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February 11, 2013

Pet Talk: Vaccinating your pet

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Even though they may be taken for granted,  vaccinations are vital for your pet’s health. Properly vaccinating your pet is an important part of pet care because vaccines can potentially help protect your pet against some serious health conditions and diseases. 

"Vaccines are a suspension of altered microorganisms which will prevent, lessen, or treat disease without causing the disease," said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

 Vaccines are considered the cornerstone of preventive medicine. Knowing the different types of vaccinations and how they work can help pet owners provide the best care for their animals.

"There are live, killed, modified live, and recombinant vaccinations," said Stickney. "By exposing the immune system to bacteria or viruses that are genetically similar to the ones that will cause disease, the immune system will develop antibodies that protect the body when it encounters the actual disease-causing organism."

“Some pet vaccines can be purchased over-the-counter and given by non-veterinarians,” said Stickney. However, there may be quality control issues with vaccines if you are not familiar with the correct way to store and use them.

"By law, certain vaccines, like the rabies vaccine, can only be given by your veterinarian,” said Stickney. "Your veterinarian is also the best person to determine which vaccines your pet needs and how frequently they should be administered."

"All puppies and kittens should receive the rabies vaccine at three months of age and again at one year of age. Vaccination schedules vary depending on the area of the country you are in and the prevalence of different diseases in that area,” said Stickney.

Puppies should be vaccinated for distemper virus, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza, while kittens should be vaccinated for viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Other vaccinations may also be recommended depending on the lifestyle of your pet.

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