What Pet Owners Want to Know About Vaccinations

Are you considering adopting or fostering a new pet because you’re staying home due to Covid-19? If so, you’re not alone. It turns out shelters across the country are seeing a strong uptick in foster applications. 

One rescue in LA says they’ve seen as many as 80 new applications in a week this past month. 

Of course, any foster animals will come with their relevant vaccinations but what if you decide to adopt them? What about long-term? Or what about your existing pets?

The bottom line is vaccines are safe and highly effective against diseases like rabies and “kennel cough.” Rabies is considered a “core” vaccine. But what about the others? And how often do you need them? 

As you might know, vaccines protect against the body’s immune system. They include a tiny amount of the disease and when injected into the animal’s body, it stimulates the immune system. That way, when/if the animal is exposed to the disease, they won’t fall ill because they’ll already have a built-in immunity. 

Vaccines have been around since 1796 since the British physician Edward Jenner developed a vaccine against smallpox. Since then, scientists have developed many vaccines to keep us and our pets healthy. 

While different states have different rules on pet vaccination there are some basics.

Core Vaccines 

Health experts designated certain vaccines as essential to our pets. Your veterinarian will make specific recommendations based on your animal, region, and lifestyle but in general every pet needs certain ones. 

The ASPCA requires dogs to have vaccines against parvo, distemper, rabies, and canine  hepatitis. Often, all of these except for rabies are included in one vaccine “cocktail.” For cats, the core vaccines include feline distemper, rabies, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. 

There are several other vaccines your veterinarian may suggest depending on your pet’s risk. For example, if your dog is boarding or going to doggie daycare, they’ll likely need the Bordetella vaccine (also known as “kennel cough.”) This upper respiratory infection is highly contagious so most boarding facilities require it. 

The vaccine frequency varies by state. Some require an annual rabies shot while others require it only every 3 years and still others, use titers to test for immunity. 

What are Titers? 

Titers are simple tests that test the level of your pet’s immunity. When veterinarians use these, they test to see if your dog or cat has the protective antibodies already in their system. If so, then they don’t need another vaccine. 

One thing to be aware of is over vaccinating because that’s not healthy either. In some cases, animals don’t need to be vaccinated past their early shots but only a titer will tell. 

Are You Concerned About Vaccine Risks? 

There are risks with anything, vaccines included. On occasion, the vaccine can cause mild reactions. Soreness is common but sometimes your pet will even have a slight fever. If so, you can call your veterinarian for suggestions. 

In conclusion, vaccinations are important for your pet’s health within reason. If you’re in doubt as to your pet’s last vaccines, then ask your veterinarian to perform a titer to check. There’s no reason why you need to over vaccinate.