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Posted on Sat, May 1, 2010 : 5:21 a.m.

Your pets vaccinations are more important than you think

By Lorrie Shaw

Dalmatian, dog, face

Maggie, one of my exuberant walking clients, on a recent visit.

Lorrie Shaw / Contributor

I have the opportunity to dialogue with many folks with pets everyday. One thing that comes up frequently it seems, is the subject of pet vaccinations. Some people are firm believers in staying up to date on their pets' shots, per their veterinarians recommendations. Other pet owners choose not to vaccinate at all, or they are not sure what needs to be done.

Vaccinations provide protection against diseases, like feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, leptospirosis, bordetella, rabies, coronavirus, distemper, parvovirus, Lyme disease and more. Some of these diseases are highly contagious and can kill an animal quickly - others can cause the animal to develop lasting damage to organs.

Some animals can be more profoundly affected by the effects of the disease, due to age and overall health. I'll use leptospirosis to illustrate, since the warm weather has finally made it's way to Michigan. and the disease is more prevalent in warm, wet conditions. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection which presents in many ways, can also cause renal failure. Did you know that there are specific breeds of canines that are predisposed to kidney dysfunction to begin with? Dogs with this existing issue that contract leptospirosis are more likely to not recover from the disease, and is more likely fatal. Additionally, it has become apparent that German Shepherds are at an increased risk of becoming ill with the bacteria, though felines are rarely affected. There are other diseases of course that affect our pets, and having hard facts about them is key - as is how they can be prevented. As important as protecting our pets is, it's of equal importance that we protect ourselves as well, against zoonotic disease.

For those that are wary of vaccines because of possible adverse reactions, you should know that they are rare. I recommend to my clients that worry about overloading a dog's immune system with multivalent (multiple vaccines in a single shot) inoculations can ask their veterinarian to get monovalent (single) vaccines and give the shots at different times.

Some owners have their animals tested to determine a level of immunity and make vaccination decisions based on the results. The test is done by drawing blood and checking it for titers, a measurement of the antibodies present in blood serum. A titer must be run for each disease, and you should know that the tests are far more expensive than the vaccination. Titers quantify the pet's reaction to the vaccination but do not necessarily indicate that the dog would be protected against an active incidence of disease.

Many pet owners note that they are concerned about allergic reactions with regard to their pets' shots. The type of vaccine largely plays a role in reactions - whether it is a viral (the majority), or a bacterium-based shot. Allergic reactions are indeed rare.

Despite my adherence to addressing my own pets' health from a holistic perspective whenever I can, many people are surprised to learn that I strongly support the use of inoculating pets. When you examine the philosophy of how vaccinations work, it really is a holistic approach. I have always vaccinated my own pets, and in my business I require that all of my clients' pets be up to date on their shots and provide proof of vaccination before they are on the schedule.

I highly recommend that if you have questions or concerns with the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, or any other topic regarding your pets' wellness, please schedule a consult with your veterinarian so that they can give you the facts on your specific pets' needs.

Lorrie Shaw is owner of Professional Pet Sitting, as well as a regular contributor to's Pets section. She can usually be found cheerfully walking around local neighborhoods, on the other end of the leash. Stop and say hello or e-mail her.



Fri, May 7, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

Our vet has started checking vaccine levels before giving annual vaccinations. It can save some money and makes sure the animal is only given what is necessary.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

I will no longer have my cats revacinated after one nearly lost her leg due to a vaccine induced sacoma. They are more common than the vaccine industries what us to know. And veterinarians are being advised to not give additional vaccines after the first round. Just look up "Vaccine-associated sarcoma" or "VAS" before you take your treasured cat in to receive it's annual vaccines.