Vaccines have had a bad reputation for the last few years. With people worried about over vaccinating and vaccines having serious side effects it is just normal for pet owners to worry about vaccinating their furry children.
These misconceptions about vaccines can have serious side effects, not only for your pets, but also for human health in some instances. So let’s try and shine some light on the subject…
Vaccines train the immune system to recognize an intruder faster in order to launch a strong, timely response and protect the body from dangerous diseases.
There are certain “core vaccines” indicated for cats and dogs.
- Rabies is included in this for both cats and dogs – this disease is not curable and can be transmitted to humans. It is required by law for all animals to be vaccinated against this disease every 3 years in Gauteng and every year in certain areas of South Africa
- Distemper – a devastating disease which could lead to seizures and death
- Parvo “cat flu” – causes severe damage of the intestinal lining and could lead to death
- Adenovirus – causes canine hepatitis
- Parainfluenza – a respiratory virus
- Panleukopenia – a fatal and highly contagious viral disease mostly eradicated by continued vaccination protocols
- Calici virus – a respiratory virus – Herpesvirus – highly contagious respiratory virus
The only way to eradicate these diseases are to ensure that all animals are properly vaccinated…even indoor animals could be exposed to airborne diseases and viral particles being brought into an area by birds and objects that has been in contact with viral particles like shoes etc. Vaccinating against these serious core viruses is REALLY important!
Vaccines could have certain side effects including:
- Acute allergic reactions like pain, swelling or anaphylactic shock
- Vaccine sarcomas – this is mostly a problem that occurs in cats and is very rare, but it is believed that rabies and feline leukemia vaccines (especially those containing adjuvant) could cause this cancer at the vaccination site.
- Speculation that vaccines could be causing immune mediated diseases have not been proven at all.
It is extremely important that all puppies and kittens receive their vaccinations according to the following protocols:
- core vaccination without rabies at 6-8 weeks of age and again at 10-12 weeks
- core vaccination including rabies at 14-16 weeks of age
- rabies booster within 1 to 9 months from the date of the previous vaccination
A booster of the core vaccination is again necessary at about a year of age and rabies every 3 years
- core vaccination without rabies at 6-8 weeks of age
- core vaccination with rabies at 10-12 weeks of age
- rabies booster within 1 to 9 months from the date of the previous vaccination (feline leukemia virus is not part of the core vaccinations but it is recommended to vaccinate kittens against this highly contagious virus at 12 and 16 weeks of age and again a year later)
A booster of the core vaccinations is again necessary at about a year of age and rabies every 3 years
Because not enough is known about the duration of protection after these initial vaccinations most veterinarians will do yearly revaccinations to boost protection. This might be more than necessary but the risk of contracting these serious diseases far outweighs the possible side effects and therefore we stick to it. Luckily for concerned owners there are now other options available. Immunity against vaccines can be tested before vaccinating making it more specific to each individual animal’s need. This is not routinely available yet and should be discussed with your vet beforehand.
Dr. Marike Marais (BSc BVSc)