PUBLISHED: 07:11 31 March 2014
Spring is in the air and it seems to be the time of year that people are acquiring new puppies and kittens. That makes me think of that first appointment with the vet and all the questions owners often have – including “Should I vaccinate?”
Unfortunately there plenty of myths surrounding the subject of vaccination. I suspect the majority of people vaccinate their children as they want to protect them as much as they possibly can from life-threatening diseases. The same should go for our pets.
I realise that vaccinating can be an emotive subject and people have very strong opinions on the matter. I am only speaking from my perspective as a vet and I can easily say I have seen far more pets die or need expensive treatment for preventable life-threatening illnesses than I have seen life-threatening vaccine reactions.
This year we had to treat a dog for Leptospirosis. Thankfully she recovered, but had to stay in the hospital for a week and have antibiotics and other supportive treatment for another month – all of which could have been prevented with an annual booster vaccination. Needless to say the cost of vaccinating that dog her whole life would have cost less than half the cost of the treatment she needed to survive.
We have all heard in the news about the recent measles outbreaks which were caused by the levels of children vaccinated falling below the critical level of 95pc. When most of vaccinate our pets we are only thinking about our own but it is actually far more important in terms of the dog and cat (and don’t forget rabbits!) populations overall. A lot of people stop vaccinating because we don’t see cases of diseases like distemper, but if we fail to vaccinate the disease will recur much like measles did in the human population.
There are definitely medical conditions animals can get where we advise not to vaccinate a particular pet. Even in those situations, the evidence that the vaccine could cause a problem is anecdotal. In most pets we advise vaccinating and we say this taking into account all of the risks and benefits. Vaccine reactions have been reported in 0.82 per 10,000 doses in cats and 0.26 per 10,000 doses in dogs. And when we say reactions, we are talking about anything from the vaccine not working as well as we would like, through bumps at the injection site, to more severe and life-threatening reactions. Taking all of that into account the risks are very low. The best thing to do if you have any questions about vaccinating your pet is speak to your vet about the risk/benefit for your particular pet in the area you live. For more information on vaccinations see www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines and view the PDF with the most recent 2010 guidelines.