Vaccinations and Your Pet – Current Options – Also see our Summary Table at bottom of the page.

Recently there have been some controversial publications and media coverage about vaccinations for your pets. As with many media presentations, there is often an element of truth about the information provided but perhaps not a fully balanced view of the entire situation. Effectively, the media have implied that veterinarians are giving misleading advice and should not be encouraging annual visits and vaccinations – a well tried and tested protocol for many decades. At our own veterinary clinics, we have responded to quite a number of client queries on this topic and felt that we should provide a detailed information sheet so that you can determine the best regime for your pet. If you have any questions you are welcome to discuss them personally with members of our veterinary & nursing staff.

Your family dog (separate explanation regards cats, further below)

Why do we vaccinate at all?

Each year when you present your pet dog for its annual vaccination, we combine this procedure with a physical examination. There is also an opportunity for discussion regards your pet’s general health. For those clients that choose yearly heartworm injections then vaccinations may also be administered at this time.

  1. Vaccinations – We generally give one injection that provides protection against 5 different viruses. We know that your pet would never talk to any of us again if we had to give 5 needles! The viruses that we typically vaccinate against are Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus and two severe forms of kennel cough (Parainfluenza & Bordatella (a bacteria)).Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus (C3 vaccination) – these are the three fatal diseases! The only one of these three that we still treat regularly is Parvovirus which we seem to have an outbreak approximately every 12-18 months or so. The incidence of this latter disease has been thankfully greatly reduced by the widespread use of vaccinations.

    Bordatella & Parainfluenza (Kennel Cough) – these are highly contagious respiratory diseases. Even though the name ‘kennel cough’ implies this is picked up at boarding kennels, in reality dogs can become infected anywhere. In boarding kennels there is a higher concentration of dogs so risks are certainly greater. All reputable boarding kennels would expect a dog presenting for boarding to arrive with a current vaccination certificate stating the pet has been vaccinated against these diseases!

  2. Physical Examination – This serves as an annual health check for your pet. We work through a check list as we examine your pet , and together with any recent history that you may provide us with, then we can advise about any future health concerns and if any action should be taken. In most circumstances your pet is given the all clear and we proceed to giving the vaccination. During this examination we may review current medication and preventative products for heartworm, general worming, flea and tick control.This examination becomes more and more important as your pet ages. If we compare your pet’s ageing with our own – you might say that annual pet checks are the same as a human health check every 7 years (if every 3 years in pets, 21 years in humans) . We would also highly recommend that all dogs & cats older than 10 years of age have a senior pet blood screen done yearly – an early warning system for impending problems.

Are vaccines safe?

We have been using vaccines on dogs and cats for well over 50 years. During this time both their safety and effectiveness have been constantly improving. It is true that some dogs and cats do have ‘reactions’ to vaccines. In the vast majority of cases these are only minor reactions with the occasional reaction being a little more severe. If we are aware that your pet is prone to reactions at the time of vaccinating we can take some simple medical prec autions to minimize the reaction. The reality is that vaccines are safe, and the consequences of not vaccinating your pet are potentially far more devastating than the risks from vaccines.

The all important concept of “3 year vaccines” is to supposedly reduce the frequent antigenic contact of vaccines to the animal’s immune system. However, this does not address the fact that the “kennel cough” or Bordatella vaccine still needs to be delivered yearly. This vaccine is often the one that creates the occasional reaction.

Annual or Triennial (3 yearly) treatments?

The options are as follows:

Period Monthly Annual Triennial
Heartworm Yes Yes
C5 Vaccination Yes Yes
Kennel Cough Yes No
c4, no Bordatella included Yes

Simple options are better!  Also see our Summary Table at bottom of page!

As with ticks, flea control, intestinal worming, dog food etc there are a number of treatments available. We are aware that often these options can become confusing. The schedule above clearly shows that as an owner you have a number of combinations that can be selected. The simplest and easiest to remember is using the annual option for all three treatments.

What about the cost of the various vaccine options?

Triennial C5 vaccinations will cost more than an Annual C5 (up to 20%) . When the cost of the new vaccination protocol is spread over 3 years, both options end up virtually the same cost.
Note: All vaccinations are inclusive of a full consultation and annual health check up.

What about your cat?

Much of what we have documented for dogs also applies to cats but with some specific species variations – cats do not require routine heartworm prevention. At this stage there are no “registered 3 year vaccines” available for cats  and if and when they were available they would have to demonstrate both effectiveness and safety. However, it is likely that a similar protocol tailored for preventing the various cat diseases will eventuate.

Why do we vaccinate?

Cats have a number of vaccination options. Most veterinarians will give either a 3 virus or a 4 virus combination. At our clinics we routinely give an F3 vaccination that covers Feline Enteritis, Rhinotracheitis virus, and Calicivirus. We also will vaccinate “high risk cats”( outdoor) for Feline Aids (FIV) and occasionally some cats may require a Feline Leukemia Vaccine.

Live virus or Inactivated (killed) virus?

With cats most of these vaccines have options for a ‘live virus’ vaccine or an ‘inactivated virus’ vaccine. The ‘live’ virus vaccine implants in your cat a live, but attenuated virus (that does not c au se them to get the disease). This virus then multiples in the recipient and requires the cats immune system to respond and produce antibodies to fight off the virus thus producing immunity to the disease. The immunity produced is excellent, however some cats can respond badly to the ‘live’ virus especially in more sensitive breeds such as Persians, Orientals, Chinchillas etc. The ‘inactivated’ vaccine on the other hand, is a virus that has been killed and when administered will similarly make the recipient respond by producing immunity to the vaccine. The negative aspect of the ‘killed’ vaccine is that it cannot multiply in the patient and does not stimulate the immune system to the same level as a ‘live’ vaccination thus resulting in lower levels of immunity (but still considered to be safe). The great benefit of ‘inactivated’ vaccines is that they are far less likely to result in reactions than the ‘live’ vaccine. At our Vet Clinics we have chosen to use only ‘inactivated’ vaccinations for cats due to our experience with negative vaccine reactions to ‘live’ vaccines. We recommend that the vaccines be given every 12 months.

Can I test my dog’s or cat’s level of immunity?

If you are concerned about vaccinations in your dog or cat we can have their immunity levels tested in what is called a ‘Titre Test’. This relatively simple test involves taking a blood sample from your pet and sending it to a laboratory for testing. The main limitation of Titre Testing is the fact that the cost of the test maybe up to 3 times the cost of actually giving a vaccine. If you would prefer to have your pets immunity tested in preference to routine vaccination, we are more than happy to arrange for this.

Holland Park & Carina Veterinary Clinic – Our Recommendations

At our clinics we are more than happy to assist you in determining the ideal vaccination combination that suits your needs. We provide a Guide (for adult pets) below for your perusal and can arrange a vaccination program that suits you and benefits your pet’s health. Please indicate your choice when making appointments.

Period & Item Monthly 3 Monthly Annual Triennial Comments
Heartworm (HW) in Dogs Yes Yes Some HW prevention maybe combined with other products.
C5 including Kennel Cough Yes Yes A Single or possibly split into 2 injections
Kennel Cough Yes Not Available Injection or Intra-nasal
F3 ( inactivated) for Cats & also consider FIV Yes A single injection
Intestinal Worming (Dogs & Cats) Yes, combined with HW Prevention Yes, separate from HW Some products deliver combined prevention.