Vaccinations & Immunizations
Understanding Vaccinations: Population and Individual Benefits
Using infectious disease organisms which have been modified into live but weaker versions or completely killed forms of their original disease, vaccinations are designed to stimulate the immune system of an individual to produce immune antibodies known as "Immunity". In general, it is development of these antibodies which protects individuals from contracting the disease entirely or by causing the disease outbreak to be significantly weaker than it might be otherwise. Booster vaccinations are often required to keep adequate amounts of antibodies circulating throughout the body - These amounts, aka titers, vary from one disease type to another in both the strength and longevity of the titer. This is why some booster vaccines are given more frequently than others and why some are not repeated at all.
Unfortunately, not every individual will be fully protected by "immunity" to each and every disease for which they have received vaccines. There are a variety of known reasons why this may occur and, likely, a number of other reasons scientists are just not aware of at this point. Currently, this is a known and medically accepted occurrence - Think of the human flu vaccine; we probably all know someone who had received the vaccine, but still ended up sick in bed for three to five days in spite of their precautions.
In fact vaccines, while having significant benefits for individuals, are at least equally important in their role of preventing outbreaks of disease in groups. By performing inoculations across large populations, not only do we protect the majority of those vaccinated individuals directly exposed to others carrying the disease, we also decrease the total number of individuals who will become infected carriers thereby decreasing the number of individuals, both with immunity and those unvaccinated, who would be exposed to the infection at all. In general, the benefits for individuals receiving vaccinations greatly outweigh the inherent risk of not being vaccinated at all and contracting the illness or the low risk of a severe adverse response to vaccination.
At Carolina Animal Hospital, we make vaccine recommendations based on the currently known benefits of vaccination and the individual's potential disease exposure risks. To be fair and keep our clients informed about possible but infrequent responses or extremely rare events related to immunization, we have included information regarding some potential forms of adverse responses to vaccination. (See Adverse Reactions To Vaccinations - Below)
Vaccinations & Short-Term Immunity
It is important for you to understand vaccinations administered to pets which are effectively overdue, or those given to pets that have not previously received full immunization schedules, are not as effective in the first several days as those given to animals who have otherwise kept up with their recommended vaccination and booster series. Generally, we recommend minimizing your pets contact with other animals whose vaccination history is not known. This is especially important for pets whose immunization series have not been completed or who have become past due. We recommend puppies not interact with other dogs - with unknown vaccine status - until at least one week after their 16 week visit and 'final puppy' Distemper/Parvovirus vaccine booster. This includes avoiding taking your puppy to pet superstores / supply stores, dog parks and boarding facilities, until the veterinarian gives you the okay.
Adverse Reactions to Vaccinations
At Carolina Animal Hospital, we make vaccine recommendations based on the currently known benefits of vaccination and the individual's potential disease exposure risks. To be fair and keep our clients informed about possible but infrequent responses or extremely rare events related to immunization, we have included the following information regarding some potential forms of adverse responses to vaccination.
Minor Post Vaccination Responses
During the first 24 to 48 hours after receiving vaccines some patients will experience a low-grade fever, decrease in appetite, mild muscle soreness or minor lethargy. This is considered a fairly normal or common response to vaccinations. Your pet should not experience multiple episodes of vomiting, profuse diarrhea, a substantial loss of appetite or extreme lethargy. If you are unsure of the severity of your pets post vaccination symptoms - call the office and set up a follow-up appointment that day.
Local Area Responses
Occasionally, one to three days after vaccination animals may develop a one to two centimeter firm swelling in the area of where a vaccine was given. This is considered a local area inflammation or "knot", and is most likely due to the fluid carrying the vaccine rather than the actual vaccine particles itself. Usually these knots will disappear over the next ten days with no therapy necessary. If the knot becomes significantly larger in size, seems obviously painful or is still noticeable after ten days we recommend a recheck follow-up appointment.
Rarely, some patients experience a more pronounced response to vaccinations. They may develop a noticeable fever (Temperatures of 104 or greater), significant vomiting or diarrhea, or facial swelling -around the eyes and muzzle. The swelling is generally substantial, usually appearing within four hours of receiving the vaccine.
If any of these symptoms occur, your pet will need to be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible - even if this means making a trip to the emergency services facility. While the vast majority of these types of systemic responses are not life endangering -requiring little more than injections of antihistamines and cortisone steroids to halt the symptoms - only a veterinarian can determine if these signs are also accompanied by more significant or life endangering problems requiring more aggressive medical attention. EMERGENCIES
Just as with people who have true anaphylactic reactions to insect stings or peanuts and require adrenaline pen injections, this type of response can occur with our pets. In exceptionally rare instances, similar to the odds of being struck by lightening, pets can experience an immediate life threatening or ending reaction to vaccination. If this should occur, immediate veterinary care is vital in giving them a chance to survive this unexpected and tragic event- and is one of the reasons we highly recommend having all your pets vaccinations performed at veterinary facilities by trained medical professionals. EMERGENCIES
Report Any Reactions!
It is important to inform our office if you believe your pet is or has experienced any of these types of vaccination events and particularly in the case of systemic or anaphylactic forms. However, you should not delay seeking medical attention during a suspected systemic or anaphylactic response while waiting for the veterinary office to return your call.