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Creature Care: Vaccinations

Dr. Weiner's 3 things you should know about vaccines


by Pleasant Valley Veterinary Care - January 8, 2020

Vaccines for Dogs

What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a preparation of either killed or altered microorganisms that is administered into the body. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to learn how to fight the microorganism so that if the microorganism is encountered in the future, the dog will either not get sick or will have less severe illness.

What is immunity?
Immunity is a complex series of defense mechanisms by which an animal is able to resist a disease or infection or, at least resist the harmful consequences of the infection. The main components of these defenses are the white blood cells. All infectious disease organisms (viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi, etc.) have components called antigens, and each organism has unique antigens. These antigens will cause white blood cells to respond by producing antibodies. These antibodies are responsible for defeating the organism and removing it from the body. Immunity has memory, so that future exposure to the same antigen results in a much more rapid response. This rapid response usually stops the new infection before it can cause serious illness in the individual. Such immune memory can fade with time, and sometimes quite rapidly, depending on the specific organism.

Immunity is not absolute. Immunity can sometimes be overwhelmed when there is exposure to a particularly harmful strain of the microorganism, or when the animal is unduly stressed or is immunosuppressed because of another disease or certain drugs.

What is the difference between a modified live vaccine and a killed vaccine?
In a modified-live or live-attenuated vaccine, the causative organism (virus, bacterium, etc.) has been weakened or altered so that it is no longer harmful or virulent, but is still capable of stimulating protective immunity when injected or otherwise administered.

With a killed vaccine, the causative organism has been killed or inactivated to render it harmless. Killed vaccines often need a helper or adjuvant included in the vaccine to stimulate a long-lasting immune response. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

The choice of which vaccine is better for your dog will depend on its individual circumstances. Your veterinarian will consider these circumstances when choosing the appropriate vaccine for your pet.

Why are vaccines administered by injection?
Some vaccines are given locally, for example into the nose, but most require injection so that the maximum stimulation of the immune system is achieved. Some vaccines are injected subcutaneously or just under the skin, others are injected into the muscles or intramuscularly.

To learn more, you can read the entire PDF about dog vaccinations, click here.
Vaccines for Cats

Recent advances in veterinary medical science have resulted in an increase in vaccines available for cats. Improvements are continuously being made in vaccine safety and effectiveness. Veterinarians routinely recommend certain vaccines for all cats (called core vaccines) whereas others are used more selectively according to the cat’s environment and lifestyle.

In all cases, decisions regarding the vaccine types and vaccine schedules that are best for each cat require professional advice. At this time, core vaccines, as recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) for all kittens and cats, include the following:
1. Feline panleukopenia (FPL) also known as feline infectious enteritis or feline distemper, caused by FPL
virus or feline parvovirus (FPLV).
2. Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), also known as herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1) caused by FVR virus.
3. Feline caliciviral disease caused by various strains of feline caliciviruses (FCV).
4. Rabies caused by rabies virus

Non-core (discretionary, or optional vaccines), as recommended by the AAFP for kittens and cats with a risk of exposure to specific diseases:
1. Feline chlamydiosis caused by Chlamydophila felis infection.
2. Feline leukemia disease complex caused by feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
3. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) caused by FIP virus or feline coronavirus.
4. Bordetellosis caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica

Vaccines that are not recommended by the AAFP, but that may be appropriate under certain conditions include the following:
1. Giardiasis caused by the protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia
2. Ringworm

When should my kitten be vaccinated?
Generally, kittens are vaccinated for the first time at between six and eight weeks of age and booster doses are given at ten to twelve weeks and again at fourteen to sixteen weeks. A kitten will not be fully protected until seven to ten days after the second vaccination. Under specific circumstances, your veterinarian may advise an alternative regime (see handout “Recommendations for New Kitten Owners” for further information on vaccines in kittens).

To learn more, you can read the entire PDF about cat vaccinations, click here.

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Ernest Ward, DVM; Rania Gollakner, BS DVM © Copyright 2018 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.


Videography: Andrew Moore

Video Editing: Andrew Moore

Anchor: Sara Vogt, Dr John Weiner


Produced by Vogt Media

Funded by Pleasant Valley Veterinary Care

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