Vaccinations, Immunisation and Titer Tests
What do they all mean and why should I care?
Every pet owner is very familiar with the vet’s annual reminder to bring Fluffy back in for her annual shots. Annual health checks are important to maintaining good general health but do we need to vaccinate every year? Do you know what is actually being administered to Fluffy with that annual vaccination?
Bentons Road Veterinary Clinic believes in vaccinating animals only when necessary. We have the strong opinion that annual jabs given when not needed may cause harm to your pet. To be very clear though, we are NOT Anti-Vaccination vets. Vaccinations are essential for providing your pet with immunity to debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. We definitely need to ensure that we have strong individual and herd immunity to disease. However we do not need to vaccinate every animal every year to do this effectively.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of immunisation and vaccinations and why this is vitally important to your pet, here are a few important definitions:
A dose of a biological compound (part of a virus or bacteria) that stimulates/triggers the body’s natural immune system to provide immunity to that particular disease.
The process by which an animal is made immune to a disease – usually by administering a vaccine.
Having protection against a particular disease.
A measurement of antibodies for a particular disease which correlates with immunity.
VACCINES are those doses of partial disease that your vet gives your pet by injection at their Annual Health Exam each year. Dosing pets with this medication stimulates the immune system to recognise that particular disease as foreign. Therefore your pet will be better able to fight it when it is next encountered. Perhaps by a real life infection. This gives the pet IMMUNITY to that disease. Sometimes the words vaccination and immunisation are interchangeable. Immunity is established after being given a vaccination, but how long does it last?
How Long Does a Vaccine Last?
Previously, vets have advised you vaccinate your pet every year. This was because studies conducted by pharmacological companies proved their vaccines provided immunity for at least 12 months. Therefore it was assumed that another vaccine was needed to maintain immunity for longer than 12 months. More recently the vaccine companies have performed three yearly studies. The results of these studies indicate that some vaccines provide immunity for at least 3 years. This has greatly reduced the number of vaccines that dogs, and now cats, need to be dosed with.
But duration of immunity (DOI) actually lasts much, much longer. Professor Ronald Schultz (a well-known vaccinologist and veterinary pathologist) well over 35 years ago proved that the duration of immunity conferred by most vaccines was between 7 years and the lifetime of the animal. Vaccination protocols have evolved over this time to try and reduce the number of vaccines being administered. However until recently there has not been an easy way to define how long immunity lasts. Nor have we had the ability to know how often we really need to give those vaccine jabs.
Disclaimer: This video mentions Rabies vaccination as part of the core vaccines. Rabies does not exist in Australia. The other three diseases however do exist and these are the diseases we test for.
Fortunately there is now a quick and easy test that shows whether or not a pet has immunity to certain diseases. A test that indicates whether or not your pet requires their ‘annual’ vaccinations.
The Vaccicheck Immunocomb Titer Test is a quick in-house blood test that measures your pet’s level of antibodies against core diseases. It essentially gives us a way of ‘measuring’ your cat or dog’s immunity. We can now make sure our pets are immune to the killer diseases that can tragically devastate puppies and kittens, whilst making sure we give vaccines only when needed.
The Vaccicheck ImmunoComb Titer Test is a test to measure the antibodies circulating within your pet against the ‘core diseases’. These are the C3 (Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Distemper) in dogs and the F3 (Panleucopaenia, Herpesvirus and Calicivirus) in cats. Kennel Cough is a different type of vaccine and different disease syndrome. [Annual vaccinations for Kennel Cough are still required if your dog requires this protection]. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) endorses the use of this particular test. It has been proven to correlate well with immunity to the core diseases of cats and dogs. This is the test that Bentons Road Vet Clinic uses. It is a quick, reliable and affordable in-house assessment that indicates whether your pet needs to be given a vaccination or not. Results are available the same day or early the next day and an immunisation certificate is provided once the results are known.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Vaccines have been tested to be safe when administered as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Unfortunately adverse reactions do still occur. These can range from mild lethargy and fever to more severe reactions such as facial swelling or skin rashes. Severe allergic reactions can result in vomiting, diarrhoea or collapse, through to true anaphylactic reactions. Anaphylactic reactions result in collapse and loss of blood pressure in your pet. This can cause death if not treated immediately. Thankfully these severe reactions are seen very rarely…. But they do occur from time to time.
As well as these immediate reactions, evidence suggests that long term overstimulation of the immune system not only “does no good” to the patient, but may actually “do harm”.
Why do we want to reduce vaccinations?
Repeatedly stimulating the immune system unnecessarily may cause circulating immune complexes to form. These complexes can lodge in places such as the kidneys, liver and joints, causing inflammation and damage. Is there a link between repeat vaccinations and early renal disease in cats? Not yet, but is it a possibility? Yes. Given that the veterinary code is to “do no harm”, any improvement in vaccine protocols is a good thing. Bentons Road Vet Clinic vaccination protocols are designed to maintain immunity whilst reducing the number of vaccines necessary to bring about that immunity.
Bentons Road Vet Clinic recommends an Annual Health Exam every year where we will thoroughly examine your pet and discuss any health concerns. We follow an individual vaccination protocol depending on your pet’s lifestyle and risk factors. We do this to reduce the number of vaccines that your pet receives over their lifetime to keep your pet as healthy as can be. If you have any questions, please call us or drop into our Mt Martha Vet Clinic. This is an area we are passionate about and we love providing information to our pet owners.