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Vaccination Protocol Information
A question I hear often from clients is one about how frequently should they vaccinate their pets. This is an issue which has been getting some publicity lately and one to which there is no real right answer. Vaccines have provided us with great protection from specific infectious diseases. In the past, it was felt that dogs and cats had greater exposure to these infectious diseases; so to protect them we vaccinated them annually. We have determined that many of our vaccinations are providing immunity for much longer than one year when strategically administered. Determining the length of immunity is a complex issue, one of which there is not a final answer. Based on current research and recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force that is supported by the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association, The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Veterinary Cancer Society, the following protocols are what we are currently recommending. As a veterinarian, I want my patients to stay as healthy as possible. I do not want to see infectious disease increase. However, I also want to reduce the negative effects of over-vaccination.
Not all vaccines are created equal. There are many manufacturers, types of vaccines and preparation form. Why not continue to vaccinate yearly? It is not the cost, as most vaccines are relatively inexpensive. It is because at least some vaccinations have been implicated in various risks. To summarize, some pets react very strongly to vaccines. Some will spike fevers and/or have a reaction similar to humans who are allergic to bee stings. Additionally, a specific and uncommon cancer called "fibrosarcoma" is associated with the sites where vaccines have been administered. Most of these vaccine site cancers have been found in cats. Again, these vaccine site cancers are rare to uncommon in cats, and even rarer in dogs.
Before I talk about my vaccination schedules and reasons behind them, I do want to point out that, vaccines due or not, we still need to examine your pet every year. Animals age at least 6-7 years for every year that we age and, without annual exams, there may be problems that would get missed and not treated in time. Here's a link that will take you to a discussion on why annual (and sometimes more often) exams are so important. Please take the time to read that page as well!
Core vaccines for dogs include Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and ParvoVirus (DHPP) for dogs. We currently use Schering's Galaxy DA2PPv vaccine. We recommend puppies have this vaccine at approximately 7-8 weeks old, then every 3 to 4 weeks until 4 months old for most breeds. I currently repeat this vaccine yearly until the dog is 2 Â½ - 3 years old, then I readminister it every 2-3 years thereafter.
Leptospirosis is a component that we used to include in the core vaccines. However, we found that many of the vaccine reactions we saw in dogs were from the Lepto component. With that knowledge, many veterinarians discontinued using this vaccine. While cases of Leptospirosis are uncommon, the disease is again beginning to emerge. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. There are several types of this bacterium. People and dogs can both become infected with these bacteria if they are exposed to the urine of certain small furry animals such as rodents and raccoons that are infected with the bacteria. The disease can cause kidney and/or liver failure. A specific vaccine is required to protect against each type. We are again offering vaccination against Leptospirosis, but do not require it. We will not use it until a pup is at least 12 weeks old. We provide a Leptospirosis Information handout to owners to help determine whether we will use that vaccine or not in their pup. We use Pfizer's '4-way' lepto vaccine.
Per current recommendations, I do not vaccinate against Corona virus. According to the literature, in dogs this virus primarily affects pups less than 6 weeks old, and is not a significant disease in otherwise healthy puppies or dogs.
We do not carry or use the Giardia Vaccine. The vaccine tends to increase the carrier state of infection, putting your family at greater risk. Giardia is a treatable infection.
We do not recommend vaccination against Lymes disease although I do carry it and will administer it at a client's request. The vaccine against it is related to a higher degree of post-vaccinal diseases (sometimes worse than the disease itself) and the disease is treatable with proper antibiotics. Currently, we test every year for Lyme disease when we check for heartworm disease - we use a combination test that tests for both.
We do recommend vaccination for Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough/Infectious TracheoBronchitis) twice yearly, as the immunity for this common and troublesome disease is short lived (less than one year). If not done every 6 months, then this vaccine should be given 2 weeks prior to boarding, grooming, training, or any other situation where your dog will come into contact with other dogs. There is information that the strain of Bordetella in our current vaccines is not covering all the strains of Kennel Cough. That maybe so, but in my clinical experience, I have found that vaccinating 2 times yearly is effective for most pets to prevent the disease. We normally use Schering-Plough's Intratrac 2 intranasal vaccine (a liquid squirted into the nose, not injected). For dogs that are not cooperative, we use a more traditional method of vaccine.
Rabies vaccine for dogs and cats will be administered based on our state law requirements. The initial rabies vaccine given as a puppy or kitten will be repeated 1 year later, and thereafter every 3 years. Given that rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease shared by both man and animals), I require all patients be kept current with rabies vaccine administered in compliance with Virginia State regulations. We use Fort Dodge Rabvac 3 rabies vaccine.
Core vaccinations for cats include Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Panleukopenia Virus (FVRCP). We recommend this vaccine 2 - 3 times in the initial kitten series for all kittens. We also recommend Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) vaccine 2 times in the initial kitten series, even to the indoor cats. I give rabies vaccine once to kittens. We recommend repeating the FVRCP, FELV and Rabies vaccine one year after the kitten vaccines were completed. Thereafter, I rotate through these 3 vaccines, effectively administering each once every three years with the cat receiving one each year. For cats that are indoor only, the FELV vaccine may be discontinued. We use Schering-Plough's Eclipse and Fevaxyn FeLV.
We currently do not carry the vaccine against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). If the vaccine proves to be effective at preventing the disease to my satisfaction, and proves to be safe to use, we will offer it. Once this vaccine is used, your cat will test positive for the disease. If you have your cat vaccinated with this, please be sure it is microchipped.
We do not carry or recommend the Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus Vaccine. Although it has been marketed for about 12-13 years, I am not convinced it prevents the disease and may precipitate the disease.
Vaccination should be considered a serious medical decision. Although we may make it look like a simple 'shot' there are many variables that we have to consider. Pets should only be vaccinated when they appear healthy upon physical exam. Giving vaccines to sick or infected pets may not help the pet, and may put the pet at risk for other problems. Since vaccines are meant to stimulate the immune system, giving the pet too many vaccines at one time can cause problems. We take careful consideration in selecting the manufacturers and components of our vaccines. As well, we ensure proper transportation, storage and handling of vaccination products. You should allow your pet to only be vaccinated by trained veterinary staff with vaccines that have been chosen for their known effectiveness. You should only allow vaccines to be given to your pet if you are satisfied the vaccine product has been properly handled and refrigerated from manufacturer to administration.