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

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.

First of all , regards your adult 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. This 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 diseases. 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 (Hepatitis), Parvovirus and the two severe forms of canine cough – Parainfluenza & Bordatella (the latter actually a bacteria). Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus (C3 or DHP – the core vaccination) – these are the three fatal diseases! The only one of these three that we still treat occasionally is Parvovirus and for 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. We rarely see Parvovirus cases in our local suburbs and this has been historically evident over the last 20 years.  We now only vaccinate dogs with the C3 vaccine every  3 years from about 15 months of age. Bordatella & Parainfluenza (Kennel or Canine 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 annual certificate stating the pet has been vaccinated against these two diseases and is also up to date with their core vaccines.!
  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 (a good reason for annual check-ups) . 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 precautions 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. We can also “Titre Test” dogs to check if they already have adequate immunity against parvovirus ( see further below).

The all important concept of “3 year vaccines” is to supposedly reduce the frequent antigenic contact of vaccines to the animal’s immune system. This will minimise reactions. However, this does not apply in regards to  the “kennel cough”  vaccines that still need to be delivered yearly. This vaccine is often the one that creates the occasional reaction. There is also now an intranasal form of this vaccine as well as the regular injectable form.

Annual or Triennial (3 yearly) treatments?

The options are as follows:

Period

Monthly

Annual

*Tri-ennial

Heartworm Yes (oral) Yes (injection)
C3 Core Vaccination Yes Yes
Kennel Cough Yes No

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

As with ticks, flea control, intestinal worming etc there are a number of options 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.
* However, the most accepted protocol is to vaccinate with a C5 every 3 years and just with the KC vaccine each year in between. 

What about the cost of the various vaccine options?

Triennial C5 vaccinations will cost more than an Annual C5 but, 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 but does not cause them to get the disease. This attenuated 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 occasionally 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 is effective). 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 mainly use the ‘inactivated’ vaccinations for cats but have the option to use a “live vaccine” if requested . We currently 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 or using in-house test kits. The main limitation of Titre Testing is the fact that the cost of the test maybe a little more expensive than actually giving the 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 (oral) Yes (injection) 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  for Cats & also consider FIV Yes FIV given as separate injection if needed.
Intestinal Worming (Dogs & Cats) Yes, often combined with HW Prevention Yes, separate from HW Some products deliver combined prevention, even including flea & tick .