Annual and semi-annual vaccines are the key to a pet’s health. Vaccines keep your pet safe from many dangerous viruses and diseases.
What are Vaccines?
Vaccines are health products that trigger protective immune responses (defense cells in the body) in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease causing agents, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Vaccines can lower the severity of future diseases and certain vaccines can even prevent infection altogether. Nowadays, a variety of vaccines are available for use by veterinarians.
Principles of Vaccination
- The goal for a vaccination program is to prevent disease and thereby promote the pet’s health and/or public health
- Vaccination protects a population of animals by providing a level of resistance to disease in those individual patients that are able to respond
- Disease carriers, including animals that continue to produce the infectious agent but do not show signs of illness since they are local sources of infection for susceptible animals
- Different patients require different vaccines and vaccination programs
- Revaccination (booster) recommendations should be designed to maintain clinically relevant immunity while minimizing adverse effects
Importance of Vaccination
Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases, in particular viral infections which can lead to serious illness and even death. Thus vaccination against viral diseases provides the platform of basic animal and human health that must never be overlooked nor taken for granted. Vaccines have played a significant role in enabling people and animals to live longer and healthier lives in this world filled with microbial pathogens. In fact, the control and prevention of so many viral diseases that affect pets is considered to be a prominent success today.
Most experts agree that widespread use of vaccines has prevented death and diseases in millions of animals around the world. Therefore, as responsible pet owners it is our obligation to provide our pets with proper vaccinations, beginning with the all-important puppy and kitten vaccination series and all the way through to adulthood annual booster vaccinations. Even though some diseases have become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because serious disease-causing agents continue to be present in the environment. By vaccinating, we are not only protecting our pets’ health, but our family’s health as well. Today, no one should ever overlook the potential of zoonotic diseases (that is, those diseases that are transmissible from animals to humans) such as leptospirosis. So, pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases. Vaccination is particularly of paramount importance to dog breeders since they keep a large number of dogs together in a confined place (breeding kennel), and this facilitates the transmission of infectious diseases among the dogs.
Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against a number of diseases so that the dog or cat is protected from various organisms in the environment. If the vaccinated or immunized dog is later exposed to the infectious agent, the antibodies react quickly to attack and destroy the disease. Vaccinations challenge the immune system in a complex manner, so it is not advisable to vaccinate a sick dog or cat. Vaccines can fail if they are given to sick pets such as those with a fever, or animals receiving certain drugs, for example steroids, or if given too close together or too far apart. In such situations, the animal’s immune system may not be able to respond well to the vaccine. It is therefore important to administer vaccines only to healthy animals. For that reason, usually prior to vaccinating your pet, the veterinarian will ask you about your pet’s medical history, and then perform a complete clinical examination to find out whether your pet is sick or not. Vaccines also do fail if the vaccine has been improperly handled or stored because they may not protect a young pet that has lost immunity from the mother’s milk before the vaccine is administered.
Although problems still do exist, and your veterinarian cannot guarantee that a vaccine will fully protect your pet against a given disease, vaccinations have proven to be the safest and most effective means of preventing a number of diseases in pets. Thus vaccinations are still a pet owner’s best line of defense against contagious diseases, in particular distemper and parvoviral infection, that can kill puppies and young dogs, and even older dogs, and against leptospirosis that can kill dogs and cats as well as people, of any age, and/or against other infectious diseases that can cause short or long term health problems.
Age of vaccination
Puppies and kittens receive antibodies and important nutrients from their mothers’ milk when they are still nursing. They ingest the maternal antibodies contained in the mothers’ milk as early as during the first few hours of birth. The antibodies help protect them from infectious diseases until they are able to produce their own antibodies or their own immune system is more mature. This means that once they are weaned, this passive form of protection is lost. And it is at this point in their life that a vaccination program should be started.
Puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations during their first four months of life. At approximately six (6) to eight (8) weeks of age, puppies and kittens need to receive their first vaccination. Approximately three weeks later, that is, at nine (9) weeks to three months old, a second set of vaccinations should be given. These first two vaccinations will provide protection for a while (short term) from many life threatening diseases that your pet may come into contact with. They are therefore referred to as temporary vaccinations. The third and fourth vaccinations, which lasts longer, is given at twelve (12) , then fifteen (15) weeks to four months of age. Your pet will now normally be protected against many infectious diseases for a period of one year. Semi-annual re-vaccinations (boosters) are then recommended to keep your pet healthy.
Most puppies will get a combination vaccine called a MULTIVALENT vaccine, which protects against more than one disease. This combination vaccine allows puppies to be vaccinated through a single injection rather than having to receive multiple inoculations. A typical ‘multivalent’ vaccine is the DHPPi vaccine for dogs, otherwise commonly referred to as ‘4 in 1’ vaccine. Instead of giving four different injections, all the ‘vaccines’ are combined and given in a single small volume injection. Certainly, this is much easier on the dog than getting five separate injections. (Not to be confused with giving the 4 sets of puppy vaccines, this 4-1 needs to be given multipule times for full protection of Viruses)
The abbreviation DHPP stands for:
D – distemper
H – hepatitis
P – parvovirus
Pi – para-influenza
Pet owners must always seek advice from their pet’s doctor (veterinarian) who will make a program of vaccinations to help their pet maintain a disease-free life. Each veterinarian will have a preferred protocol for vaccinating puppies and for follow-up vaccinations throughout the pet’s life. It is very important that you follow the vaccination schedule provided by your veterinarian. Following a proper vaccination schedule will ensure that your pet is kept healthy. More than 90% of puppies and kittens will develop a good level of immunity to various diseases from a proper vaccination schedule.
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