can start a series of vaccinations at three- or four-week intervals, with the final dose at 16 weeks of age.
Adult cats may be vaccinated annually or every three years, depending on the vaccine.
Vaccines and the Law
Check your local laws regarding vaccines. In some areas, yearly vaccines are mandatory, while in others, every three years may be the norm. Proof of vaccination against rabies is almost always required by law. Why?
The number of deaths attributed to rabies in North America has been steadily declining for decades due to vaccination, and it is now extremely rare. Given that exposure to rabies is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical symptoms, this is a trend that needs to be continued. Vaccinating your pet against rabies is extremely important.
While vaccines are an important part of maintaining your pet’s health, they are not completely without risk. Vaccines stimulate your pet’s immune system, and they may experience mild symptoms such as soreness at the site of injection, fever, or allergic reaction.
In some cases, other, less common side effects may result. Some of the side effect of vaccines that you can watch for include:
- Facial swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Pain, redness, swelling or hair loss surrounding the injection site
- Lameness or collapse
- Difficulty breathing
When scheduling your pet’s vaccination, do it at a time that allows you to monitor them for side effects. If you suspect that your pet may be experiencing a reaction to their vaccine, consult your vet immediately.
While the risk of side effects may sound scary, it’s worth noting that most pets show no ill effect from vaccination, and the risk of side effects are generally much lower than those of the actual disease. It remains important to seek vaccination, but consultation with your vet is important before proceeding.
Island Vet Hospital
Contact us to learn more about rabies and vaccinations.