Why Does My Vet...
Need to re-vaccinate my puppy?
You've just welcomed a new puppy (or kitten) to your family, and you book a visit with your vet to establish care... even though your new family member had vaccines with the breeder, shelter, or rescue, your vet staff is recommending that you continue additional vaccines. Maybe you've wondered exactly how many vaccines a puppy needs, or why the ones given prior need to be done again. While the protocols at different veterinary offices will differ slightly, many practices follow the vaccine guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Here's why your puppy or kitten may need more vaccines:
If the vaccines were not given by, or under the supervision of, a veterinarian, they may not work
Vaccines are very sensitive products. They must be transported and stored with certain temperature requirements, and administered properly under the skin or into the muscle. When vaccines are acquired from non-medical facilities, such as feed stores, their effectiveness may not be guaranteed, because their storage and transport is unknown. The same goes for when such vaccines are administered by non-medical personnel, who may not administer them with correct technique. Vaccines given at a shelter by / under order of a veterinarian are often acceptable, but vaccines given by a breeder or a rescue group may not be.
While studies on this subject are sparse, given the inherently non-controlled setting of these vaccines, most veterinary professionals have experienced treating parvovirus in "vaccinated" dogs that received over the counter vaccines.
The timing of vaccines can matter more than the number given
For the DAPP (canine distemper, parvo, adenovirus) and FVRCP (feline panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus) vaccines, the AAHA guidelines recommend that puppies be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks from 6 weeks until at least 16 weeks of age, and receive a minimum of 2 doses. AAFP/AAHA guidelines recommend the same for kittens.
The reason for this has to do with the immunity that animals get from their mother at birth. They receive antibodies that provide partial protection early in life, and slowly start to wane. Vaccines starting at 6 weeks provide additional protection, but do not last long, because the antibodies passed from the mother interact with them. For that reason, the vaccines are repeated until the puppy or kitten is at an age (16 weeks or older) where the final vaccine booster will "take" without interaction from the mother's antibodies, and provide lasting immunity until the next booster in 1 year.
For some breeds or lifestyles where the young animal may be at a higher risk of infection, veterinarians may recommend that the final dose be given at 18-20 weeks.
Different vaccines for different lifestyles
Veterinarians are trained on when to recommend which vaccines for specific animals based on their lifestyle and risks. There may be non-core vaccines, like Leptospirosis, that your veterinarian recommends based on lifestyle that were not previously performed by the facility or individual you obtained your new family member from.
Rabies vaccines are dictated by state law
Every state has laws regarding the timing and administration of rabies vaccines. In most states, rabies must be given by a licensed veterinarian, or under their direct and immediate supervision. Even if papers state that your pet was given a rabies vaccine, if there is not a formal certificate issued and signed by a veterinarian, your vet may be obligated to recommend repeating the vaccine. The good news is, adverse events are rare with vaccines, and the benefits of ensuring proper vaccination often outweight the risks of potentially "over vaccinating" or re-vaccinating. You can review the various laws associated with Rabies vaccines at Rabies Aware.
If you have questions, concerns, or confusion about the vaccines your veterinarian is recommending for your pet, ask at your appointment for clarity.
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