Vaccinations for Pets
Vaccines are biological products made to trigger a protective immune response. A vaccine stimulates the immune system to recognize the disease agent as "foreign", destroy the agent, and then remember the agent if it is encountered in the future.
Vaccines may lessen the severity of a disease process or prevent the disease altogether. No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease as there are many factors involved such as timing of vaccination, inadequate response to the vaccination, and health at the time of vaccination.
There are some risks involved with vaccinations but these need to be weighed against the vast benefits of proper vaccination. Most cats and dogs respond well to vaccinations. The most common adverse responses are mild and of short duration (24 - 48 hours) and may include slight fever, lethargy (sluggishness), or reduced appetite. There are other more serious reactions that occur rarely such as vomiting/diarrhea, swelling, or a severe allergic reaction. Always let your veterinarian know of any abnormalities you notice after your pet has been vaccinated.
There are many available vaccines and not all pets should be vaccinated with all of them. Your veterinarian will consider your pet's risk of exposure based on many factors such as your geographic location, travel plans, and contact with other animals. The frequency of vaccinations is also based on individual factors. Your veterinarian will tailor a vaccination program that is best for your pet.
Kittens and puppies require a series of vaccinations (similar to children) due to their developing immune system. An incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to inadequate protection so it is critical to complete the entire regimen.
In many communities, including Cook County, rabies vaccination is required by law for all cats and dogs over the age of 4 months. Rabies is a serious, often fatal, disease that can spread from infected animals to people. Vaccinating your pets against rabies also helps to protect your family and may save your pet's life if they bite someone—unvaccinated animals may have to be euthanized to test for rabies if they bite someone.
In summary, vaccinations are part of a total wellness plan for your pet and your veterinarian can determine the best schedule based on your pet's risk and lifestyle.