Are we over-vaccinating our pets? Over the last few years, pet owners, veterinarians, researchers, and manufacturers have all been asking this question. And, we may not know all the answers right now. But, we'll talk about a few key points when considering which vaccinations your pet should receive, and how often they are needed.
1. Some vaccines are effective when given every 3 years, and some must be given annually to be effective. The difference is the length of time your pet will hold antibodies against that particular virus or bacteria. Boosters are needed to re-activate your pet's immune system, but your pet may not need boosters for every disease on an annual basis.
2. Your pet's lifestyle will determine which vaccines are needed on a regular basis. In general, most veterinarians categorize vaccines as "core" vaccines which are important for all pets regardless of lifestyle (an example is Rabies), and "non-core" vaccines which are only important for certain pets based on age, location, and lifestyle. These protocols are different from clinic to clinic. You should feel comfortable in talking with your veterinarian about your unique pet. Ask your vet about his/her vaccine protocol, and be informed.
3. There is conflicting information that veterinarians must take into account when selecting vaccine protocols. For instance, many vaccine labels claim that annual vaccination is needed. though research has shown that antibodies may be longer lasting than that. Veterinarians have to weigh the benefit versus the risk of vaccination. In order to go against the product label, a veterinarian must feel that a change in administration is necessary for your pet.
4. Your veterinarian is also trying to protect your family. There are diseases that your pet can become exposed to that can be transmitted to people. These diseases may or may not be an issue in your area, but the risk to your family versus the risk of vaccination to your pet must be considered.
5. An annual or semi-annual exam visit is NOT about vaccination. Sure, vaccines may be due at that time, but that is a minor par of your pet's visit. The focus should be on a comprehensive physical exam, review of your pet's history and status at home, and recommendations for the future care of your pet. Even if you decline vaccination all together, your pet should receive regular physical exams and health checks including a heartworm test, intestinal parasite screen, deworming, etc.
6. Be sure you have reliable information. We all know that the Internet can gives us too much information, or the wrong information. Visit reputable Internet sources such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). These are the agencies that support vaccine research and recommend standard protocols for the veterinary profession.
Just as in human medicine, information regarding your pet's vaccine needs is changing. You should feel comfortable with your veterinarian's recommendations and protocols for your pet. Keep in mind that your veterinarian is concerned for your pet's health! He/she has adequate medical training to judge the needs of your pet, and is likely making the best decisions possible with the information that is currently available.