Pet Vaccinations: Are they Safe?Published November 13, 2011
Veterinarian with Cocker Spaniel: Photo via Bruce Fong Blog
Visits to the veterinarian, dental care and pet vaccinations are central to maintaining our pets' robust health.
But within the past few years, what once was considered to be essential pet vaccination protocols are now being re-examined to determine which annual pet vaccinations are really necessary and to examine the risks of over-vaccinating.
Many veterinarians today are leaning toward individualizing pet vaccination protocols based on need, age and the general health of the animal.
Feline and canine vaccines work by stimulating the pet's immune system to respond to a selected infectious disease. These vaccines provide protection against that particular disease to which the vaccine is targeted. Unvaccinated pets, if exposed to these highly lethal and potentially fatal diseases, are at high risk of contagion, resulting in serious and life-threatening illness.
So what are the risks in vaccinating our pets?
One of the more common dangers is an acute allergic reaction to the vaccine. Anaphylactic reactions can occur shortly after the vaccine is administered. Swellings of the eyelids, difficulty breathing, or muzzle swelling are some of the symptoms.
Additionally vomiting or welts on the skin are other symptoms that demonstrate that the pet is allergic to the product. These allergic reactions can occur even if a pet has never had an adverse reaction previously.
In felines, the rabies and feline-leukemia pet vaccine carries the risk of Vaccine Associated Sarcoma, a particularly aggressive and difficult to treat form of tumor, which may develop in approximately 1-10,000 or 100,000 vaccinated cats. Some estimates are greater, according to some studies, ranging in the area of 2-5 cats in 10,000-100,000 becoming affected.
According to a safer protocol, cats are no longer being "scruff" vaccinated by veterinarians. The injections are now administered in a leg muscle on a specific side, so if tumors develop, surgery to amputate the affected leg may help prolong the life of the cat. In fact, some veterinarians are now administering these vaccines to cats in the tail, as they can manage without it, if amputation becomes necessary.
Other risks for potential side-effects to pet vaccination are yet undocumented or completely understood. Damage to the immune system which may cause damage to major organ systems is one that has been postulated, but remains unproven. However, we must carefully weigh these risks against the danger of our pets contracting serious diseases if not vaccinated.
In consultation with our veterinarian, a balance between under-vaccinating and over-vaccinating may be established.
Depending upon on our pet's lifestyle, whether he or she is an indoor or outdoor pet, what exposure he may have to unvaccinated animals, or especially if she compete in shows, all enter into the pet vaccine protocol equation. It is crucial to establish an individualized vaccine protocol based on the specific needs of our pets in order to lower unnecessary risk.
And while the rabies pet vaccination is mandated throughout the United States on individualized schedules, talk to your veterinarian about some of the safer products available, especially for felines.
What are your thoughts about vaccinations for your pets? Do you vaccinate them on a regular schedule? Leave a comment and share your opinions.