Just as human children need to get their shots starting from infancy, your furry pet babies also need to visit the vet for a few vaccinations of their own.

By Maan D’ Asis Pamaran

Vaccines, whether for humans or animals, have a specific and very important function. They help prepare the body’s immune system to fight an invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which resemble a disease-causing organism; these are introduced to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease.When a vaccine dose is given, the immune system is mildly stimulated and it forms antibodies against the virus. If a dog, for example, is exposed to the real virus, his immune system is prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.

SHOOT ‘EM UP – Dr. Nicholas Carpio, a veterinarian who holds clinic at Vets in Practice Animal Hospital, gives a rundown of the shots that your pets should receive. As with human vaccines, dogs also have combination vaccines, wherein several types of antigens can be administered in one convenient shot. He explains that the 6 in 1 vaccine protects against parvo virus, canine hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, and corona virus.

“The 5 in 1 has all the above-mentioned except protection against the corona virus. We also have separate vaccines against the rabies virus, kennel cough (Bordetella sp.), and heartworm. These are all available in the Philippines,” Dr. Carpio says.

He adds that all dogs are basically given the same dosage regardless of size, except the heartworm vaccine. He also gives a recommended schedule: “Puppies from the age of 6 weeks should start receiving vaccines, then they are vaccinated every two weeks thereafter until they are 3 months old. The rabies vaccine is given on the third month of age, then annually.” For cats, Dr. Ocampo lists the three in one against calicivirus, parainfluenza, and panleukopenia virus and the rabies virus vaccine.

A DANGEROUS MISCONCEPTION – There are some pet owners, however, who still view vaccines as an added expense as they can cost a pretty penny at around PhP 350 to PhP 850 per shot. Some even reason that since their pets hardly come in contact with other animals, they can be considered safe from viral diseases.

Dr. Carpio advises against taking any chances. “They are not protected from other rabid animals like stray dogs and cats which can be carriers of the virus. So, if they are not vaccinated and accidentally (encounter or are) bitten by infected animals, they will surely get its disease. They can die or be carriers as well. It’s also in our law that our pets should be vaccinated yearly.”

As with the movements making the rounds of social media suggesting that human vaccinations are unnecessary or even dangerous, there are also anti-vaxxers in the animal world who bandy about a term called ‘vaccinosis’. Animal naturopaths are pinpointing vaccines as the cause of modern animal diseases, citing it as the “…disturbance of the vital force by vaccination, resulting in mental, emotional, and a physical change that can, in some cases, be a permanent condition,” despite lacking scientific proof for their claims.

This school of thought Dr. Carpio counters. “There are too many factors to consider. How can they prevent such diseases (from spreading) where there’s so much wildlife that are carriers of these diseases that can transferred to domestic animals and humans as well?” Rabies vaccinations have been credited with saving the lives of countless dogs and many humans. In developing countries such as the Philippines, hundreds of people die each year due to rabies contracted mostly from dog bites.

He adds, “With vaccination, you are basically preventing your pet from incurring lethal and life-threatening diseases. A lot of pets get very sick or die because owners neglect giving their pets the proper preventive measures such as vaccines. Remember that prevention is way cheaper than treating the animal, considering that there’s no real treatment for viruses. You can only to help the immune system through supportive means.”

ADVERSE REACTIONS – He does share, though, that there may be some physical effects of vaccination. “Some pets become lethargic and depressed or weak for one to two days, but will recover. There are very rare cases where there are seizures that can lead to shock or death. A reaction at the injection site can also occur, especially in cats, and these can lead to a tumor-like lesion.”

The US Association for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) gives a list of symptoms associated with vaccination that pet owners should watch for:

  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial swelling and/or hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain, swelling, redness, scabbing or hair loss around the injection site
  • Lameness
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

HEALTH – It advises that pet owners schedule their pet’s vet appointment so that they can monitor for any side effects following administration of the vaccine.

As with human babies, there are several precautions before a shot is given. Rather than “shooting” indiscriminately, certain factors still need to be met before a vaccine is administered. Dr. Carpio says, “A dog or a cat that’s weak or has other debilitating conditions cannot be vaccinated. Vaccines challenge the immune system by forcing the body to create antibodies for that particular virus in order to make the pet immune to it. So, if you give a dog a vaccine while it is already incubating the disease, it would further worsen the condition of the dog and that can lead to death. That being the case, it’s best for a vet to check the dog or cat first before giving the vaccine.”

While vaccines play an important role in controlling infectious diseases, pet owners should not rely solely on the shots. To help your furry baby stay healthy and disease-free, there is still a need to make an effort to reduce your pet’s exposure to infected animals or contaminated environments.

Q: WHAT’S THE LAW THAT SAYS I MUST HAVE MY PETS VACCINATED?

A: That would be RA9482 or The Anti Rabies Act. In Section 5 (Responsibility of Pet Owners), it says:All Pet Owners shall be required to:

(a) Have their Dog regularly vaccinated against rabies and maintain a registration card which shall contain all vaccinations conducted on their dog, for accurate record purposes.

(b) Rule 5(a)1. The pet owner shall keep the LGU issued registration card containing the permanent number, physical characteristics of the dog including but not limited to age, color, sex, breed, distinguishing marks and others.

Rule 5(a)2. The registration card shall be presented during annual revaccination and when deemed necessary.

Rule 5(a)3. The registration card shall likewise contain all rabies vaccinations conducted on their Dog. The record shall indicate the registration number of the dog, date of vaccination, the attending veterinarian, with the corresponding updated PRC license, TIN and PTR numbers and shall be signed by the same.

(Dr. Nicholas Carpio, Vets in Practice Animal Hospital, #117 Katipunan Road, St. Ignatius, Quezon City. Tel. (02) 962.1552 to 53)

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2015 issue.