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The Importance of Vaccines

The Importance of Vaccines

By Luke Viramontes, DVM

Vaccines have been considered one of the most pronounced medical marvels in the last several decades. Diseases like polio have been eradicated, measles has been controlled, and now, we've entered a new frontier combating the deadly and life-altering COVID-19 virus. Vaccines are essential to maintaining your pet’s healthy lifestyle in a similar way.

Vaccines work by priming your immune system and preparing it for a plethora of foreign invaders, called antigens, in the form of bacteria and viruses. When puppies and kittens are born, they derive part of their immunity from their mother. Over the next few weeks, that maternal protection begins to fade away and the importance of getting your pet vaccinated on time is crucial. During these initial visits, pets receive a series of vaccines up until a certain age (usually between 16 and 20 weeks old) to ensure they develop a proper immune response against certain diseases, such as distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, and rabies. From then on out, vaccine boosters are recommended yearly or less frequent, depending on the vaccine.

Without proper vaccination, these diseases can commonly lead to aggressive hospitalization, hefty veterinary bills, and in some cases, death. As part of your pet’s normal preventative care, vaccines are an essential part to your pet’s lifestyle. As often as vaccines are given, vaccine reactions must be prepared for as well. Although very uncommon, some pets may experience a reaction shortly after receiving a vaccine, most commonly in the form of facial swelling, hives, vomiting, or diarrhea. In very rare instances, pets can develop an anaphylactic reaction, which requires emergency treatment. Although reactions can't be predicted, we can try to limit these by evaluating your pet's lifestyle and vaccine history, and  vaccinating only if deemed necessary (ie: boarding, going to dog parks, etc). The exception to this is the rabies vaccine, which is a legal requirement for all pets, including indoor-only cats.