Unfortunately, there are many infectious diseases that your pet may be exposed to. Thankfully, vaccines are available to prevent many of these conditions, helping to protect your pet against distressing and potentially fatal illness. Most owners are aware that puppies need an initial course of injections, but sometimes forget that these need to be boosted regularly to maintain protection.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines may be made up of viral particles that have been killed, live virus that is modified so it does not cause disease, or a part of the virus that is known to stimulate immunity. By injecting very small amounts of the virus in one of these forms, the pet’s own immune system is stimulated to produce antibodies against the disease in the vaccine. As this is making the immune system work, it is important that the vaccine is only given to healthy individuals whose immune systems are not already fighting off an illness.
Alternatives to Vaccination - You may have heard about homeopathic vaccines.
Until there is scientific evidence that they are successful, any claims made about their effectiveness should be treated with caution. We do not recommend homeopathic vaccines.
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Provided the mother has been regularly vaccinated (or if she has been exposed to disease and has survived) she will carry immunity that will be passed on to her new-born puppy. The youngsters acquire this protection when they feed from their mother in the first few days of life. This means that if they are weak and have to be supplemented, or are hand-reared, they will have little or no natural protection. This is also the case if the bitch or queen has never been vaccinated. The immunity acquired in this way is temporary and usually wanes by 10-12 weeks of age.
Because vaccination stimulates an immune response, it is normal for your pet to be a little off colour following vaccination. The worst you should expect is for your pet to be lethargic and off food for 24-36 hours. If your cat or dog is unwell or in pain, then telephone the surgery for advice.
Short term reactions
- Immediate Allergic Reactions - These are seen as swelling of the face or feet and possibly the injection site. It will develop within 1-2 hours of the injection. This type of vaccination reaction has become very uncommon.
- High Temperature - This may be the case if your pet has gone off its food.
- Pain at the Injection Site
Long term reactions
Long term adverse effects of vaccination are hard to prove. The association of increased incidence of illness or disease in vaccinated animals has not been proven in independent studies. If you have any concerns about the risk of vaccination exacerbating any problem that your pet already has; you should speak to your veterinary surgeon.