Why Does My Companion Need Vaccinations?
Vaccinations are an essential factor in preventing of many companion animal diseases, and as such play a key role in your companion’s wellness program. We are fortunate that many serious (and potentially fatal) diseases can be prevented with the help of vaccines. Many of these diseases do not have an effective cure, or when a treatment is available it can be incredibly costly and require prolonged recovery time. By maintaining up-to-date vaccines, you are protecting your companion’s health.
Protection for Your Companion
Vaccines offer protection against specific diseases by stimulating the body’s immune system. Simply put, this means that after vaccination the body is armed and ready to fight off, rather than to succumb to, an infection. Young animals are initially protected by the antibodies present in their mother’s milk. As this protection wears off, vaccinations prompt the body to generate its own protection. This is why puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccinations just like human babies. For adult animals, most vaccines require either an annual or three-year booster. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the most suitable long-term vaccination program – your companion’s lifestyle (including travel, activities, and living environment) need to be taken into consideration when deciding on the most effective disease prevention program.
After all, if you don’t have any current concerns about your cat or dog’s health, couldn’t you save some time, money, and even stress on your companion by skipping the veterinary examination? It’s a good question, but even better are the reasons why a physical exam is absolutely necessary each time your pet needs a vaccination.
First of all, in British Columbia our veterinarians are legally required to have a vet-client-patient relationship before they can administer any medication – including vaccines. To establish and maintain this relationship, the minimum requirement is a physical exam that has been performed within the year. If we haven’t seen your companion in the last year, they will need an exam before we can vaccinate them.
So, that covers our legal requirements. But what about times when we have seen your cat or dog within the year – is another exam still necessary at the time of vaccination? Yes. Absolutely. No question, and no exceptions – regardless of how recently we’ve seen your companion.
Why? Because no matter how healthy someone thinks their pet is, there’s just no substitute for the medical training and experience veterinarians use when assessing whether an animal can be safely vaccinated – they review their medical record, get a history from you as their guardian, and perform a full Wellness Examination – nose to tail, top to bottom, inside (so far as we can) and out. New problems can arise at any time, and animals are so good at hiding health issues from their families. (They can’t help it, it’s instinct – to survive in the wild, you just can’t let any weakness show. While urban pet life is no jungle or savannah, those inherited impulses run strong!).
The reality is, every veterinarian at our practice has needed to – at one time or another – hold off on vaccinating an animal that their guardian thought was perfectly healthy, because upon close examination they were not healthy enough to receive a vaccine.
This makes sense when we think about what vaccines are, and why we give them. Vaccines protect pets from diseases that can have disastrous consequences. They prevent the spread of those diseases to other animals. They also protect the public (in the case of diseases that can transfer to people, like rabies). We take this responsibility very seriously. Vaccines put the immune system to work building protective antibodies, in preparation for the ‘real thing’. That work makes demands on the body’s energy reserves. If we give a vaccine to an animal that isn’t healthy, they might not build enough antibodies to be protected, and it might take them longer to recover from whatever compromised their health in the first place. Either way, we’ve failed in our responsibility to protect your pet.
A full physical examination is the minimum we can do to be as certain as we can that:
1) Your companion’s health won’t be compromised by receiving a vaccine, and
2) Your companion is healthy enough to mount a good response to a vaccine (that is, able to build enough antibodies to protect themselves from a specific disease)
If those two conditions aren’t met, we have no business administering a vaccination. Without an examination, we won’t know whether we’ve met those conditions!
You also might appreciate knowing that we apply these same standards to every patient, including our own staff members’ cats and dogs. No exception. Vaccinations require a physical exam because it’s in everyone’s best interest.
Vaccinations protect your companion from common infectious diseases which can be serious or even fatal. Helping to avoid disease protects their health and enhances their quality of life.
In addition, some diseases like rabies and leptospirosis can also be transmitted to humans. By vaccinating your companion, you are also protecting yourself and your family from potential illness.
When dogs are vaccinated as puppies, the immunity they receive will not protect them for the rest of their lives. To maintain protection, regular booster vaccinations are required for adult dogs.
We will work with you to establish a vaccination regime that is specific to your companion based on the vaccine type, their lifestyle, and any risk factors.
When we recommend a vaccination plan, we always take into consideration the health, age, and lifestyle of your companion. We want to make sure that your companion receives only the necessary or most beneficial vaccines, and that the potential for adverse reactions is minimized. Such reactions are generally rare, mild, and short in duration, and typically resolve on their own.
If you are worried that your companion is experiencing an adverse reaction after receiving their vaccine, please call us at 250-658-5922. We will be happy to help you and support your companion.