Here at the Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital we believe in personalized and individual care for each of your furry family members. Recently there has been a lot of controversy and debate as to vaccinations and what is really required. The experts in the field of veterinary medicine all agree that the most important part of a preventative health plan is an annual examination. We want to discuss with you as an individual to help determine the level of risk and disease exposure for your pet and to then make the best and most appropriate recommendation for vaccinations.
Puppies are typically brought home around 7-8 weeks of age and they will require their first immunization at this age. Some breeders will vaccinate at 6 weeks of age and while this may give some protection, this first vaccine will be competing with antibodies derived from the mother via nursing. Our recommendations for puppies will be a series of three distemper/parvovirus combination vaccinations given at 8,12 and 16 weeks. The immune system is mature enough in most puppies to maintain a protective level of immunity for one year after the 16 week booster vaccine. At or after the 12 week vaccination we recommend an intra-nasal kennel cough (Bordatella vaccine) as this time corresponds with getting your puppy out to actively socialize and meet with dogs you know to be safe and fully vaccinated. An important note, is that the critical window to expose your puppy to other dogs, in order to become well socialized, closes around 16 weeks of age. This means you must get them out to meet other dogs before they have finished having booster vaccines and the safest way to do this is to invite puppies and dogs you know to be fully vaccinated over to play, or have your puppy go to their house. We want to avoid dog parks, beaches and heavily used areas until the puppy has had the 16 week booster. Ask us about our ongoing, free puppy socialization program which has been running here at the hospital for more than 15 years. We prefer to give the rabies vaccine as a separate immunization a few weeks after the final distemper/parvovirus combination. This, like all vaccines, is one dose per dog so a puppy will receive a proportionally larger vaccine then an adult dog, so we try to minimize the likelihood of an adverse event by not having too many vaccines given on the same day. If you plan to take your puppy into the United States, after 12 weeks of age your puppy must be vaccinated for Rabies and you must have a valid rabies certificate for both exit and entry from the country. The Customs officers may not ask to see the certificate but they do have the legal right to deny you exit or entry without it. The first rabies vaccine is valid for 1 year and each additional vaccine is valid for 3 years. Rabies is considered a zoonotic (transmissible to humans) and reportable disease (to the government officials) so if your animal has had potential contact with a rabid animal (low risk- but bats and wildlife are potential carriers) the officials can have the pet quarantined or even euthanized if not properly vaccinated. Our doctors can help you determine the risk for your pet. Indoors only cats are definitely in the lowest risk category but bats can still enter a house through an open door, window or skylight.
Kittens should have 2 vaccinations of upper respiratory virus combined with feline leukemia virus at 8 and 12 weeks of age, and then a booster vaccine should be given a year later. Your doctor can discuss with you the lifestyle of your kitty and determine if he or she should have a rabies vaccine. Further vaccination schedules as an adult cat can be individually determined for each cat based on their health status and risk for disease. If you have a cat who spends time outdoors and is prone to getting into fights with others then the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (cat aids) vaccine might be indicated.
There are so many different lifestyles our pets live from a totally indoor condo/apartment dog or cat who only uses pee pads or a litter box, to a dog who is at the dog park daily and hiking in the mountains on weekends. We believe each pet needs to be assessed as an individual and a personalized vaccination program developed for each of your furry family members.
Vaccine titer tests are available and can be helpful in determining if your pet should have a booster vaccine done. These tests measure levels of antibodies in the bloodstream, but there is now even debate as to what level constitutes protection. The general belief is that a titer of 1:50 is a minimum protective level and if your pet has a titer below this they should receive a booster vaccine.