“Often issues in veterinary medicine spill over from human medicine, and over the last 10 or 15 years there has been an increase in mostly unfounded concerns about vaccine safety for people — and that, I think, has raised people’s awareness and level of concern about vaccinations for their pets,” says Brennen McKenzie, former president of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association.
So what’s all the fuss about? According to StopTheShots.com, repeated vaccinations, too many vaccinations at one time, and vaccinations for rare diseases are all harmful to pets. Other pet anti-vaxxers are concerned that vaccines trigger immune disorders and life-threatening side effects. This cluster of supposedly vaccine-related symptoms and side effects is collectively called “vaccinosis.”
Homeopathic veterinarian Rosemary Manziano eschews shots for her pet patients, instead recommending taking your pet to to a crowded park to gain immunity against common diseases. Her viewpoint is shared by many anti-vaccination pet parents, who say pets’ natural immunity is enough protection.
The problem with this is pets don’t have this protection until they’re exposed to a disease. When pets do come into contact with, say, canine distemper, they don’t get “just enough” to grant them immunity – they get infected and sick. Diseases like distemper are highly contagious; spread through the air, distemper has no specific cure. In one 2014 outbreak in Amarillo, Texas, over 200 dogs were infected.
Veterinarians are overwhelmingly recommending pet parents get animals vaccinated according to the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Guidelines. Some vets acknowledge that “combo shots” and unnecessarily repeated vaccinations can be harmful, especially to the very young, very old, and immunocompromised. But fatal reactions from pet vaccinations are rare; more common side effects include lethargy, diarrhea and reduced appetite.
Pets’ vaccines are divided into core and non-core. Essential, medically-necessary vaccinations are considered core, while non-core vaccines are optional but may be beneficial for many pet parents.
Dog Core Vaccinations
Cat Core Vaccinations
Ask your veterinarian which vaccinations are legally and medically necessary for your pet. Non-core vaccines are useful for pets at risk of contracting certain diseases, like kennel cough and leptospirosis. Risk factors include high contact with other animals, especially at kennels and boarding facilities, dog parks, farms, or in multi-pet households. If you live in an area where ticks are present, the Lyme disease vaccine offers protection from the blood-sucking buggers.
Outdoor cats or multi-cat households may want to consider vaccinating for feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), chlamydophila, and kennel cough. FIV in particular can be devastating to cats and is easily preventable via vaccination.
If you have concerns about your pet’s vaccination schedule, talk to your vet! Most vets will create a modified schedule for adult pets; vaccination guidelines are especially strict regarding young animals, whose immune systems aren't fully developed yet. When in doubt, call your vet – not Dr. Google.
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