With the recent media attention of diseases associated with the administration of vaccines, and the concern of over vaccination of children, the veterinary profession has seen a multitude of questions and concerns from pet caretakers. This is not a new topic to the veterinary profession, in fact, it has been one of the most highly debated and researched topics in the field. As a result, committees were assembled to make recommendations about vaccine protocols.
In the past, veterinarians would vaccinate every animal that came through their clinic doors for the same diseases on an annual basis. This cookie cutter approach was adopted based on the vaccine manufacturers’ recommendations for ensuring the best immunity for pets. Recently, there has been a push for research to prove that there is a reason EVERY animal needs to be vaccinated EVERY year for EVERY disease we vaccinate against. The driving force by veterinary professionals for this research has not stemmed from whether or not vaccines are beneficial; we KNOW that vaccinations have saved an enormous number of lives. Our main concern is that vaccinating our patients for the same diseases on an annual basis can lead to immune mediated diseases such as Lupus, anemia, bleeding disorders, and degenerative joint disease. So, you can imagine how thrilled the veterinary community was when 3-year vaccines became available for our adult patients. This was accompanied by well documented evidence that these vaccines provide equivalent protection to the annual vaccines over an extended duration.
Based on the results of this new research, the licensing of several 3-year vaccines, and their clinical experience, the vaccine advisory committee has recently updated their recommended vaccination guidelines. These new guideline recommends that a vaccine protocol should be individualized. Now, you may be wondering what exactly we mean by individualized, aren’t all pets basically the same? Just take a peek into a typical day for a veterinarian and you can see how differently our pet’s activities and environments are.
My first appointment is with Miss Kitty, a cat that comes to her appointment dressed in an argyle sweater and a carrier that matches. She never comes into contact with other cats or dogs, except for the occasional stray she spies through HER picture window at home as she lazily lays on her perch. The next appointment of the day is with the Simpson family who share their home with 3 cats, 2 of which contently live inside only, and then there is Houdini. So appropriately named, because no matter what kind of barriers they have created for him, they find him out and about every morning in the neighborhood, mingling with all of the dumpster diving, stray kitties. My last appointment of the morning is with Earl, a Coonhound that has traveled the Mississippi river with his best pal, hunting lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! I start my afternoon off with Mitsy, a Bichon Frise, who has a monthly standing groomer’s appointment for a hairdo, nail trim, and massage. Although she rarely leaves her mom and dad’s lap, she does occasionally spend time with the Shetland Sheepdog clan that lives next door to her. Her friends are well known for their winning ability at agility competitions. Next up is the litter of puppies from the humane shelter, they are getting so big, and are here for their next vaccines in their puppy series. After running around a room vaccinating a pack of crazy puppies, I am thankful for Ol’ Pete, he is a 14 year old Labrador Retriever who was a great pal to a little boy that has now become a college student. Although apartment living is a little cramped for Ol’ Pete’s style, he could get used to this dog park thing, where he gets to exercise and meet new friends! My last appointment is with a feline rescue group who is concerned about housing cats together that range in age from kittens to geriatric cats, as well as new additions coming in on a regular basis. They would like me to help them with a preventative health plan.
This little peek into our daily lives has hopefully made it obvious that not every pet is the same. We have to carefully ask questions about where your pets go on vacation, if they go to the groomer, and who they spend time with… The strays they just can’t stay away from, the neighborhood clan, friends at the dog park, or new strangers that quickly become family. Although it may be annoying having to answer the same questions year after year, we have an important obligation to you and your pet; to make a vaccine protocol that will provide the best immunity to the diseases which they may come into contact, while remaining vigilant about the potential ramifications of overtaxing the immune system. We are ecstatic that these new 3-year vaccines are available to us and hopeful that this will allow us to vaccinate less frequently yet provide the best immunity possible to our patients. However, if there is ever a question about the level of protection of your pet, we will be cautious and recommend vaccinating. Ultimately the decision to vaccinate is yours, our goal is to provide you with information regarding vaccine reactions, the duration of immunity each vaccine is labeled for, and why we are recommending specific vaccines for your pet, so we may help you keep your pet healthy and strong for many years. We encourage you to ask us about 3-year protocols at your pet’s next appointment!
*The stories you just read are true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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