At some time in its life, your pet may be exposed to a serious or even fatal infectious disease one of which could even be a serious danger to yourself e.g. Rabies virus. Having your pet vaccinated is the best and least costly way of preventing disease. Without proper vaccination, he is left unprotected.
How does vaccination work?
When your dog or cat is vaccinated, its immune system produces special substances called antibodies. The antibodies work against viruses or bacteria that cause disease and can be regarded as the body’s “fighter pilots”. It is important to note that vaccines are preventative rather than curative. Vaccinating a sick animal is not going to help and may even put additional strain on your pet’s already struggling immune system. A healthy pet with a healthy immune system is required in order to build a good level of protective antibodies in response to a vaccine.
How often should my dog/cat be vaccinated?
Since the protection provided by a vaccine may gradually decline after an animal is vaccinated, periodic revaccination is necessary. Such booster vaccines are necessary to “remind” the immune system to produce enough protective antibodies or “fighter pilots” to protect against a challenge of disease causing virus or bacteria.
Why do puppies and kittens require more vaccinations than older pets?
Puppies and kittens are as vulnerable as they are adorable and their immature immune systems can’t fight off diseases as well as older dogs and cats. A nursing puppy or kitten receives antibodies from its mother’s milk that protect it during its first months of life. The amount of natural antibodies they receive will vary according to the health and immune status of the mother as well as how well the puppy or kitten drank as a newborn. The protection received naturally through maternal antibodies can interfere with the affectivity of early vaccinations. Unfortunately, we cannot pinpoint the day from which your puppy or kitten becomes vulnerable due to a waning natural source of antibodies, and this is why puppies and kittens need vaccinations several times during their first few months of life.
The latest evidence-based studies show that the variability amongst puppies and kittens in terms of when their maternal antibody protection wore off was larger than originally thought. New evidence recommends vaccinating puppies and kittens from 6-8weeks of age and every 3-4 weeks up until the age of 16 weeks. This may mean that your pet will receive 4 puppy/kitten series vaccination as apposed to the 3 that many people are used to.
Understanding vaccination and immunity in your pet:
Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the immune system has to recognise and respond to the antigens (viruses/bacteria in the vaccine) by producing antibodies. In most puppies and kittens, disease protection does not begin until five days after vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to 14 days. In these window periods, puppies and kittens are very vulnerable and susceptible to viruses.
Fact: Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious disease in healthy animals
Frequently asked questions
What should I know about vaccination?
Vaccinations protect your pet from several highly contagious diseases such as canine distemper, parvovirus (“cat flu”) infection and respiratory tract infections. It also protects against transmissible diseases such as rabies that also pose a risk to humans. Vaccination will not cure a pet that is already sick. Only healthy pets should be vaccinated. To ensure that the vaccine has been handles correctly and remains effective, ensure that either a veterinarian or a veterinary nurse administers the vaccine.
Are there any risks?
The majority of pets experience no adverse effects following vaccination. A small number of animals may become feverish and have a reduced appetite. These reactions are mild and of short duration (usually 12-24hrs). In extremely rare cases, an animal may experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction soon after vaccination (anaphylactic reaction). Such an animal can be treated successfully if attended to immediately by a vet. The possibility of such an event occurring does not justify considering not to vaccinate your pets, however, as that will leave them susceptible to a range of very common and life threatening infectious diseases. If your pet is pregnant you will need to notify your vet as certain vaccines should not be used during pregnancy.
Against what diseases should I have my pet vaccinated?
Vaccines used for the protection of pets are currently divided into core vaccines and non-core vaccines. The former are vaccines that should be given to all pets in all regions because they protect against diseases that are widespread and have serious effects. Non-core vaccines are only given strategically when a particular disease is prevalent in an area or when circumstances predispose to the appearance of the disease. Non-core vaccines are only administered after discussion with your veterinarian to evaluate the risks.
Core vaccines for DOGS
- Canine distemper
- Canine adenovirus infections
- Canine parvovirus infection
Non-core vaccines for DOGS
- Kennel cough
- Canine coronavirus
- Canine herpesvirus
Core vaccines for CATS
- Feline panleukopenia
- Feline herpesvirus
- Feline calicivirus
None-core vaccines for CATS
- Feline leukaemia (High prevalence of this fatal disease in the Helderberg, so it is included in all of Teva’s feline vaccination protocols)
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (Vaccine no longer available in RSA)
How often should my adult pet get booster vaccinations?
The updated guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats (as compiled by the world small animal veterinary association after an extensive evidence-based study) is that after their puppy/kitten series, all puppies and kittens should receive a booster vaccination of the core vaccines at 1 year of age. Thereafter your vet should perform an annual health examination and disease risk assessment based on both you and your pet’s lifestyle to assess what vaccines will need to be boosted annually, biennially or triennially. In South Africa most of our cat population enjoy a combination of indoor and outdoor living and are therefore at high risk of contracting viruses. In cats your vet will probably recommend an annual booster vaccine.
*A special note for pets that may need to travel outside of South Africa: Rabies is a notifiable zoonotic disease that kills thousands of people every year and the global regulations around the control of this disease are extremely strict. If you are planning to travel with your pet it is essential that your pet’s vaccination schedule is done correctly and kept up to date. See https://tevavetclinic.co.za/2020/04/30/tevas-basic-guide-for-preparing-your-pets-for-export/ for more information on traveling with your pet.