We've heard a lot about concerns surrounding vaccinations for children, but have you considered how important or safe they are for your pets? Or what about over-vaccination—giving unnecessary vaccines for your needs, or too frequently—an issue that's been getting a bit of attention lately. Can we administer vaccinations ourselves and save money? To find the answers to these questions, I went to Dr. Pam Nichols of Utah Animal Care Center, who shed light on the subject.
Dr Pam says:
The most important thing for readers to know is that there is no "cookie cutter" vaccination plan for dogs. Every pet has different needs based on risk factors, health, age, travel and other variables.
If you call an animal hospital and they can give you an answer to the question, "What vaccines does my pet need?" without their knowing anything other than the age, run! Vaccines vary based on activities and lifestyle. Generally in Utah, there is no need for Lyme's vaccine, although it is routinely recommended by chain vet clinics and others. There is no need for Giardia vaccine in my opinion unless dealing with a kennel or an immunocompromised human family member. Rabies vaccine is given at most every three years. The first puppy series is non-negotiable and must include Distemper, Parvo, Corona, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus + Bordetella. Adult dogs do not typically need Corona.
The value of having a relationship with your veterinarians is that they know you and your pet; they know which dog is likely to need the rattlesnake vaccination and which dog is likely to visit relatives on the East Coast and will therefore need a Lyme disease vaccination. In February this year, I saw 15 cases or so of severe parvovirus. The pups had been given their first vaccination by the breeder, purchased from an IFA. We saved all but two at an incredible expense to the owners. If those vaccinations had been administered by a veterinarian, the costs of treating the disease would have been covered by the vaccine company.
Over-vaccination is a major topic for most veterinarians. Ask your vet what vaccines they recommend and why. They do have your best interest at heart. Each year there are still many cases of distemper and parvovirus in Utah so it's important to keep up to date.
Dr. Pam does not recommend going to the local IFA or Country Store to purchase pet vaccinations. In her opinion, self-vaccinating is dangerous. It's also unnecessary, because veterinary clinics usually provide vaccinations at no charge with a pet's health exam. I looked into this and found that home-vaccinating pets can cause serious illness or death to your furry friends. An anaphylactic allergic reaction, always a possibility with any vaccination, is really bad news if it occurs outside the support structure of a veterinary clinic. Improper storage of immunizations (exposure to sun, heat or freezing) can make them lose potency, and administering the shot incorrectly can render it ineffective. Also, contaminants on the syringe may expose your pet to pathogens that can make him sick. Do your best buddy a favor and let a veterinarian do the vaccinating.
Vaccine manufacturers used to set blanket requirements that vets had to follow by law but in recent years they have been under pressure to show data that demonstrates a need for annual vaccinations for dogs. Many holistic practitioners believe that over-vaccination diminishes the animal's immune resources that may then create disorders such as degenerative joint diseases, and can depress the animal's ability to ward off diseases naturally. As a result of vets questioning manufacturers, vaccine recommendations are now tailor made by your veterinarian for your pet.
That said, most vets, regardless of philosophy, recommend the basic list of immunizations provided in the sidebar. So remember, always talk with your vet about the right vaccines for your pet.
Basic immunizations for dogs in Utah
• Distemper virus
• Infectious canine hepatitis
• Rabies (every three years)
• Parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica.
Kennels often require that a dog has been immunized for kennel cough. Some kennels also require canine flu virus. For convenience, the kennel may administer bordetella intra-nasally (into a nostril) on site.
Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, by Stanley Coren (2012: W.W. Norton). A humorous book that addresses dogs' emotional, intellectual and social world. 75 questions such as, "Can dogs laugh?" Includes an interesting note: A recording of dogs "laughing" broadcast in kennels was found to calm stressed dogs. Good idea for kennels out there. A fun and informative read on how we may understand our canine companions maybe a tiny bit as much as they understand us.