Archived Story

Making time for vaccines

Published 8:22pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Being responsible for the health of our pets, we as pet owners keep them healthy, safe and happy. We know vaccines are important, yet pet owners commonly ask veterinarians about the topic.
What are vaccines? Put simply, vaccines are a modification of a specific organism that is administered to produce an increased immunity to that organism. A common misconception is that vaccines completely prevent disease. This, unfortunately, is not true. However, vaccines could lessen the degree of the disease dependent on the individual. Vaccinations continue to serve as a priority and the first line of defense in veterinary preventative medicine.
For dogs, the main vaccine includes canine distemper, canine adenovirus, parvovirus, parainfluenza and leptosporosis. Some other names for this main vaccine include canine distemper vaccine, parvo vaccine, five-way vaccine or combination vaccine. Other vaccines include the Bordetella vaccine, commonly called kennel cough vaccine, Lyme vaccine and rabies vaccine.
For cats, the main vaccine includes feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia virus. Another name for this main vaccine includes distemper vaccine, but has no relation with canine distemper vaccine. Other vaccines include feline leukemia vaccine, feline immunodeficiency virus vaccine, Bordetella vaccine, chlamydophila vaccine and rabies vaccine.
Commonly called a vaccine schedule, vaccines are set depending on the age of the animal and which vaccines are to be given. In general, initial vaccines are given when the animal is 6 to 8 weeks old. Vaccines administered prior to 6 weeks old have been shown to be less effective due to remaining maternal antibodies that may inactivate vaccines. Booster vaccines are typically administered three to four weeks after the initial injection. Some vaccines, like canine distemper and feline immunodeficiency vaccine, may need two booster vaccinations rather than just one. Some vaccines are required prior to boarding or when grooming your pet, typically Bordetella vaccine and rabies vaccine.
It is important to keep your pet’s vaccines up to date every one to three years, especially in at-risk regions of specific diseases. The rabies vaccine is the exception. According to North Carolina General Statue 130A-185, and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, a dog, cat or ferret’s first rabies vaccine is valid for one year. For dogs and cats, each additional rabies vaccine is valid for three years with documented proof of previous vaccination. Because hospitals adopt a vaccine schedule based on manufacturers’ and hospitals’ associations, consult with your regular veterinarian on which vaccines are best for your pet.
Boorus Yim DVM is an Associate Veterinarian  at Pamlico Animal Hospital in Washington.

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