May 1, 2017

General Wellness & Prevention

Do vaccines help or hurt your pet? Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about veterinary vaccines

by Karen Strickfaden, DVM, CVA, CAC

Why should vaccines be a part of my pet’s healthcare?

  • The purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate a pet’s body to produce antibodies and ‘memory’ cells so that if he encounters the disease again, his system will be ready to defend against it.

    close-up of vaccine preparation

    bordetella vaccine

What are the risks of vaccinating my pet?

  • If your pet has an adverse reaction, it will usually occur within 24-48 hours of immunization.
  • Only a very small percentage of pets have reactions to vaccines, and the most common reaction is lethargy.
  • Other reactions may include vomiting or swelling at the injection site.
  • In rare cases, a pet may have difficulty breathing or other signs of serious illness.
  • Monitor your pet after any vaccinations.  If you see reaction symptoms that concern you, contact your veterinarian immediately or go to your nearest veterinary emergency center.

What are the risks of NOT vaccinating my pet?

  • If you choose to not vaccinate, your pet may contract a severe illness.
  • Some illnesses may be fatal.
  • It would be a shame for a pet die from a disease could have been easily prevented.

How long does it take for vaccines to provide protection?

  • The intranasal kennel cough vaccine starts to provide protection within 48-72 hours.
  • Injectable vaccinations provide protection after approximately 10-14 days.
  • Most first-time vaccines require at least one booster vaccination 3-4 weeks later. Without this second dose, the vaccine won’t provide adequate immunity. As a result, if your pet doesn’t get a booster within the required timeframe, he may have to begin the series again.
  • Allow enough time for a vaccine to take effect before taking your pet to dog parks and boarding facilities.

Are all vaccinations created equal?

  • There are many different manufacturers of vaccines for the same disease.
  • Different manufacturers use different techniques and ingredients to make their vaccines.
  • Higher quality vaccines tend to be more expensive to develop and manufacture.  Therefore, some vaccines may cost more than others.

What can I do to decrease the risk of a vaccine reaction?

Assistant preparing a vaccine

Pet Health Specialist, Amber, prepares a vaccine

  • Vaccinate your pet only for the diseases he is at risk of contracting.
  • Give only 1 or 2 vaccines at a time. Three or more vaccines given at one time increases the risk of a vaccine reaction 50% over the risk of a single vaccine.
  • Dogs under 20 lbs. are more likely to have a vaccine reaction, so your veterinarian should only administer 1 vaccine per visit.
  • Vaccinate your dog or cat when he is healthy, not when his immune system is battling disease or infection.

What are vaccine guidelines Countrycare Animal Complex?

  • At Countrycare Animal Complex, we are dedicated to reducing the risk of both diseases and vaccine side effects.
  • We base our recommendations on your individual pet’s lifestyle and potential risk for exposure to certain diseases.
  • We use the highest quality vaccines and none of them contain mercury or thimerosal.
  • Because we have researched the different medications and vaccine manufacturers, our vaccines offer the best protection with the least possible side effects.

Deciding whether or not to vaccinate your pet against certain diseases can be a very personal decision. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your veterinarian. Together, you will be able to weigh the risk of reaction against the risk of disease for your pet. The goal of any vaccination program is to help your pet stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Dr. KarDr. Karen Stickfaden, countrycare animal complexen Strickfaden is the co-owner of Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI.  She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University, and her practice emphasis is on holistic medicine.  Dr. Strickfaden enjoys the challenge of helping an animal that no one else could.