During the months of February and March 2019, we will be having a vaccine amnesty for all dogs and cats.
Puppies and kittens require two vaccinations and following this course they require an annual booster. Any cat or dog that is more than three months overdue would be considered to be lapsed and would require a restart.
If your adult dog or cat is over three months overdue for their booster vaccination and comes into the surgery for their first vaccination in February or March, they will receive the second vaccination free of charge!
Why are vaccinations important for your pet?
Young animals, just like children, are at risk from many infectious diseases. In many cases there is no treatment for these and young puppies or kittens that catch them often die. Protection against these deadly diseases can be provided by vaccination. As a puppy or kitten, your pet will receive an initial primary course of vaccinations, which should then be topped up with an annual booster vaccination. This is because over time, your pet’s immunity to the disease will start to fade, leaving them susceptible to contracting disease. It is often believed that older pets do not require booster vaccinations due to a build up of a “natural immunity”, but the reality is that older animals often have a reduced natural ability to fight disease, leaving them at greater risk, so it is even more important for these pets to continue to have booster vaccinations. Many older pets also suffer with long-term concurrent illnesses, which again often means a reduced ability to fight off infection.
Concerns about “over-vaccinating”
In recent years, there has been much debate about the frequency of vaccinating our pets, with a lot of media coverage regarding instances of adverse reactions with both human and animal vaccines. Whilst we should be aware of potential adverse reactions, it is important to remember that there is always a risk of adverse reaction when administering any drug to a human or an animal. Such risk however, needs to be balanced against the very real risk of severe and potentially fatal illness if the animal did not have vaccination cover. The licensed vaccines we use have a very high safety profile, with most reactions observed manifesting as a temporary swelling at the injection site, or the pet being a little off colour, with a reduced appetite and a raised body temperature. The most severe reactions are classified as very rare (less than 1 in 10,000 animals) – far less than the amount of dogs and cats we still see with serious illness due to a virus they could have been vaccinated against (for example, we still sadly see several cases of parvovirus each year, many of which do not survive even with intensive treatment).
To reduce potential problems with over-vaccination, we follow the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines to keep immunity to disease at a proven level for the majority of animals. This means that although your pet will receive a vaccination injection each year, it’s not always exactly the same injection, as some of the disease components being vaccinated against have a level of cover for 3 years (such as parvovirus in dogs and panleukopaenia in cats). Other vaccine components however, only provide immunity for an average of 1 year (such as leptospirosis in dogs and flu in cats), and so require vaccination each year.
Explaining potential risks is not aimed to scare us off vaccinating our pets, but allows us to make informed choices and be aware of the balance between the small risk of vaccination versus the real risk of severe infectious disease to our pets, some of which may be transmitted to humans. Remember, annual vaccination visits are also a valuable opportunity to give your pet a full “MOT” – a thorough health check will be performed by the vet along with answering any questions or concerns you may have about your pet’s health and well-being.