Vaccines are controversial for humans, dogs and cats. Many owners question the usefulness of an annual vaccination for their pets. Vaccines are also attacked in relation to the serious side effects that they can cause … Despite the controversies, we will see that vaccination remains overwhelmingly beneficial for dogs and cats and strongly advised to keep them in good health. However, precautions must be taken to limit the risks associated with vaccination.
What are vaccines used for?
Vaccines help protect dogs and cats from serious infectious diseases like parvovirus (in dogs) or typhus (in cats). Vaccination not only protects the vaccinated animal but also the animals with which it is in contact.
Thanks to vaccination, certain diseases have become very rare in France such as distemper, for example. It is difficult to realize the usefulness of a vaccine when diseases become rare, but it is important to maintain the vaccine pressure to avoid having to deal with these diseases again.
Among the vaccines, a distinction is made between essential valences (carried out in all animals) and non-essential valences. The latter are performed only if the animal presents a risk of being exposed to the diseases against which they protect. It depends on his lifestyle, where he lives …
Vaccines for dogs and cats are not compulsory (apart from the rabies vaccine when traveling abroad) but they are highly recommended given the benefits of vaccination.
Don't hesitate to read our fact sheets on dog vaccination and cat vaccination for more information.
What are the side effects of vaccines?
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. These are reported in the summary of product characteristics (SPC) for vaccines.
Some side effects are not serious for the animal. This is the case for example of reactions that appear at the injection site (inflammation and edema for a short time). Dogs and cats can also show a small drop in form, loss of appetite …
There are also serious side effects such as :
- gastrointestinal upset
- neurological disorders
- allergic reactions (type 1 hypersensitivity)
- lack of effectiveness of vaccination
- the death of the animal
Serious side effects are mainly encountered in young dogs (less than a year) and small dogs (less than 5 kg) with the exception of the lack of efficiency encountered especially in medium and large dogs (Rottweiller in particular).
Serious side effects usually appear within hours of vaccination. The farther the onset of symptoms from the vaccine injection, the less likely it is to be a side effect of the vaccination.
If an animal shows symptoms following vaccination, the veterinarian will perform a pharmacovigilance declaration. A study will then be carried out to find out whether a causal link can be established between the vaccine and the symptoms presented by the animal. Pharmacovigilance statements are very important for learning more about the safety of medicines.
You should know that serious side effects are rare, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. Vaccination is therefore strongly recommended for dogs and cats. Several precautions should be taken to limit the risk of side effects.
It is first of all necessary to vaccinate dogs and cats only against the diseases which represent a danger for them. This avoids carrying out unnecessary vaccines for the animal and therefore limits the risk of adverse effects. The manufacturer's recommendations should also be followed in the package leaflet.
It is also possible tolighten the vaccination protocol for adult animals and space the reminders for certain valences. The risk of side effects increases with the number of valences used. However, it is advisable to strengthen primary vaccination and give 3 injections at 8, 12 and 16 weeks to reduce the risk of ineffective vaccines. Indeed, during vaccination at the age of 8 weeks, there is a risk that the vaccine will be ineffective by interference with maternal antibodies. For more details, do not hesitate to read our “Should your dog be vaccinated every year?” “And” Is it necessary to vaccinate your cat every year? “.
Particular attention should be paid to young puppies and small dogs which are most affected by serious side effects. The ideal is to plan vaccination at the beginning of the morning to be able to monitor the animal throughout the day.
For animals which have already presented side effects, the veterinarian will choose either to no longer vaccinate the animal, or to change vaccines, etc … it will depend on the severity of the adverse effect, on the epidemiological context …