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Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring is here!

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 I do not subscribe to yearly vaccines - this practice is outdated and medically unsound.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!


Maggie said...

Thanks so much for discussing titers! My 16yo kitty hasn't had a vaccine in at least 6 years because a) her titers are high, b) she's an only cat who is STRICTLY indoors, and c) I don't like the incidences of other health problems that seem to show up with "excessive" vaccinations. It's great to see someone discussing this option, as many people assume yearly vaccines are a given.

GoLightly said...

Great post.

Very true.

My old red dog had to suffer through my learning about vaccines.

martha said...

I will read when I have the time.
GREAT idea >>>>>>> thanks!
I never ever knew about titres for pets. I have done it for myself re: Hep B

QUESTION: any differences in Canadian vs American LAW/thinking ?
Should we be looking at Canadian content?
does OVC have anything for us to read?

Y.L.G. said...

My vet doesn't believe in Titres; says they are just numbers. My dog is 8 - (except for Rabies every three years )I really don't think he needs them the core anymore. Have to go for checkup/heartworm soon and we'll get into the same argument :) We skipped last year's core vaccines, but this year he'll probably rehash the same conversation, that he needs them just like the elderly humans. Who's to say - if he got them or didn't - would it really make a difference - life span - Would it really tax his immune system - So he'll live to 14 instead of 15? I'm my dog's advocate, I read, I try to keep current; we all want to trust our Vet - but ultimately; I have to live with it..hard to play God.

TorontoVet said...

Thanks everyone. Martha, good question. The AAHA guidelines are considered, in my opinion, the gold standard. Guidelines are made based on the collaboration of specialists in many fields, such as pathology, immunology, internal medicine, and oncology, to name just a few. The protocols of teaching hospitals are likely based on these and similar guidelines. Since rabies is a public health risk, my recommendation is to vaccinate for this every 3 years, unless health of the pet precludes it and/or rabies titers are sufficient. Again, the measurement of rabies titers is expensive, and therefore not routinely done, unless travel requires it.
YLG, titers are indeed numbers: numbers that typically reflect a patient's protection against a specific disease. Not only that, but even patients with LOW titers have the capacity to mount a MASSIVE immune response against certain diseases because of what we call "memory" or cell-mediated immunity. Ask your vet to show you the science backing the statement that titers are "just numbers."

silkenpaw said...

Thanks for this post. One of my cats had a reaction after her last series of vaccines. Nothing life-threatening, but she wasn't eating, seemed sore and had a fever of 104.5. She responded quickly to SQ fluids and one dose of ketoprofen. I was going to split her vaccines next time but getting titers first to see whether we can skip some of them altogether is a good idea.

I enjoy reading your blog.