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.
Keep in mind animals age at least 6-7 years for every year that we age. Annual wellness examinations are important, without them there may be problems that would get missed and not treated in time.
Core vaccines for dogs include Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvo Virus (DHPP) for dogs. 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. They would get a booster the following year, then I recommend re-administering the vaccine every three years.
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), all patients should be kept current with rabies vaccine administered in compliance with Virginia State regulations.
We do recommend vaccination for Bordetella (kennel cough) twice yearly and annually for Canine Influenza for all dogs with exposure to other dogs - boarding, training, grooming, or puppy play dates.
Leptospirosis is a component that we used to include in the core vaccines. While cases of Leptospirosis are uncommon, the disease is again beginning to emerge and is becoming more prevalent in our area. 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. I can provide a Leptospirosis Information handout to owners to help determine whether we will use that vaccine or not in their pup.
We do recommend vaccination against Lyme disease although it does depend on the lifestyle of the pet and current use of flea and tick preventatives. Currently, we test every year for Lyme disease when we check for heartworm disease - we use a combination test that tests for both.
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. Rabies vaccine can be adminstered to kittens once they reach 12-16 weeks of age. FVRCP, FELV and Rabies vaccine should be boosted one year after the kitten vaccines were completed. Thereafter, I vaccinate for FVRCP every three years and rabies annually. In our outdoor cats, I recommend continuing to vaccinate for FeLV every three years as well.
We use exclusively Merial's PureVax line of vaccines.
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.