Pet Vaccinations

San Antonio Animal Hospital provides pet vaccinations and high-quality, compassionate veterinary care for pets and their owners living in San Antonio as well as nearby communities of Dade City, Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel, and Ridge Manor.

Pet Vaccinations
Pet Vaccinations

Vaccinating Your Pet

Vaccinations are a critical component of preventative care for your pet. Thanks to the development of vaccines, our pets have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis, feline leukemia, and several others. Some of these diseases can be passed from pets to people — so vaccinations have protected human health as well.

Recently, studies have shown that vaccines protect pets for longer than previously believed. There have also been improvements in the type of vaccines produced. In addition, there is increased awareness and concern that vaccination is not as harmless a procedure as once thought. These factors have led to a growing number of veterinarians who recommend the reduced frequency of vaccinations while at the same time tailoring vaccine recommendations to specific risk situations.

One key recommendation is that all pets are different — and thus, vaccine decisions should be made on an individual basis for each pet. Issues to consider include the age, breed, health status, environment, lifestyle, and travel habits of the pet. Health threats vary from city to city and even in various sections of cities. Our hospital will work with you to tailor an immunization program that best protects your pet based on his or her risk and lifestyle factors.

Is vaccinating my pet a risk to his or her health?

Vaccination against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the benefits must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines.

As is the case with any medical decision, you and your veterinarian should make vaccination decisions after considering your pet’s age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.

What possible risks are associated with vaccination?

Vaccine reactions of all types are infrequent. In general, most vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common but, if untreated, can be fatal. These can occur soon after vaccination. If you see such a reaction, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

In a small number of patients, vaccines can stimulate the patient’s immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, skin, joints, or nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent but can be life-threatening.

There is a possible complication of a tumor developing at the vaccination site in a small number of pets, most frequently cats.

How do I know which vaccines my pet needs?

There are two general groups of vaccines to consider: core-group vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core-group vaccines protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are more easily transmitted than noncore diseases. Core group vaccines are generally recommended for all pets. For cats, these include panleukopenia, calicivirus, and herpesvirus, as well as rabies. For dogs, we include distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and rabies.

Noncore-group vaccines are those reserved for patients at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. For cats, these include feline leukemia virus, feline infectious peritonitis, feline pneumonitis, Microsporum canis, and Bordetella. For dogs, these include kennel cough, Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and giardia.

How often should my pet be vaccinated?

It depends. There is some controversy over the length of time a vaccine is protective. Some vaccines may produce life-long protections. There is a history of yearly vaccination boosters, and some veterinarians do not feel it is prudent to change that recommendation just yet. There is growing support for extended duration of protection, and a growing number of veterinarians are vaccinating less frequently and more selectively.

Among those advocating for longer periods of time between vaccinations, the thought is that vaccination for most core diseases should be administered every three years. Noncore disease vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination. For example, kennel cough vaccine may need to be administered up to every six months in a dog repeatedly being kenneled or exposed at dog shows.

Does this mean I only need to see my veterinarian every three years?

Regular wellness examinations — at least once or twice a year — are the most important preventive measure that you can provide for your dog. Vaccinations are just one component of the wellness visit. To help keep your pet in optimum health, regular wellness examinations are critical — regardless of how often vaccines are administered.

Remember, pets age at a much faster rate than humans, so a once-yearly exam is similar to a human getting a physical every 5-7 years. Plus, they don’t always show signs of early disease, and they can’t easily communicate discomfort to us. During the wellness exam, your veterinarian has an opportunity to detect and prevent problems at an early stage.

One of the advantages of decreased vaccine administration is the reduced cost of basic health care. This may make it easier for you to collect baseline or yearly recommended blood tests, provide better nutrition, or provide for nonurgent care for your pet before the need becomes urgent.

Is there some sort of test that can be done to determine if my pet needs vaccination?

In theory, this makes very good sense. Veterinarians could test animals yearly and vaccinate if their protection dropped below a certain level. Although there are tests for antibodies available for some diseases, their reliability is not good. There may be little correlation between the results of these tests and the immunity to disease in an individual pet. In addition, the cost of these tests may greatly outweigh their value. New tests may be developed in the future, so discuss this possibility with your veterinarian.