Vaccinating Your Pet

We Vaccinate Based On Your Pet's Age, Lifestyle, and Exposure Factors

Image of Dr. Witten giving a vaccination

Pets, like people, are susceptible to a variety of disease-causing germs and bacteria. Seemingly, the best defense against these preventable illnesses is regular vaccination of your cat or dog. Recently, there has been controversy surrounding the effectiveness of vaccinations, both for people and pets. So, how does today's dog or cat caretaker make an informed decision about their pet's vaccine needs, including how often to vaccinate? Choosing which diseases to vaccinate against, and how often those vaccines should be administered, should be done under the professional advice of your veterinarian.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, these are the common diseases for dog vaccinations and preventative treatment:

  • rabies (this can be spread to people)
  • canine parvovirus infection ("parvo")
  • canine distemper
  • leptospirosis
  • canine adenovirus-2
  • canine parainfluenza
  • canine enteric coronavirus
  • canine influenza
  • lyme disease
  • bordetellosis ("kennel cough")
  • heartworm disease
  • intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, etc., some of which can also infect people)

The list for preventative treatment and diseases cats are vaccinated against include:

  • rabies (which can be spread to people)
  • feline panleukopenia (feline distemper)
  • feline herpesvirus infection
  • feline calicivirus infection
  • feline leukemia (FeLV)
  • feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) infection
  • heartworm disease
  • intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, etc., some of which can also infect people)

While some vaccines, such as rabies, are required by state or local law, there are other core and non-core vaccines important to the health of your pet. Many bacterial diseases require annual vaccination for efficacy, but most “core” vaccines have a less frequent revaccination schedule. 

Core vs. Non-Core Vaccines

According to the AVMA, core vaccines protect against diseases that infect dogs or cats of all life stages and lifestyles. The diseases involved have high rates of infection, pose a threat to the pet’s life, and/or are a danger to human health; in general, vaccination results in relatively good protection from the disease(s). Non-core vaccines are optional vaccines that should be considered in light of the exposure risk of the pet (i.e., based on geographic distribution and the pet’s lifestyle). Several of the diseases involved are often self-limiting or respond readily to treatment. Your pet’s health, habits, and geographic region may affect which vaccinations are recommended.

The obvious advantage of vaccination is a healthier, happier life for your pet without the worry of preventable illnesses. However, while modern vaccines are very safe, they are not 100% risk-free. Though they are rare, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, and other adverse reactions, (which generally include pain or swelling at the point of injection), can be caused by vaccines. Usually the symptoms of a pet having an allergic reaction to a vaccination will appear fairly quickly after a shot is given. If you suspect your pet is having such a reaction, contact your veterinarian immediately. These situations can be very serious, but, again, they are rare.

Customized Care

To minimize risk of vaccination, the staff at Back on Track Veterinary Hospital and Rehabilitation Center will work to customize vaccine protocols based on a number of factors including the lifestyle and age of your pet, as well as potential exposure to a variety of diseases. Our goal is to protect your pet, and not take unnecessary health care risks.

Any medical procedure, including vaccinations, carries some degree of risk, but the health risk is generally much greater if you do not have your pet vaccinated. Many dangerous diseases seen in dogs and cats are  preventable with the right treatment, giving pet owners peace of mind and helping pets lead better lives.