Porky and Buddy Pet Health: The Truth About Vaccines and Pets

Dear Porky and Buddy,

My dog and cat are both due for their annual vaccinations, and I was all set to make the appointment, but then another pet-loving friend just forwarded a link to a website about holistic health care for pets  that said that vaccinations can cause all kinds of problems in our pets, including cancer.

I am afraid that my vet will think I am sort of a fruitcake if I start talking to him about holistic health care,  but still, I worry. Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Joanie,

Your vet may well think you are a fruitcake, but our guess is that he would prefer a fruitcake who asks questions and takes her pets’ health seriously, as opposed to someone who simply can’t be bothered.

So don’t worry about annoying your vet.  He may be annoyed about web sites that spread inaccurate and misleading information, but that is a different problem.

Actually, we get these kinds of questions all the time, so we don’t mind putting out this information.

Here are the basics about vaccinations, but this in only a general explanation and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask your vet about the specifics.

There are vaccines to help prevent many illnesses that affect pets. Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help her live a long, healthy life.

Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms.

Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a pet is exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce its severity.

But not every pet needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that’s right for your pet.

Factors that should be examined include age, medical history, environment and lifestyle. Most vets highly recommend administering what we call core vaccines to healthy pets.

For cats the American Association of Feline Practitioners considers the core vaccines to be those that protect against panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calici virus, feline herpes virus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the cat’s lifestyle; these include vaccines for feline leukemia virus,
Bordetella, Chylamydophila felis and feline immunodeficiency virus.

For dogs, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force recommends as core vaccines those that protect against canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk. These include vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.

Your veterinarian can determine what vaccines are best for your pet and can determine an appropriate vaccination. Although vaccination has the potential to protect pets against life-threatening diseases, vaccination
is not without its risks. Recently, there has been some controversy regarding duration of protection and timing of vaccination, as well as the safety and necessity of certain vaccines.

Research is ongoing to try to sort this out, but, as always, your own veterinarian is the place to start for information about specific risks that you need to think about.

What does this all mean for your pet?

Vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed for every patient relative to their lifestyle and health. Your veterinarian can help you make these decisions in a responsible way that takes into account how your individual pets live. That said, it is important to realize that vaccines have saved countless lives, and play a vital role in the battle against infectious disease in pets.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need, and assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.