Let’s talk about vaccines. We all know our pets need them, but sometimes it’s a little confusing as to why and how often. A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease. We give them to all pets to prevent infectious diseases that can harm or kill your dog or cat. Side effects or reactions are rare, but can occur 1-2 days after receiving a vaccine and include lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, diarrhea, facial swelling, or breathing problems. While it’s important to report any vaccine reactions to your veterinarian, the side effects are generally self-limiting.
When puppies and kittens are first born they receive their initial antibodies from their mother’s milk. Our current vaccines are excellent at stimulating immunity in older puppies in just one or two shots. However, puppies and kittens who nursed on their mother’s milk have maternal antibodies in their blood that block the immune system from responding to these vaccines. These circulating maternal antibodies protect them from bacterial and viral assault while the puppy’s or kitten’s immune system is maturing. But they also prevent the puppy’s and kitten’s immune system from becoming activated by vaccines.
As the puppy and kitten ages, the maternal antibody levels decline. By as early as 6 weeks, 25% of puppies and kittens have a strong immune response to vaccinations, and by 14 to 16 weeks of age the maternal antibodies have fallen enough to allow a full immune response in 90% of puppies and kittens.
Veterinarians administer vaccines for the major viral diseases every 3-4 weeks starting around 6 to 8 weeks of age to increase the likelihood that as the maternal antibodies are falling, the lower levels don’t leave the puppy or kitten exposed to disease but instead, the immune system is activated.
Once the puppy or kitten has received their full series they should be boostered in one year, and then every 3 years thereafter for the core viral vaccines. The core viral vaccines for dogs include Rabies and DA2PPV and for cats include Rabies and FVRCP. An alternative for the viral diseases is performing viral titers to measure the amount of circulating antibody to ensure your pet is protected against these potentially fatal diseases.
All dogs and cats should be vaccinated against Rabies. Rabies is a fatal central nervous system disease that can spread to owners. There is no cure for Rabies and pets diagnosed with it are euthanized. The first Rabies a dog or cat receives is a 1 year vaccine. After the initial Rabies vaccine the pet will be administered 3 year vaccines. It is a legal requirement to license your dog in New York City. You can follow the steps for license requirements here.
Based upon your pet’s lifestyle there are different vaccines you’re going to want to administer to your pet to protect her. Most dogs are vaccinated against Bordetella a highly contagious upper respiratory disease. Other diseases dogs are vaccinated against can include Leptospirosis and Lyme’s disease. Outdoor cats are recommended to be vaccinated against feline leukemia.
The veterinarians at The Vet Set are more than happy to help you assess your pet’s risk profile to ensure your pet is properly protected against these potentially fatal diseases.