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Vaccinations in pets: your animal health care recommendations

If you ask us as a  group of veterinarians what our vaccination protocols are, we would be inclined to discuss with you the difference between core vs. non-core vaccinations, you might get different protocols as newer information about vaccination duration of protection, and you might question why our recommendations may vary from what you have previously thought, been told, or what your friend's vet recommends.

We are proud to follow the recently published comprehensive vaccination guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners as to the selection of vaccinations and the frequency of administration. We strive to follow the experts in the field of vaccination protection. We want you as the pet owner to be vaccine smart! We know you appreciate that we have the best interests of your pets in mind. And, we won't need to booster as often now that we have many vaccinations that have proven three years of immunity protection also known as duration of immunity (DOI). At Animal Health Care of Marlboro, we also prefer not to overvaccinate at one visit so we will administer 2 vaccinations per visit so as not to "overload" the body with too much at one time–not as many shots in the rump causing discomfort either:)

Some areas have unique disease problems whether that is in other areas of the country of even between north and south of the Driscoll bridge! For instance we have been hearing about pockets of canine influenza virus but haven't seen this infection common to our area. So, we haven't embraced this vaccination as part of our protocol (yet) but because of our concern we are trying to make sure all of our canine kids are vaccinated against Bordetella respiratory infection which can mimic influenza. Our theory is that if we can protect our patients with an established, known vaccination against a problem such as kennel cough, and if a dog who is properly vaccinated develops signs: cough, runny nose, runny eyes for instance, we might be more suspect of other viral and/or bacterial diseases in those cases concentrating on quicker testing and treatment options with better care choices and faster recovery. Win-win!

At ahc we are committed to practicing the highest level, cutting edge medicine for the safety of your pets. The most current guidelines and research influence our decisions, too. We try to assess each pet's lifestyle and risk factors to plan an appropriate vaccination protocol based on play dates, travel plans, training, boarding, household pet population (including age, type, breed and species) and grooming to review some of our discussions. If a pet is to travel internationally or even interstate we make ourselves aware of the risks in their intended travel environments and inform our clients so that you are a part of the health care decision.

We know that throughout their lives, pets can be exposed to several infectious diseases that could severely impact their lives or in some cases even cause death! We like to use this platform as the opportunity to prevent infection through effective, properly timed vaccination programs. Preventing disease for us is crucial in any pet health care plan. Vaccination is a foundation of that protection. We develop the best protocols for our geographic New Jersey area. We evaluate each pet as an individual but also as part of the larger group of pets in our area. There is not one vaccine protocol that necessarily fits all pets! So we want to custom tailor a vaccination protection plan to each pet, every time. And, as the vaccine manufacturer says and as printed on each vial of vaccine, vaccination should be used in healthy pets only.

As an aid in pet risk we consider

  • Age, breed, and sex of the patient
  • Geography: where does the pet live or travel to, where were they from?
  • Are there other pets in the household? Are they protected?
  • Identify family members: their age and their immune risks: no we can't treat your human family members (we do get asked!) but it's important to know about children and infants, seniors and adults who may also be at risk if pets are not properly protected.
  • Where does you pet sleep?
  • Are they indoor or outdoors and what per cent of the time (as my dog Mia is sunning herself in our fenced-in back yard keeping an eye out for stray rabbits, birds, and moles)?
  • When outdoors, is your pet leash walked, is there a fenced yard, farm, free roaming, exercise pen? All of the above?
  • What the exposure risk to both known and unfamiliar pets to strays or wildlife?
  • When was the last time your pet was vaccinated?

We often have detailed conversations with our pet parents about aging pets who don't go outside and the need for a Rabies vaccination- we'll consider the age and lifestyle in making vaccine decisions but we also need to follow state regulations for especially Rabies vaccinations to protect your pets–and you.

Long time pet owners may comment that they've never vaccinated their pets why start now–to which we might discuss core and non core vaccinations that can be used to protect and prevent major infectious-and sometime life threatening diseases. Some vaccines may not be needed based on lifestyle and history. We're looking for the best plan for you and your pets.

Vaccination reactions and secondary disease invariably become a topic-we do have concerns about these reports. Most pets do well after vaccinations with sometimes a bit of discomfort at the vaccination injection spot, much like you feel after a tetanus shot (remember what that feels like? if not you're probably overdue for that protection yourself!). And because we use companies that back us the veterinarian, we have recourse when there is an adverse reaction for both recording that information and for best treatment options should there be a problem in the vaccination of your pet. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) encourages the reporting of any adverse events to the vaccine manufacturer as well  as to the US Department of Agriculture for Veterinary Biologics (CVB). And, we have done so when we perceive a vaccination reaction.

So what signs should you look out for after a vaccination? Most pets will experience mild side effects that translate into a mild fever, muscle aches, reduced appetite that day, some sensitivity at the shot spot, some ,muscle pain or in the case of an intranasal vaccination, a runny nose, sneezing, reverse sneezing (go to for clips on dogs doing this), or mild coughing. In rare cases a severe reaction can occur which requires immediate medical attention such as swelling of the face,eyes, ears or legs, difficulty breathing, severe sudden vomiting and diarrhea or even collapse. If any of these sign occur go right back to your veterinarian or to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for treatment. Just as a note, the only approved distemper vaccine for ferrets (now not available) almost always caused a severe reaction, so much so that we required all ferrets to be pre-medicated with an antihistamine and had in office observation for at least 45 minutes after a vaccination before heading home! Certain vaccines have also been associated with rare but documented outcomes: hypertrophic osteodystrophy and juvenile cellulitis in certain breeds like the Weimaraner or vaccine associated sarcomas in cats.

Vaccination is an important health care need for our pets. Which ones, when, how often are the questions that you will discuss with your veterinary team. We then can make specific recommendations for your pets and have you make informed decisions about your pet's vaccination protocol since individual situations may necessitate an altered vaccination schedule.

If you have any questions about our core and non core vaccinations protocols or about your pets vaccine needs, please ask away… we're here to help make sure your pet stays happy and healthy!

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