September 22, 2018
Health & Fitness
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To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate

Dr. Jacquelin Koenig DVM
Dr. Jacquelin Koenig DVM's picture
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August 21, 2018

Keeping Your Pets Healthy And Safe

Have you ever wondered if your pet needs to be vaccinated or why there are so many vaccines available? Vaccines have long been considered one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time and are even responsible for the elimination of smallpox, one of the most contagious diseases. They were developed to help prevent life-threatening illnesses in both humans and animals. Vaccines are considered one of the simplest ways to keep our pets living long, healthy lives.

The immune system is composed of germ-fighting white blood cells that produce antibodies to attack unfamiliar organisms that invade the body. These antibodies will remember and recognize the intruders in the future and help defend the body to keep it resilient. Vaccines strengthen the body’s immune system against foreign disease-causing organisms. If your pet encounters these organisms in the future, their antibodies are primed to combat the illness and lessen the severity of disease. Immunity is not always lifelong, and depending upon the vaccine type and the age of the pet, the pet may need to be boostered within a given timeframe to reinforce the body’s defenses.

Shortly after birth, puppies and kittens acquire antibodies from their mothers to keep them safe and healthy before their own immune system has a chance to develop. These acquired antibodies begin to decrease after several weeks of life and then become vulnerable to infection. It takes several months for their bodies to develop their own protective antibodies. During this period of susceptibility, it is important for them to receive supporting vaccinations every two to four weeks until their own immune system strengthens around 16 to 18 weeks of age.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has vaccination guidelines set forth by “individuals with extensive experience in primary care practice, academia, shelter medicine, public health and veterinary law related to clinical practice.” Vaccination protocols are always individualized based on the pet’s risk factors, age and lifestyle.

According to the AAHA canine vaccine task force, the core vaccines that are recommended for all puppies and dogs are canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis) and rabies virus. Non-core vaccines are recommended for puppies and dogs based on exposure risk and lifestyle, and they are recommended for leptospirosis, Lyme disease, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica or "kennel cough." In addition to protecting your pet against these important diseases, some vaccines protect humans too. When a tick bites a dog vaccinated against Lyme disease, the vaccine will kill the Lyme bacteria (Borellia burgdorferi) inside the tick, thereby limiting the ability of the tick to spread Lyme disease to you! Rabies vaccines are required by law for all dogs and cats in our area. Since there is no cure for rabies, it is important that you protect your pet, which, in turn, will prevent you from getting exposed to this deadly virus.

Based on the latest recommendations by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the core vaccine considered essential to all cats is Feline Distemper, which covers several upper respiratory viruses and rabies. The non-core vaccine that is based on individual lifestyle is feline leukemia virus. All kittens are recommended to be vaccinated for feline leukemia virus, and once adulthood is reached, lifestyle and risk are considered to determine if additional vaccines are needed.

Not all diseases are avoidable, but vaccines have been established to protect both pets and their human families from preventable transferable illnesses. Schedule your pet’s wellness appointment today to discuss vaccination recommendation. Calvert Veterinary Center is conveniently located at 4100 Mountain Road. Call 410-360-7297 or visit to schedule an appointment.

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