One of the most important things that veterinarians provide is wellness care for your pet. The goal of wellness care is to prevent disease or minimize the effect of disease in the future. There is a famous saying in medicine that goes, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Wellness care involves many aspects; the pillar upon which it stands being vaccination against common and high impact diseases.
Vaccines are a way of providing your pet with the proper immunity against common diseases. When we vaccinate your pet we deliver a killed or inactivated disease agent under the skin for your pet’s immune system to mount a response against. If your pet is then ever faced with the real bacteria or virus, his or her immune system will recognize it and will be able to prevent the disease from taking hold and your pet getting sick.
For dogs, cats, and ferrets vaccines are categorized into core and non-core. Core vaccines protect against diseases that all pets are exposed to no matter where they live. In dogs, these are parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus (canine hepatitis), and rabies. In cats, these are panleukopenia (feline distemper), herpesvirus (rhinotracheitis), calicivirus, and rabies. In ferrets, these are distemper and rabies.
Non-core vaccines are those that are given only if the animal is in a certain location or has a certain lifestyle that puts them at risk for exposure. For example dogs that go to the dog park or groomer may be exposed to Bordetella, the bacteria that causes kennel cough, and should therefore receive the Bordetella vaccine. Cats that go outside of the house are at a much higher risk of obtaining feline leukemia virus and should be vaccinated for their protection. In certain areas of the country pets are at higher risk for leptospirosis and Lyme disease and may need those vaccines. Ask your veterinarian which vaccines are recommended for your pet and your location.
Boosters are vaccines given 3-4 week after the first vaccine. These provide the immune system with a boost so that proper immunity is ensured. Depending on which vaccine is given, most pets will need a booster if it is their first time receiving the vaccine. Puppies and kittens need multiple boosters because their immune system is immature, and we want to guarantee that they are completely protected. Puppies, kittens, and ferret kits should begin their vaccination series at 6-8 weeks of age and continue every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Rabies is the only vaccine that does not need a booster and is given at 16 weeks.
By vaccinating your pet you not only protect them, you also provide protection to other animals in the community as well. Our job as veterinarians is to provide safe, appropriate, and effective vaccinations so that the community as a whole has a healthy and happy population of pets. The next time you come to see us, feel free to ask us any questions you might have about vaccinations and we would be happy to answer them.
Dr. Patrick Mares-Ziehmn
Prescott Animal Hospital