Vaccinations are an important part of preventative medicine for both people and pets alike. They prevent the spread of devastating illnesses- benefiting both vaccinated individuals and the general population. As beneficial as vaccines are, however, they are not without risk. Vaccine reactions are always a possibility so over-vaccination should be avoided whenever possible. Ideally, vaccines should be administered only as needed to offer protection from illness. The only way to determine for certain if vaccination is necessary is to do a titer. A titer is a blood test that checks the level of antibodies in the body- if the level is high enough then the body will be able to successfully combat the illness. If the levels are too low then revaccination is recommended.
Unfortunately, although titers offer the best information regarding when vaccines should be administered they are quite expensive (about $170 for a combination distemper/parvovirus titer). For most pet owners sending a titer to the lab each year is not an option. For this reason the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has issued recommended guidelines for veterinary vaccinations that we have adopted here at River Road Veterinary Clinic. These guidelines are based upon numerous studies regarding the length of a vaccine’s ability to offer protection from disease.
Canine Distemper: This is a combination vaccine that protects against canine distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus. This vaccine should be administered to puppies beginning at 8 weeks of age and boostered at 12 and 16 weeks. The vaccine should then be given one year later. This vaccine is good for an additional year. After that the canine distemper vaccine should be given every three years.
Canine Rabies: Rabies vaccination is required by law and in VT and NH it is mandated that the first rabies vaccine is valid for one year. All subsequent vaccines are valid for three years.
Bordetella: The bordetella or kennel cough vaccine is not a core vaccine and should only be administered to at-risk dogs. This includes dogs who frequently leave the house and see other animals, or dogs who are groomed, boarded, or go to daycare. Most facilities require that this vaccine is administered every 6 months.
Lyme: This first Lyme vaccine given needs to be boostered in 2-3 weeks. After that this vaccine is only approved to be effective for 1 year. Dogs who are at risk for Lyme disease (which is nearly every dog in our area since Vermont has the second highest rate of Lyme disease in the country) should receive this vaccine annually.
Feline Distemper: This is a combination vaccine that protects against feline herpesvirus, calicivirus and panleuokpenia. This vaccine should be administered to kittens beginning at 8 weeks of age and boostered at 12 and 16 weeks. The vaccine should then be given one year later. This vaccine is good for an additional year. After that the feline distemper vaccine should be given every three years.
Feline Rabies: Rabies vaccination is required by law and in VT and NH. A different rabies vaccine is used in felines than in canines. This vaccine is much safer for cats but is only valid for one year.
Feline Leukemia: This vaccine is only recommended for cats who are at risk of contracting feline leukemia. This includes cats who go outside unsupervised or cats who live with indoor/outdoor cats. The initial feline leukemia vaccine needs to be boostered in 3-4 weeks. The vaccine should then be given one year later. This vaccine is good for an additional year. After that the feline leukemia vaccine should be given every two years as long as the cat continues to be at risk.
If you have any questions regarding the recommended vaccination guidelines for your dog or cat or any questions about possible vaccine reactions and the necessity of vaccination please do not hesitate to call River Road Veterinary Clinic at (802)649-3877.