Oct 12 2009

Vaccinating Your Pet, Part 2

Last time we discussed types of vaccinations and when your puppy/kitten should receive them.  Today is the completion of “Vaccinating Your Pet” with information about how many vaccinations your little one needs and how often.

Everyone has the big question, “How many vaccinations does my puppy or kitten need?”  Many of us have the idea  in our heads that a puppy or kitten needs 3 shots, and they are protected. 

When the animal is born, they have antibodies from the mother circulating in their bloodstream, just like people.  These antibodies can be present for up to 4 months of age, but may disappear anytime between 8 weeks and 16 weeks of age.  If a vaccine is given when these antibodies are present, they interfere with the immune response to the vaccine-this means that if the antibodies from the mother disappear, the animal is not considered “protected” from the disease because the vaccine was not able to work properly. 

By repeating the vaccine during that 8-16 week period, one hopes to administer the vaccine at a time when the antibodies from the mother have disappeared so as to stimulate a protective immune response from the vaccine, but soon enough after the disappearance as to decrease the period during which the animal is susceptible to the disease.  This is because if the antibodies have disappeared and the vaccine has not been effective yet, they are not protected from the disease.

Again, the frequency of vaccination is determined by an animal’s individual situation-for example, in the shelter setting where puppies and kittens are more frequently exposed to disease than in a home setting, we repeat vaccinations every 2 weeks, starting at 6 weeks of age.  So, if we follow these rules and give a puppy or kitten 3 shots and stop there, it is still only going to be 10 weeks old and consequently still susceptible to disease.

For optimal protection from disease, these vaccinations need to be repeated until the animal is at least 16 weeks old, and depending on the initial age at vaccination and the frequency used, an animal may receive anywhere between 3 to 6 boosters for their vaccinations.  So, in the answer to the most common question, “My puppy has had 3 shots, can he still get parvo?”, the answer is “Yes, your puppy can have 3 shots and still get parvo.”

Vaccinations can be a tricky and confusing subject, but with proper communication with your veterinarians, it can be made simple and understandable. 

Written by Dr. Cynthia Moon
Wayside Waifs Veterinarian

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