Vaccinations are considered to be routine events for most dogs and cats. Most pet owners take their pets to their veterinarian periodically for these injections and never think any more about the procedure. However, vaccines should not be viewed as absolutely harmless, and vaccination should not seen as an innocuous process.
The Benefits of Vaccination for Dogs and Cats
There is, without a doubt, a benefit to vaccinating your dog or cat. In short, vaccines can protect your pet against diseases that otherwise might be deadly.
Before a vaccination against canine distemper was developed, veterinarians routinely saw puppies suffering from distemper. And I do mean suffering. Distemper is an unpleasant disease and many infected dogs die. Now, with a very effective vaccination in routine use, there are many veterinarians that have never even seen a case of distemper. While the disease is still diagnosed on occasion, it’s much rarer now.
This is just one example of how effective a vaccine can be and clearly demonstrates the benefit of vaccination.
Vaccine Risks for Dogs and Cats
The fact is that vaccination stimulates an immune response in your pet’s body that is, by its very nature, an inflammatory response. Without that response occurring, vaccinations cannot be effective. However, that same inflammatory response can also have some unwanted effects for your pet.
Allergic reactions are the most common complication seen with vaccines. These reactions usually occur immediately after or within a day or two following the vaccine.
However, there have been other complications noted with vaccines as well. Vaccination sarcomas are a form of cancer. They are seen primarily in cats at the site of vaccination. Though they remain relatively rare, they are very aggressive cancers.
Other complications that have been theorized to be connected to vaccines are kidney damage and immune disease.
What Does This Mean for Your Pet?
While vaccinations are a necessity for any dog or cat, your pet’s vaccination schedule should be individually tailored to fit his needs and his lifestyle.
There are many different types of vaccinations available for both dogs and cats. And new vaccines are being developed on a regular basis as well. However, not all pets are at risk for all of these diseases which we can now vaccinate against. For instance, vaccinating a cat for feline leukemia when that cat has virtually no chance of ever becoming infected with feline leukemia makes little sense and subjects the cat to needless risks.
Core Dog and Cat Vaccines
Core vaccines are those vaccines that all pets should receive. They protect against diseases that are either particularly deadly, especially widespread or dangerous to humans.
Core vaccines for dogs are:
- canine distemper
- canine parvovirus
- canine adenovirus
Core vaccines for cats are:
- feline panleukopenia
- feline calicivirus
- feline rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus)
Non-Core Canine and Feline Vaccines
Non-core vaccines are those that protect against diseases which not all dogs and cats may be at risk of contacting. Before administering any non-core vaccines, pet owners should evaluate their pet’s risk (with their veterinarian’s help) to determine whether the vaccine is indicated. For these vaccines, in some cases, the risk of vaccination may outweigh the risk of the pet actually getting the disease.