Vaccinations are a traditional part of the care we give our pets. As more and more evidence uncovers the potential risks to standard vaccinations for humans, it is vital that caring pet owners evaluate both the potential risks of vaccinating their pets as well the risks not vaccinating. Responsible pet owners should understand what diseases their pets are at risk of contracting as well as available prevention measures and treatments.
There are many vaccines available for both cats and dogs, but according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) not every vaccine is recommended for every pets. Here are some of the factors to consider regarding which vaccines to administer as given by the AVMA:
1) Your cat’s risk of exposure to the disease-causing organism (in part dependent on the health of other cats to which yours is exposed, and the environment in which your cat lives)
2) The consequence of infection
3) The risk an infected cat poses to human health (e. g., rabies)
4) The protective ability of the vaccine
5) The frequency or severity of reactions the vaccine produces
6) The age and health status of your cat
7) Vaccine reactions your cat may have experienced in the past
Vaccine reactions can vary from very mild to quite severe. Although there is a lack of research in regards to long term reactions from vaccines, one type of feline cancer,fibrosarcoma, has been linked to adjuvants included in some vaccines. There are products that do not contain the chemicals linked to fibrosarcoma, so pet owners should be aware of the options available.
Boosters can be important in maintaining immunity to disease, however they are not always needed. To avoid administering unneeded medical interventions, serological testing can identify antibodies still present and can indicate whether boosters are advisable.
As pet owners we need to take responsibility for our pets well-being and become informed participants in their medical care. By discussing the needs and risks to pet vaccinations our pets will benefit by receiving only those interventions that will truly benefit them. By learning all we can, we foster the continuation of research on both the short- and long-term risks and benefits of pet vaccines.
Dr. Ingrid Pyka, Understanding Vaccines from a Veterinarian’s Perspective, VPI Pet Insurance
Dr. Gloria Dorsey DVM, MPH, Vital Pet Vaccines: Responsible Pet Ownership and Awareness, Atlanta Humane Society
Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM, Pet Vaccines, Veterinary Pet Care
Nancy Kay, DVM, Vaccinations for your Dog: A Complex Issue, Healthy Pet
Kirsten Taylor, Cat Vaccines: What You Need to Know, PawNation