Having your pup vaccinated in the first year of their life is very important – but there is a lot of misinformation out there. Are they safe? Are they really necessary? How often are they needed? (See Understanding Vaccines: WHEN Does my pet need them?)
To help ease your fears, and sort fact from fiction, we’ve decided to do a little myth busting of our own.
“Once they’re vaccinated, it’s good for life.”
This is not true at all. Just like with human vaccines, none of them provide guaranteed protection. It’s important to have your pet vaccinated every year to maintain their immunity against disease. They will need yearly vaccines or boosters against illnesses like distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, parvovirus, leptospirosis, rabies, and more. If too much time passes between the boosters, there is a chance that your pet will not have the proper immunity if exposed to any of these diseases.
“Vaccinations aren’t necessary as these diseases are rare now.”
While it is TRUE that cases of these diseases are now far less common than they once were, it is in direct thanks to widespread vaccination.
The ASPCA reports that the Anti-Vax Movement has officially hit the veterinary field. With more and more pets are going unvaccinated, the danger is that we could see a lot more of these “rare” diseases making a return and harming more pets. That’s because these diseases are caused by bacteria and viruses that can remain in our environments, sometimes for years, and when vaccination rates drop – these diseases can re-surge.
“Vaccinations make my pet feel poorly.”
While adverse reactions CAN happen – they’re rare. These days, it is highly unlikely your pet will be effected since all canine vaccines are a modified form of the disease they protect against.
“Vaccinations are not safe.”
Vaccinations are developed and produced under the very strict regulations of the Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB) in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While it is true that, very rarely, some animals may exhibit signs of an allergic reaction to a vaccine, many thousands of pets are vaccinated every day without a problem. Remember, without treatment, Parvovirus is fatal in almost 90% of cases… the benefit of protection clearly outweighs the risk sometimes.
“My pet is never in contact with other pets, so they don’t need to be vaccinated.”
Many of the diseases vaccinated against are not spread directly from pet to pet, meaning that your animal can catch an illness simply from being outside! For example, canine parvovirus can be caught while walking on pavement or playing in parks, while leptospirosis is contracted by drinking from ponds or puddles which rats may have contaminated.
“My small dog will get sick from a vaccine intended for larger breeds.”
A vaccination dose is not dependent on the size of the dog…or cat, or rabbit. Each dose given is the minimum amount needed to stimulate an immune response in the patient.
“Vets only recommend vaccinations to make money!”
I won’t say that there aren’t shady veterinarians out there…and it’s unfortunate because it only takes a few bad ones to give the whole bunch a bad name. But a good vet’s top priority is the health and well-being of your pet. Scientific evidence heavily points to the fact that not only are vaccinations safe, they are necessary to maintain the overall health and wellness of the greater animal population. It is documented that vaccinations have saved countless lives. If this is truly your concern, and a contributing factor to why you have chosen to leave your pet unvaccinated, please take the time to sit down with your vet and discuss this information. You may find that your reservations were unfounded after speaking with someone who can easily quell your fears.
Sadly, for pets that catch these awful diseases, the treatment is invasive and far more expensive than the vaccination would have been. A pet who catches parvovirus, for instance, can expect to be hospitalized for several days to the tune of $1,500 – $3,000+.
“Pets can still get the illness even if vaccinated, so there really is no point.”
While it is true that no vaccine is 100% guaranteed, not even in human medicine – it is still important to have those vaccinations on board. It is possible for vaccinated pets to be affected by certain diseases, as many viruses have different strains and can mutate over time. However, a vaccinated pet usually suffers much milder symptoms and can have a far high chance of survival than an unvaccinated pet.
“Puppies and kittens get all the antibodies they need from their mother’s milk, so they don’t really need vaccinations.”
Yes, very young puppies and kittens will get antibodies from their mother’s milk in their first few weeks of life. However, this natural protection starts to fade quickly, which is why it is recommended to begin vaccinating puppies as early as 6 weeks of age. If the mother has not been vaccinated herself, then this may actually increase the risk factors of certain diseases as well. Young pet’s immune systems are fragile and not fully developed until they are nearly six months of age.
“I missed a few years of vaccinations but it’s fine – I can just get them this year instead.”
Some vaccines are known as “3 Year Vaccines” meaning that after the initial series of vaccines, it only needs to be boostered once every 3 years. This is a very convenient way to vaccinate a pet, but it does mean that owners will often skip the annual appointment as “unnecessary” since a core vaccination is not required. It is important to remember that not all vaccines follow the same schedule and whether or not missing a vaccination will be a problem depends on the injection that’s been missed. But typically, if more than 15 months passes between boosters, it is likely that your veterinarian will recommend restarting your pet’s vaccination program from the beginning.
Wow! Seems like there is a lot of misinformation out there. Please, do your research and call animal hospitals if you have questions. A good veterinary hospital will have a friendly front staff that is more than willing to answer any you may have about their practice.
You can check out the first and second parts of this series below: