Vaccines help to protect your pet from certain viral and bacterial diseases by safely stimulating the immune system and training it to recognize and fight the infections.
Because they protect your dog or cat against these diseases, vaccines are an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy.
Why does my pet need vaccinations?
There are many infectious diseases in St. Johns that dogs and cats — especially young puppies and kittens — can catch.
Some of these diseases are deadly, and most have symptoms that are very unpleasant and cause pets to suffer — and in either case, the infection can be expensive to treat.
Plus, some infections are dangerous to humans!
For all of these reasons, and because of Florida law requirements, it’s very important to ensure your pet is properly vaccinated.
And while all of this might sound scary — the good news is, most dogs and cats can be protected from dangerous diseases through a simple vaccine protocol.
Which vaccines does my dog or cat need?
Vaccines can be classified as either “core” or “non-core.”
Core means that it’s recommended for all pets, with only rare exceptions.
Non-core vaccines, on the other hand, are only recommended for some pets, based on lifestyle and risk.
With that in mind, here are the vaccines that your veterinarian will discuss when you bring your pet for a visit at Animal Medical Clinic at St. Johns…
Vaccines for Dogs:
Required by law for all pets.
- DHPP or “distemper combo”
This vaccine prevents four different diseases:
- Distemper - a virus that affects multiple body systems, especially the lungs, digestive tract, and nervous system, and can be fatal.
- Canine Hepatitis (Adenovirus) - a virus that affects the liver and can be serious.
- Parainfluenza - a respiratory virus, similar to the flu.
- Parvovirus - an aggressive, often-fatal virus that causes bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and immune suppression, especially in puppies.
A bacteria that affects the liver and kidneys, and can be transmitted to humans. It’s often given with the “combo” vaccine (which is then called “DHLPP”).
A highly contagious bacteria that causes an uncomfortable hacking cough. Dogs that board, travel, or get groomed are at a higher risk.
- Lyme disease
Just like humans, dogs can catch Lyme disease from a tick bite.
- Canine influenza
This is your dog’s version of the flu, with similar symptoms. Dogs who board, travel, or get groomed are at a higher risk.
Vaccines for Cats:
Required by law for all pets.
- FVRCP, also called a “combo” or “feline distemper” vaccine
This vaccine prevents three different diseases:
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus) - a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects the eyes, nose, and throat.
- Calicivirus - a respiratory infection with some similarities to feline viral rhinotracheitis, but also tends to leave ulcers on the tongue.
- Panleukopenia - similar to parvovirus in puppies, this dangerous virus causes vomiting, diarrhea, and immune suppression.
- Feline leukemia virus
This virus is deadly to cats due to its destructive effects on the immune system. Outdoor cats are at a higher risk.
Feline immunodeficiency virus is similar to HIV in humans (but, it only affects cats). Outdoor cats are at a higher risk.
How often should I vaccinate my pet?
This varies a bit, depending on your pet’s lifestyle. We’ll work with you to decide on the best plan, customized to your pet… so they can get the protection they need, without more shots than necessary.
If you have a puppy or kitten, please see the special note below…
Why does my puppy or kitten need so many vaccines?
Three things are true for young pets:
- Puppies and kittens have immune systems that aren’t fully developed. That means, compared to adults, they’re at a much higher risk of contracting a dangerous viral or bacterial infection.
- Your puppy or kitten’s immune system may not be strong enough yet to respond properly to just one vaccine.
- Maternal antibodies — or lingering antibodies from their mother’s milk — can block the effects of a vaccine. These antibodies fade over time, but the timeline varies for each pet.
For these reasons, giving your puppy or kitten the entire “series” of vaccine boosters, as recommended by your veterinarian, is the best way to ensure they’re protected.
***It’s important to keep in mind that, for both puppies/kittens and adult pets, vaccines are most effective when given at the intervals recommended by your veterinarian, without being late on booster shots.
Are vaccines dangerous for my pet?
Just like for us humans, there is a small degree of risk with any medication or medical procedure — and that includes vaccines.
However, these risks are rare… whereas many of the diseases occur quite commonly.
Most often, just like us, our pets may feel some mild discomfort (soreness or tiredness, or a mild fever) for a day or two after a vaccine.
If you have any questions or worries prior to vaccines — just let us know! We’ll be happy to talk it over with you, put your mind at ease, and create a plan so you and your pet are as comfortable as possible.
Should I schedule an appointment for vaccines?
While we do accept walk-in appointments at Animal Medical Clinic at St. Johns, it’s best to schedule ahead of time. That way, your wait time will be shorter, and we’ll collect your pet’s information and medical history prior to your visit, to be sure your pet gets the right vaccines for them.
We look forward to meeting you and your furry family member soon!