Vaccinating your pet is important because at some time in its life, your pet may be exposed to a serious or even fatal infectious disease. Having your pet vaccinated is the best and least costly way of preventing disease. Without proper vaccination, he is left unprotected. When your dog or cat is vaccinated, its immune system produces special substances called antibodies. The antibodies work against viruses or bacteria that cause disease and can be regarded as the body’s “fighter pilots”. It is important to note that vaccines are preventative rather than curative. Vaccinating a sick animal is not going to help. A healthy pet with a healthy immune system is required in order to build these protective antibodies in response to a vaccine.
Pups and kittens are as vulnerable as they are adorable and their immature immune systems can’t fight off diseases as well as older dogs and cats. A nursing puppy or kitten receives antibodies from its mother’s milk that protect it during its first months of life. The protection received naturally through maternal antibodies can interfere with early vaccinations, however, making it difficult to pinpoint when vaccines stimulate immunity. This is why puppies and kittens need vaccinations several times during their first few months of life. Puppies and kittens need 3 initial vaccinations (given every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age) for optimal protection. Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the immune system has to recognize and respond to the antigens (viruses/bacteria in the vaccine) by producing antibodies. In most puppies, disease protection does not begin until five days post vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to 14 days.
The majority of pets experience no adverse effects following vaccination. A small number of animals may become feverish and have a reduced appetite. These reactions are mild and of short duration. In extremely rare cases, an animal may experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Such an animal can be treated successfully if attended to immediately. The possibility of such an event occurring does not justify considering not to vaccinate your pets, however, as that will leave them susceptible to a range of life-threatening infectious diseases.
Vaccines used for the protection of pets are currently divided into core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are only given strategically when a particular disease is prevalent in an area or when circumstances predispose to the appearance of the disease. Non-core vaccines are only administered after discussion with your veterinarian to evaluate the risks.