Vaccination: How to Protect Your Pet from Disease

Our goal at College Hills Vet Hospital is to help your pets live longer, healthier, happier lives. One way we can do that is through vaccination. Vaccines help protect pets from deadly infectious disease. Proper vaccination has saved millions of pets, and virtually eliminated some fatal diseases that were once common.

Unfortunately, many infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to unvaccinated dogs and cats. For this reason, the veterinary community named August as National Pet Immunization Awareness Month to educate pet parents.

5 Leading Reasons to Vaccinate Your Pet:

  1. Vaccinations prevent many pet illnesses.
  2. You can avoid costly treatments for diseases that vaccines can prevent.
  3. Vaccinations prevent diseases that can be passed between animals and from animals to people.
  4. Diseases prevalent in wildlife, such as rabies and distemper, can infect unvaccinated pets.
  5. In many areas, local or state ordinances require certain vaccinations of household pets.

Which Vaccines Should My Pet Receive?

Core vaccines are vital to all pets based on exposure risk, disease severity, and transmissibility to humans.  We follow the AAHA Vaccination Guidelines for core and non-core vaccine protocols.  Visit

Non-core vaccinations are optional and may be recommended for pets based on a variety of factors, such as their risk for exposure to disease. Vaccine recommendations can also change throughout a pet’s life, as travel habits and other variables change. We consider all these factors when we determine which vaccines your pet should have.

Puppy and Kitten Vaccinations

Very young animals are highly susceptible to infectious disease because their immune system is not yet fully mature. They receive protection through antibodies shared across the placenta and in their mother’s milk. Still, the defense is not long-lasting, and there may be gaps in protection as the maternal antibodies decrease and their immune system is still maturing.

Maternal antibodies can also interfere with a puppy’s or kitten’s vaccine response, so we recommend a series of vaccines to ensure that the puppy or kitten receives a vaccine as early as possible after maternal antibodies subside.

In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine primes the animal’s immune system against the virus or bacteria. Subsequent doses help further stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies needed for long-term protection.

How Often Will My Pet Need to be Vaccinated?

Many vaccinations provide adequate immunity when administered every few years, while others require more frequent schedules to maintain an acceptable level of immunity that will continually protect your pet. Your veterinarian will determine a vaccination schedule that’s appropriate for your pet.

Are There Any Health Risks?

Most pets respond well to vaccines. Some pets may experience adverse reactions. The most common side effects to vaccination are mild and short-term. Severe reactions are rare. While uncommon, a serious adverse reaction in cats is a tumor (sarcomas), which can develop weeks, months, or even years after vaccination. Improvements in vaccine technology and technique have significantly reduced the occurrence of sarcomas.

While vaccines have associated risks, you should weigh the risks against the benefits of protecting your pet.

Are There Side Effects to be Concerned About?

It is common for pets to experience some or all the following mild side effects after receiving a vaccine, usually starting within hours of the vaccination. If these side effects last for more than a day or two or cause significant discomfort for your pet, you need to contact us:

  • Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
  • Mild fever.
  • Decreased appetite and activity.
  • Sneezing, mild coughing, “snotty nose,” or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine.

More severe side effects, such as allergic reactions, may occur minutes to hours after vaccination. These reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Itchy skin that may seem bumpy (hives).
  • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes.
  • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing.
  • Collapse.
  • A small, firm swelling under the skin may develop at the site of a recent vaccination. It should start to disappear within a couple of weeks. If it persists for more than three weeks or seems to be getting larger, you should contact us.

Important note: Always inform us if your pet has had prior reactions to any vaccine or medication.

In Conclusion

We understand that your pet is unique and that no single vaccine program will be ideal for every pet in every situation. Our doctors and technicians are well-educated about veterinary vaccines, and our goal is to give you the best advice for keeping your pet healthy. Let us develop a vaccination schedule and ongoing booster routine that accounts for your pet’s lifestyle, overall health, the risk for exposure to infectious disease, and other factors.

Vaccines help pets live longer, healthier lives. Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s vaccination needs.



Dr. Kim Stewart
College Hills Veterinary Hospital

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