May 11, 2008
Hold up, James Bond! You may have a license to pill, but before you pull the trigger on that vaccine, ask yourself a few questions.
What are you going to do if your puppy develops an anaphylactic reaction? When are you supposed to give the next vaccine? Are you using a modified-live vaccine or is it a killed vaccine? Does your puppy really need the leptospira in that seven-way vaccine? Is he old enough to get leptospira? What does a vaccination against coronavirus really do? Does it protect him from the ill-effects of cheap beer? Did the place you purchased the vaccine from ship, handle or store it properly? Was it ever frozen? Does that matter?
Administering vaccinations is one of the more routine things your veterinarian does. No matter how easy he makes it look, it does not always turn out smoothly. An Air Force pilot makes flying a fighter jet look extremely easy and appealing. Yet, not a single one would turn the keys over to me and say, "Here ... she handles like your Mercury Villager!"
Believe it or not, there are rocket scientists out there very carefully designing vaccines using things such as recombinant technology. When administered properly and according to guidelines provided by these rocket scientists, the reduction and prevention of numerous diseases in our pets is possible.
Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce its own protection. In order to do this, it is necessary that an initial vaccination be followed in an appropriate time interval by a "booster" vaccination. It is the goal that once the body produces humoral antibodies in response to vaccinations, it will "remember" the viral or bacterial configuration when it is challenged by the real deal. This is called the anamnestic response.
By stimulating the immune system, vaccines often cause little fevers which may or may not be detected. More often than not these pets go home without any untoward effects. Those are the majorities which make vaccinating a pet look easy!
Occasionally, a puppy or kitten will go home and have a decreased activity level or decreased appetite for a day or so. This is not terribly uncommon.
However, every now and then a pet will develop more severe side effects, such as a swollen muzzle or ears or even a breathing problem. This is the time when it is extremely important that you have established a good relationship with your veterinarian. He should have a thorough medical knowledge of your puppy or kitten and will be able to help your pet.
Furthermore, the veterinarian will be able to document the reaction and have a better understanding of which component of the vaccine may have made your pet sick. This will hopefully prevent recurrence of the side effects at future vaccinations.
So the next time you purchase that 6-week-old puppy from anywhere and the seller tells you that the puppy has "already had its shots," check with a veterinarian. Or if they tell you that the pup is "good until six months ... when he will need his rabies," check with a veterinarian. Or if you are going to give that seven-way from the supply store because you found a vaccination schedule in the catalog that also sells bear traps and ammo, check with a veterinarian. Odds are good that there may be more to the whole "vaccination series" than meets the eye.
Dr. Adam Ferguson is a partner at Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville. He has often dreamed of being a secret agent. Unfortunately, his caliber of sleuthing would fall more between the spectrum of Maxwell Smart or Inspector Gadget than any of the 00's. While far from working on Her Majesty's Secret Service, he would like to wish his mother a Happy Mother's Day!