Vaccines: Myths and Facts

There are several myths and misconceptions regarding canine and feline vaccines circulating the internet. Our goals here are to first address some common myths regarding vaccines, discuss the importance of vaccines for the individual as well as the population in general and to discuss core vaccines in our area.

1. My pet does not go outside much, he / she doesn’t need vaccines. False. Vaccine administration should be based on geographic location, lifestyle, and exposure. Vaccines are divided into Core and Non-Core vaccines. Core vaccines, some of which are mandated by law are designed to preserve public health.  Non-core vaccines are typically recommended based on location and risks to that specific pet. For example, Canine influenza vaccine is recommended for dogs that routinely go to groomers, boarding, or spend a lot of time in dog parks.

2. My puppy was vaccinated for parvo and then got Parvovirus. Could the vaccine make my  puppy sick? No, the vaccine will NOT cause Parvovirus. Vaccination is key in young pets who are generally more susceptible to disease. Maternal antibody, which are antibodies received by nursing the mother,  provides some protection to your pets. However this can also interfere with the efficacy of vaccination. This is why vaccines are given in series to pediatric patients.

3. Vaccine’s cause cancer. Feline injection site sarcoma (FISS) is a severe and incredibly rare occurrence. Current literature estimates that this occurs in 1 in 10,000 cases. Adjuvant containing vaccines have been implicated in these situations and as a result it is recommended the vaccine be given in the distal limb. The most commonly associated vaccines for FISS is the Feline leukemia vaccine and is not utilized as a core vaccine.

4. When should vaccines be given? Vaccines are designed to protect both the individual as well as the herd. There are several reasons that pets should not be vaccinated or vaccines should be limited, and these should be discussed with your veterinarian.  For example, some patients should not be vaccinated if they have ongoing immune dysfunction, immune mediated disease, or cancer. These should be discussed in detail with your veterinarian and an individual treatment plan should be designed for your pet.  These patients risks will be reduced because the population is protected, thereby reducing the prevalence of disease. An alternative to vaccinating is titering. Titering is testing the animals blood to see if they have immunity. If the pet still has a protective antibody there is no need to vaccinate, however should the titer prove non-protective then vaccinating is the next consideration.

5. What do we need in our area? Healthy canine patients in our area should be vaccinated for Distemper, parvo, parainfluenza viruses, leptospirosis, Bordetella and Rabies by law. We routinely see leptospirosis in our area, and many times this has been a fatal disease in non-vaccinated animals.  Lyme disease is also on the increase in our area. Canine influenza vaccine is recommended based on lifestyle. Healthy feline patients should be vaccinated for rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP) and Rabies by law, and feline leukemia virus based on risk factors and life-style.

In conclusion there are several rumors circulating about the perceived danger of vaccination. Before making a decision on what vaccines are right for your pet, please talk to your Veterinarian to develop the best plan for your pet. There is no one size fits all plan to vaccination and vaccines should be selected based on the pets lifestyle, location, and exposure.

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