The month of August has been designated as National Immunization Awareness Month for pets. This designation serves as a good reminder to make certain that your pet is up to date on vaccinations to help ensure the health of your pet, others’ pets and even yourself and your family.
Are the Terms Immunization and Vaccination the Same?
While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not really the same. A vaccine is a product (often called an antigen) designed to trigger a protective or immune response in your pet and prepare its immune system to effectively fight future infections from disease-causing agents such as certain bacteria and viruses. Vaccination is the process of introducing the vaccine into a person’s or animal’s body. An inoculation is another term for giving or administrating a vaccine into the body and can be done by injection, oral administration or by using a spray into the nose. Immunization defines the body’s reaction or response to the antigen or vaccine found in its body and helps the pet to become immune or protected from a specific disease. The immunization process usually results in the formation of antibodies that have been stimulated by the vaccine and can then recognize and destroy disease-causing organisms that may enter the body. These antibodies will either lessen the severity of a diseases or even prevent the disease altogether thus improving and protecting your pet’s health and quality of life. The pet is protected or immune to the disease in the future if the antibody levels remain active and sufficient in number which may require revaccinations over a pet’s lifetime.
Why Should I Have My Pet Vaccinated?
There are 5 reasons why vaccinations should be administered to your pets.
Are Rabies Vaccinations Require by Law?
Vaccinations for rabies are required by law in the State of Georgia and most states in the U.S. This is true for both dogs and cats. Owners can be liable for not following this legal mandate. Rabies vaccinations are only considered legal in Georgia if they are administered by a licensed veterinarian. All dogs, cats and ferrets are required to have been vaccinated for rabies by 3 months of age and then revaccinated annually unless a 3 -year rabies vaccine is used after the first year. The first confirmed case of rabies in Greene County this year was found in April in a skunk on Highway 15 South near White Plains, Georgia.
Which Vaccines Should My Pet Receive?
You should work with your local veterinarian to devise a vaccination program that is best suited for your pet. Some pets are homebodies, some have more modest opportunities for exposure to infectious diseases and some might live riskier lives through frequent exposures to diseases from other pets and wildlife by virtue of their lifestyles and activities. How much a pet travels, is boarded, is groomed or lives in a high-risk region will also help to determine a proper vaccination program for your individual pet. These differences in lifestyle and risks illustrate that a customized vaccination program should be planned and implemented for your pet. Vaccinations are categorized as either core or non-core. Core vaccinations are recommended for almost all pets and often include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis and canine hepatitis for dogs and feline panleukopenia, viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus are usually recommended for cats. Non-core vaccinations may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on potential risks, disease exposures and a pet’s lifestyle. For example, some non-core vaccinations might include feline leukemia or canine kennel cough (Bordetella) or others recommended by your veterinarian.
When and How Often Should My Pet Be Vaccinated?
Very young animals are highly susceptible to infectious diseases because their immune or protection systems are not fully mature or completely effective. Their mother’s milk contains antibodies that serve to protect them while very young, but this protection doesn’t last long. Therefore, vaccinations need to be started in a pet’s first few months of life, and often a series of vaccines are needed when they are puppies or kittens. After this initial series of vaccines have been administered, annual boosters or re-vaccinations are often recommended to maintain protection through a pet’s lifetime. There are some variations in these recommendations based on a pet’s age, health status and lifestyle and you should work with your local veterinarian to establish the best schedule that is customized for your pet.
What About Vaccinations for Pets Living Indoors?
Many infectious diseases are spread or are acquired through aerosolization transmission (through breathing the air) and don’t require direct contact with another animal to be exposed to the disease agent. In addition, indoor pets can and do get outdoors on occasion and could be exposed to diseases more directly. It is therefore recommended by experts and professionals that all pets receive core vaccinations plus some non-core vaccination if indicated by your personal veterinarian.
Are There Risks Associated with Vaccinations?
While very uncommon, all medical procedures including vaccinations carry some risk. However, other than possibly experiencing some discomfort or local swelling at the site of the vaccine, which is short-lived, more serious complications are quite infrequent. If you see that you pet is experiencing such an event, you should return them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The benefits of vaccinations greatly outweigh the impacts of acquiring one of these infectious diseases that could include serious and expensive illnesses and even death.
Are the Oconee Regional Human Society (ORHS) Dogs and Cats Vaccinated?
The ORHS takes great pride in only offering pets for adoption that are healthy, spayed or neutered and are also up to date on their vaccinations. This commitment will help assure that you start off on the right foot when adopting one of our pets.
While we have made great strides in reducing and preventing infectious diseases in our pets, dangerous disease-causing pathogens continue to be present and can put our pets at significant risk to infections. Yet, most of the most common, serious and life-threatening infectious diseases of pets are preventable through the proper and timely administration of vaccines. Because this is the National Immunization Awareness Month, please take the important steps to keep your pet updated on their vaccinations. This will give you both peace of mind and help your beloved pet and you to lead safer and healthier lives.