Vaccines have changed the shape of the animal world in so many ways!
Parvo Virus is still the #1 killer of puppies, but thanks to excellent vaccines, we see it less and less (though it still exists). Rabies is so icredibly dangerous for animals (or people who come in contact with them!), and thanks to excellent vaccines coupled with stringent state laws... we as a community are literally saving lives through thorough vaccination day-in and day-out. That's sure something to smile about!
Unfortunately, the advances in vaccine technology/offerings can also make for a somewhat complicated array of options for pet owners. We're here to help!
Step 1: Determine which vaccines your pet HAS to have.
Currently in the state of Michigan, dogs and ferrets are required to be current on their Rabies vaccinations. Some states require cats to be current as well (www.RabiesAware.org is a fantastic resource for Rabies laws by state). If your pet is a patient of ours, it is our hospital policy that they be current on their Rabies vaccination (dogs, cats, and ferrets), not only for your pet's safety but also for that of our wonderful staff. A licensed veterinarian must examine your pet when administering the Rabies vaccination (that means an owner, breeder, etc. cannot give this vaccine themselves), and you will receive a Rabies certificate at that time (which is what you'll need when you go to register your pet with your county). In addition to a Rabies certificate, we also offer our patients a complimentary Rabies ID tag for their collar, which is engraved with a special number that correlates to their Rabies certificate. You do not "have" to accept the Rabies tag, but it's strongly recommended (if your pet is a dog, you'll want to attach the tag to their collar ASAP).
The 1st Rabies vaccination that we give is good for one year. It is very important that you be on time for the 2nd vaccination one year later... if you are on time then the 2nd Rabies vaccination can be good for 3 years! Which saves your pet a couple of pokes and you some money! If you are more than one month late for a Rabies vaccination, the protocol we follow (based on titer test data) is to revert the vaccine back to a 1-year. So be on time (or even early) with this one folks!
Step 2: Determine which non-required vaccines your pet NEEDS, based on lifestyle.
Questions to consider with Step 2:
Do you have a lot of wild animals in your yard, or is your pet in more of an urban setting?
Does your pet go to a groomer, boarding kennel, or doggie daycare?
Will you be traveling with your pet this summer?
What other pets does your pet come in contact with?
Boarding kennels and grooming facilities can set their own guidelines regarding which vaccines they REQUIRE. So if your pet is planning a visit somewhere, you'll need to check with them (not us) to see what they require.
Many boarding kennels, for example, require Rabies, Distemper (DHPP), Bordatella (aka kennel cough), and even various types of the Canine Flu vaccine for dogs. We strongly encourage all of our canine pateints to be immunized against Leptospirosis and Lyme Disease as well, even if a boarding kennel is indifferent on those. Some of these vaccines are performed in a "series" in order to build-up your pet's immunity, so the more you plan ahead the better!
At your visit here, we can provide you with a "health certificate" (a signed form listing your pet's current vaccines, most recent fecal, etc.). We can also fax the health certificate to the boarding (or grooming) facility on your behalf if you request us to do so.
Step 3: Do your homework on zoonotic disease and consider the health of any humans who live with or come in contact with your pet on a daily basis. Which diseases can we protect your pet from, which may also help safeguard against disease transmission from animals to humans?
We cannot advise you on human healthcare decisions. However, we will say that Leptospirosis and Lyme Disease are two zoonotic diseases which we can vaccinate your dog against, and there are others. Vaccine brochures are available in our office upon request.
Step 4: Once you've decided which vaccines your pet HAS to have, which ones they NEED based on lifestyle, and which diseases you're most concerned with from a human-health perspective, stick with the vaccine schedule. We send our clients reminders in the form a a magazine ("Healthy Pet") which lists what your pet is coming up due for, but we highly recommend keeping track of it yourself as well "just in case". We can get you started with a vaccine folder you can take home with you (bring it to each visit and we'll gladly update it for you).
Please note: There can be risks associated with any vaccine. It is our belief that the benefits for any of the vaccines that we personally offer, far exceed the risks. However, we want our clients to feel informed and comfortable with their own pet's healthcare as well! Please feel free to ask us about possible side-effects, vaccine reactions to watch out for, etc. And if your pet has a past history of vaccine reactions, be sure to let us know so that we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of that occurring here. Not all vaccines are created equal... we choose high-quality vaccines which contain fewer additives, which in theory reduces the likelihood of a vaccine reaction (although it can still occur in rare cases). The vaccines must be stored properly, administered properly, and boostered in the correct time-frame, which is why it's so important to have a licensed veterinarian oversee the process. We take great pride in being able to offer high-quality vaccinations which can protect pets from unnecessary illness!
Recommended Vaccine Protocol for Puppies and Dogs:
"Puppy Series": The DA2PP vaccine, which contains Distemper, Adenovirus [hepatitis], Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. The DA2PP is given as a series every 2-4 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old (after the final puppy vaccine in the series, the DA2PP becomes a once-a-year vaccine that can be done at your dog's annual exam). It is VERY important to receive at least one of these vaccines right around 16 weeks old, due to the developing immune system. Many people refer to this vaccine as "Distemper", but please note that the diseases included in the vaccine can vary from hospital-to-hospital and not all "Distemper" vaccines are equal.
Rabies: Rabies is first given at 4-6 months of age (typically at the final DA2PP/puppy series appointment. The timing often works out well to give this first rabies right around the age of the dog's spay/neuter. The first Rabies vaccine is good for 1 year, after which point if you continue to give it on-time it can be stretched to a 3-year vaccine. Failure to booster the vaccine on-time however, causes us to revert back to a 1-year vaccine (due to immunology studies regarding vaccine effectiveness). So to save yourself money and your dog a poke, please remember to be on-time with the Rabies vaccine (ask us about reminder ideas).
Leptospirosis: "Lepto" can be given anytime after a puppy is 12 weeks old. The initial vaccine should be given in a series of 2 (3 weeks apart). After that, Lepto should be given once per year at your dog's annual exam. For extremely small breeds, we recommend waiting until after the DA2PP series is complete.
Lyme: Lyme can be given anytime after a puppy is 12 weeks old. The initial vaccine should be given in a series of 2 (3 weeks apart). After that, Lyme should be given once per year at your dog's annual exam. For extremely small breeds, we recommend waiting until after the DA2PP series is complete. Please note, Lyme is just one of the many diseases that can be caused by ticks, so please continue to use an effective flea and tick prevention all year long.
Bordetella: Bordetella is often referred to as "Kennel Cough". Bordetella can be given anytime after a puppy is 12 weeks old. The initial vaccine should be given in a series of 2 (3 weeks apart). After that, Bordetella should be given once p[er year at your dog's annual exam. Please note: Private boarding kennels (and groomers, etc.) MAY require this vaccine to be given much more frequently, in which case we can alter your pet's vaccine regiment to suit those needs.
Canine Influenza: Canine Influenza, aka "Dog Flu", is actually two different vaccines, H3N2 and H3N8. Both vaccines are needed for maximum effectiveness, and they can both be given anytime after a puppy is 8 weeks of age. Both of these vaccines are given in a series of 2 initially (3 weeks apart). After that, these vaccines can be given once per year at your dog's annual exam. For very small breeds, we recommend waiting until thew DA2PP series is complete.
Recommended Vaccine Protocol for Kittens and Cats:
"Kitten Series": FVRCP (also called Feline Distemper) is the combo vaccine given throughout the kitten series. This vaccine technically consists of Panleukopenia, Herpes, and Calicivirus, which are all very important diseases to build immunity against from a young age. This series is typically given in a series of 3 vaccines (8, 12, and 16 weeks of age if possible). Due to the way the immune system develops/ turns-over, it is VERY important that kittens receive a vaccine right around 16 weeks old. After the final FVRCP in the kitten series, this vaccine is repeated just once per year at your cat's annual exam.
Leukemia: The Feline Leukemia vaccine is also called "F.E.L.V." for short. This is given ina series of 2 vaccines, ideally at about 12 and 16 weeks of age. After that, it becomes a once yearly vaccine given at your cat's annual exam.
Rabies: Feline Rabies is just as important as Canine Rabies, and it is our hospital policy that all of our patients be vaccinated against this deadly, zoonotic disease. The first Rabies vaccine for cats can be given at 4-6 months of age (the timing often coincides nicely with their spay/neuter). Re-vaccinate after 1 year from the first vaccine, and then the vaccine can be good for 3 years (However, if the rabies vaccine is given over 1 month after the due date, the vaccine reverts back to a 1-year vaccine. So for cost-savings and the benefit of your pet, please remember to do this one on-time.).
While it is not required, we strongly recommend that a "Feline Combo" blood test be performed on all kittens as early as possible. This quick and simple test checks for Feline Leukemia as well as F.I.V. ("F.I.V. is "Feline AIDS" aka Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). We can perform this test right here in our hospital and give you the results during your visit (which is ideal to do PRIOR to introducing your new kitten to any other cats you already have, to help safeguard against accidental disease introduction).
We strongly recommend that all pets have a microchip implanted for identification purposes. We use a brand called HomeAgain, which has an anti-migratory quality which helps to keep it in the right place (between the shoulder blades). It's a quick and cost-effective procedure, but because it is a rather large injection (the chip itself is approximately the size of a large grain of rice), it's nice to do it while a pet is asleep for their spay/neuter if possible.
We strongly recommend that all pets be spayed/neutered at the earliest possible age (usually around the time they're receiving their first Rabies vaccine/ 4-6 months of age). A spay is for a female dog or cat, while a neuter is the procedure for a male dog or cat. For these procedures you generally drop your pet off for their appointment at 8am and then they get to go home with you the very same day (generally in the afternoon). If 8am isn't a feasible drop-off time for you, our clients are more than welcome to drop-off the night before the surgery at no additional charge (just please be respectful of our closing time).