Vaccination is a topic often discussed in the animal hospital, but many owners may be getting them without knowing their importance or how they protect their pet from disease. Vaccinations are quite possibly one of the most inexpensive, effective methods of protecting your pet from disease and they can be easily renewed annually at your local animal hospital. An overview of vaccination and some important concepts surrounding the topic will be discussed in this post.
In order to understand the importance of vaccines, it can be helpful to understand how they work. Vaccines work by administering doses of antigens to your pet, normally through an injection, in order to 'train' your pet's immune system to fight off potential infection. These antigens basically consist of proteins that are found on the specific microbes that could cause infection to your pet, although vaccines typically make them weakened or reduce the amount of antigens first. When your pet is vaccinated, the antigens stimulate the body to produce antibodies, an important part of your pet's immune system.
These antibodies perform many processes to prevent bacterial infection, including alerting immune cells to attack the bacterial cell, and forming a conglomerate of bacteria and antibodies to prevent the bacteria from moving and functioning correctly. Once produced, they can be remade in the pet's body whenever the infection comes back due to the fact that some cells that made the resistance to the antigens remain in the immune system. In short, vaccines work by introducing a small infection that the body is able to fight off. Once the body fights the infection, it can make more antibodies in case the infection comes back, thus 'training' your pet's immune system to fight specific infections.
Vaccinations are incredibly useful in preventing disease, but there are some important things to know about what may happen when your pet gets vaccinated. Your pet may have a local or systemic reaction to the vaccine, depending on your pet's specific immune response. Local reactions happen at the site of injection, and can typically consist of inflammation or vasculitis, where the immune system attacks the blood vessel by accident - the cause of this is unknown. Systemic reactions occur throughout the pet's body, and this can consist of symptoms such as anaphylaxis, hives, or GI distress (more common in cats). Your pet may be tired, sore, or have reduced appetite after getting a vaccine. This is normal and should go away after a couple of hours. It is important to note that any reaction to a vaccine is uncommon, and that the vast majority of the time your pet will be safe with the vaccinations your veterinarian recommends. On the rare occasion your pet does have a vaccine reaction, your veterinarian can prescribe treatments such as a steroid injection or antihistamine. These concerns should be discussed with your vet before your pet receives a vaccine if you have any concerns about vaccine reactions and your pet.
Vaccinations are an important part of protecting your pet and helping it live the best life it can. By helping your pet's immune system recognize and build up defenses to threats before severe infection occurs, you are helping your pet protect itself. An important part of our job at North Ogden Animal Hospital is to ensure that your pets are taken care of, and vaccination is a treatment we advocate for to provide the best possible healthcare for your pet.