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The History of Vaccines

How did vaccines start?

For over two centuries, vaccines have been protecting us from disease.  An English physicist named Edward Jenner developed the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine. Jenner lived in the English countryside amongst farmers who tended cows. After hearing a milkmaid exclaim “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox. I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face.”, Jenner set to work to investigate this hypothesis. It turned out that it was true: milkmaids in the area that had been exposed to cowpox were immune to epidemics of smallpox. Jenner launched into a clinical trial of sorts. Cowpox causes pus-filled blisters on the arms of the infected individual’s arms but did not cause death in humans. Smallpox however was by far more dangerous to humans, especially young children. By transferring pus from one milkmaid to another, he effectively spread cowpox and performed the first rudimentary inoculation of smallpox. It was many years later that Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, developed a vaccine against rabies. His process of vaccine development is the basis for most of our vaccines today.  World Rabies Day is celebrated on September 28 so we can educate our communities about why vaccination against rabies is so important to keep us safe.

Vaccines and Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians have long understood the need for vaccinations. Veterinary medicine, in part, was established to study the diseases of animals and prevent outbreak of plagues in livestock. Cattle plagues were common in some parts of the world, and it was up to veterinarians to combat significant losses in herds. From cattle, veterinary medicine turned to horses and then to dogs and the wide range of animals we see today. It is still the role of veterinarians to combat disease in animals, but also to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases – diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans – such as rabies. Because of this a rabies vaccine for cats and dogs is mandated in most states. This is not only to protect your pet, but also to protect you.  Rabies is an incredibly dangerous virus that affects the nervous system and the brain. It can be fatal to your pet and to you.

Vaccines have come a long way from smearing pus from one person to another and many veterinary vaccines today are specially formulated to work with sensitive animal body systems.

What vaccines does my pet need?

Depending on where you live, your veterinarian will make recommendations of “core” vaccines to protect your pet against the prevalent diseases in your area. Common vaccines include Rabies, Distemper and Parvovirus, and Bordatella (kennel cough).  

If you travel often, it is recommended to research the area to ensure your pet is vaccinated against the common diseases in that area. For example, leptospirosis, Lyme disease and the Rattlesnake vaccine.

 Millions of pets are vaccinated annually with little to no risk or side effects, however, any medical treatment has some risk involved. Ask your veterinarian what vaccines are best for your pet and together you can create a preventative wellness plan that is best for your pet based on age, lifestyle and physical health.  

Our veterinarians are always monitoring and evaluating changes in both veterinary products and medical protocols to ensure that your pet receives the latest, safest and most effective treatment options available.