Shana Bohac is a local veterinarian who writes a column about animal issues.

Shana Bohac

Shana Bohac

Vaccinations prevent many pet illnesses and can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented, not to mention, the deadly diseases that cannot be treated. Vaccinations prevent illnesses that can be passed between animals and also from animals to people. This is of utmost importance since zoonotic diseases can cause harm to our loved ones.

Certain diseases are prevalent in wildlife, such as rabies, leptospirosis and distemper. These illnesses can infect unvaccinated pets. In many areas, local or state ordinances require certain vaccinations of household pets. Rabies is an example of this requirement. The state of Texas requires that dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian by 4 months of age and repeated one year later. Then it is up to the county as to whether the vaccine is boostered every one to three years thereafter. This is not optional, unless your pet has specific health conditions that allow exemption from vaccines.

How vaccines work

Vaccines work by triggering a protective immune response and preparing your pet’s immune system to fight future infections. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that identify and destroy disease-causing organisms as they enter the body. Some vaccines lessen the severity of the disease, while others prevent certain diseases altogether.

What are the risks associated with vaccines?

As with any type of medication or treatment, there are risks associated with it. The benefits must out weight the risks. Vaccines protect your pet and family from potentially deadly diseases. The majority of pets respond well to vaccines. Some can have short-term reactions to the vaccine, which are usually mild in nature. This can include pain or swelling at the injection site, swelling of the face, hives, itching or nausea/vomiting. There are few uncommon, more serious side effects including tumor growth at the site of the vaccination. Vaccine technology has improved dramatically so the risk of these reactions have lessened.

What about antibody titers?

In theory, checking titers seems like a viable option, however it falls short in some areas. There are no standard recommendations or guidelines when evaluating titers or their correlation to protection. This is also an expensive testing procedure, particularly because you need to check the titers for several different diseases and would need to recheck them yearly in order to ensure that your pet is showing an antibody response. This is an option for owners willing to perform this testing.

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Dr. Shana Bohac is a veterinarian and the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic.

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