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While you may know that your dog or cat is due for some “shots” from time to time, do you really know what you are getting? Why are pet vaccines so important? What’s the difference between coming in to see us at New Haven Veterinary Hospital or just running into the Tractor Supply and doing it yourself? Are there risks? What about side effects?

Vaccinations are an important part of proactive pet ownership. Understanding pet vaccines a little better can help you to better protect your furry family member, and who doesn’t want that?

What’s in a Vaccine?

The concept of vaccinations is not a new one. The idea centers on strategically exposing the body to a portion of an infectious agent with the goal of stimulating the immune system without causing illness. This helps the body to build a response to a disease so that it is more effectively able to recognize and fight it off should it ever be exposed. 

When our staff recommends vaccinations for pets, we take several factors into account including species, age, previous vaccine history, lifestyle, and environmental variables to decide which vaccines we recommend for which pet.

Dogs are often vaccinated against several diseases including rabies, distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus 2), parainfluenza, parvovirus, leptospirosis, Bordetella, canine influenza, and Lyme disease

Cats may be recommended to be vaccinated against rabies, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, and feline leukemia. 

It is important to have these vaccines administered by a licensed veterinarian for a few reasons:

  • To ensure that the vaccines themselves are stored, handled, and administered appropriately.
  • To be sure that you are vaccinating for all the things that you need and not things that you don’t.
  • To better understand which vaccinations need to be boostered and when.
  • To be sure that your rabies vaccine is legally compliant (in Indiana the rabies vaccine must be administered by a federally accredited USDA veterinarian to be considered legally recognized).
  • To be able to provide proper support should your pet have an adverse reaction.

Pet Vaccines and What to Look Out For

Pet vaccines are a very important way to protect our pets and fend off communicable disease. Any time we stimulate the immune system, though, there are a few risks. 

Many pets do experience some mild side effects after a vaccination. To an extent, this is normal. Think about the last time that you were sick – your immune system responding to your illness was definitely noticeable, right? 

Pets who have recently had a vaccine and are experiencing an immune reaction may normally have:

  • Pain or discomfort at the injection site
  • A mild swelling at the injection site
  • Decreased activity for 24 hours or so
  • Low grade fever for about 24 hours
  • A mild cough or snotty nose if an intranasal vaccination was administered

Pets can have more serious reactions to vaccinations. Call us right away if your pet seems overly painful or lethargic, experiences vomiting or diarrhea, has a swelling that persists, has facial swelling or hives, difficulty breathing, or collapse.

Vaccination reactions are not common, and the benefits far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of pets. 

It is important to us to do the right thing for your animals and to provide the best possible care. Appropriate pet vaccinations as part of a wellness program are just one more way that we can do that, and we are always happy to assist you in deciding what the best course is for your individual situation.