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When should a pet be vaccinated

As you all know, prevention is always better than cure. To ensure that your pet is healthy and is geared up to fight against infections, ensure that your loving canine is duly vaccinated.

Do you know that we are constantly attacked by millions of micro-organisms which inhibit our world? Thus, some means of protection is required for survival for not only humans but also our canines.

Defence mechanisms:

Healthy bodies are always equipped with several defence mechanisms, which are in operation all the times. The skin is a barrier to invasion by microbes, the mucous membrane in the nose traps foreign bodies that are breathed in and the cough reflex comes into play when throat and larynx are irritated to prevent germs getting into the lungs. Stomach acidity kills invaders which get that far and the mucous produced by the small bowel acts as a barrier to infections. Liver also detoxifies the toxins harmful to the body. These defence mechanisms and the immune systems are very active in healthy body but they are very weak when there is stress on the body.

Importance of vaccination:

Immune system in young ones is not fully developed to fight with the invaders and is also not capable of producing antibodies as compared to adults. Nature has arranged some protective antibodies, which a puppy gets from her mother, and these are called passive antibodies. These antibodies pass to puppies while they are in the uterus and also through mother’s first milk — the colostrum. The antibodies which the mother passes to her puppies are against those diseases which she herself has encountered or been vaccinated against. The passive immunity in the puppies fades off early, so the puppy must develop her own immunity either by encounter with disease or by vaccination, to live a healthy and long life. Since we do not want pups to endure an episode of disease to develop their own protection, we turn to creation immunity by vaccination.

Types of vaccine:

Nowadays there are many types of vaccines available with your vet. There are attenuated live vaccine, killed vaccine, toxoids and mixed vaccines. Protection created by vaccines is generally not long lasting as natural immunity, thus boosters are periodically needed and different intervals are advised for different diseases and different products.

When should a pet be vaccinated:

Every pet owner aims to stimulate the production of active antibodies by vaccination, as early as possible in a puppy’s life. Unfortunately, this is not easily achieved, since maternally-derived antibodies not only protects against disease, but also prevents a proper response to vaccination. There is an immunity gap during which puppies will not have enough maternal antibodies to protect them against infection, but sufficient to prevent effective vaccination. Many efforts have gone into to keep this vulnerable time to minimum. The personal immunity of a pup varies from other brothers and sisters from the same litter depending upon the colostrum taken from their mother and personal immune system development. Orphan puppies who have no colostrum, can theoretically be vaccinated at birth, but it is wiser to wait until 3-6 weeks of age to allow the immune system to develop properly. Thus, the puppies should be vaccinated at the age of 6-8 weeks of age against Canine Distemper and Canine Parvo viral infections. But it is advisable to contact your vet who will calculate the optimum time for vaccination in the light of local disease conditions and the history of the kennel in which the puppy was born. Finally in this connection, it has to be remembered that there will always be a proportion of dogs whose bodies fail to respond to vaccine given to them. The booster for Canine Distemper, Parvo virus, Leptospirosis, Adenovirus type-1 and type-2, infectious Canine Hepatitis, Panleucopenia (DHLPP) should be repeated after 12 weeks of age and vaccine of anti-rabies after 13 weeks of age vaccine against canine corona virus (not very prevalent in Asian countries) should be given after second booster of DHLPP.

Side effects of vaccination:

Vaccination does not usually affect behaviour or appetite. Some dogs may feel off colour for a day or two after the vaccination and few may show mild local reaction at the site of the injection.

(Dr R. T. Sharma is a Veterinary Surgeon President of Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), associated to RSPCA, London, UK and Animal Welfare Board of India, practising in Delhi since 1990. He can be reached at 9810036254.)