The Vaccine Debate!

One of the most important and effective ways to prevent infectious diseases from making your pet sick is to vaccinate them on a regular basis. When puppies and kittens are first born, they get protection from various diseases from their mother both during development and by drinking their mother’s milk.  The milk contains a high concentration of antibodies, water, vitamins, electrolytes and nutrients, which enables them to receive optimal immunity.  However, this protection only lasts for a few weeks after they are weaned.


How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines contain actual viruses or bacteria, in a form that stimulates the body’s immune system, but without actually causing the animal to get the disease itself.  Once stimulated, the body creates proteins, known as antibodies, which will work together with the body’s white blood cells, to destroy the disease.  As long as the antibodies remain in the bloodstream, the body is protected from re-infection by the disease.  This is why it is so important to re-vaccinate your pet on a regular basis – to be certain that a sufficient amount of these antibodies remain in the bloodstream to stave off the disease.  Without regular vaccination, many pets become seriously ill, and in cases may die, because their immune system is unable to fight the disease effectively on its own.  Vaccination also plays an important role in controlling the spread of disease between animals and from animal to human (such as in the case of rabies).


When Should You Vaccinate Your Pet?

Annual examinations are an important part of maintaining a routine health care program.  During your pet’s annual, it is recommended to review your pet’s vaccine needs and assess the risks and benefits to vaccinating.  Pets should be healthy prior to vaccination, though certain concurrent illnesses (such as an ear infection) can be present and interfere with vaccination.  Your veterinarian will assess the health of your pet through a thorough physical examination and discussion of their eating and drinking habits, as well as activity level, to ensure they are healthy enough to receive vaccines that day.


What Can I Expect After Vaccination?

After your pet receives vaccines, it is not uncommon for them to experience a little tenderness at the site of the vaccine, as well as be mildly lethargic and/or have a low grade fever that resolves itself without treatment.  Your pet may also have less of an appetite that evening.  These are all perfectly normal reactions to getting vaccinated.

In rare cases, serious allergic reactions may take place following vaccination.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, facial swelling, difficulty breathing and/or hives on the skin.  These symptoms usually arise minutes to hours after vaccination, and require immediate veterinary care.  Allergic reactions are very rare, but should always be reported to your veterinarian, so that proper precaution can be taken with future vaccinations.

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