PhotoShould you vaccinate your pups? Since it has been such a hot topic for children, it might be worth reviewing the case for vaccinating pets.

Simply put, vaccines help prepare the body's immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don't actually cause disease.

When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a dog is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or at least reduce the severity of the illness.

There are some core vaccines that every dog should get according to the ASPCA. Core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies are considered core vaccines.

Just as with people, most vaccinations last a long time -- often for a lifetime.

"We know that for [canine] distemper and parvo, for example, the immunity lasts a minimum of five years, probably seven to nine years, and for some individuals for a lifetime,” says veterinarian Jean Dodds, founder of Hemopet, the first nonprofit national blood bank program for animals, located in Santa Monica, Calif.

Just as vaccinations are required for humans by some school districts, employers and the military, animal vaccinations are required in many cases. Take rabies, for example. Each state has its own laws governing the administration of the rabies vaccine. Some areas require yearly rabies vaccination. Other areas call for vaccines every three years. An up-to-date canine rabies vaccination is a legal requirement.

Risks are minor

So what really are the risks of getting vaccinations? Immunizations mildly stimulate an animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions. Another less common side effect is the development of immune-mediated disease following vaccination.

As is true of human vaccinations, there really is no debate among health authorities. Vaccinations prevent disease in individual animals and also prevent diseases from being spread from one animal to another. 


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