Spring is a time when many people take their pets to the vet for their yearly check-up. The snow has melted - in areas that receive snow - and pets become exposed to different things, like plants, dirt, baseball fields (and therefore baseballs), fossils, fault lines, fleas, ticks, and trolls (where they're indigenous).
Ok, jokes aside: dogs (and cats - cats are more complicated with respect to heartworm disease) require heartworm testing, monthly flea, tick and heartworm prevention, and possibly vaccines/boosters.
You should always your vet which vaccines are being administered to your pet and why. Ensure that a rabies vaccine is not given more frequently than what is labeled by the company (i.e., 1 year vs 3 years for rabies) or less frequently than required by law (which often correlates with manufacturer's recommendations. "Core" vaccines, like distemper and parvovirus (for dogs) and panleukopenia and rhinotracheitis (for cats) have been shown to provide immunity for at least several years, if not lifelong immunity. That's right: lifelong protection. I am confident that my patients are protected if their titers are sufficient. Vaccine titers are therefore becoming ever more popular. This entails the measurement of antibody against a certain disease (virus or bacteria). My recommendation is to check titers every year (if affordable - remember, the more people ask for this service, the more vets will offer it, and certainly vice versa - prices should go down as a result). I do not subscribe to yearly vaccines - this practice is outdated and medically unsound.
This does not mean that I don't believe in vaccines! In fact, the opposite is true. I would convince every owner whose puppy/kitten or naive pet (naive in the immune sense, meaning never vaccinated) that their pet MUST be vaccinated and booster a year later.
Dogs living in areas where Leptospirosis and Lyme disease are endemic should discuss these vaccines with their vet.
Not all dogs are candidates for all vaccines. So ask your vet, you've got the right to know!
Which one is right for your pet? Find out more by reading the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) canine vaccination guidelines here.
Guidelines for cats can be found here.
Lotsa reading, folks and may be complicated - my apologies!