Vaccinations, Protecting our Fur-Babies

Samantha O’Boyle, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline®

What are vaccines? Why are they necessary?

While in utero a small number of antibodies are passed across the placenta to the puppies/kittens then after birth a larger quantity of those antibodies are then passed via the colostrum that is ingested. Colostrum is the first milk that is produced after birth. The antibodies passed along from mom are termed maternal antibodies. These antibodies will protect the puppy or kitten for the first few months of life but will eventually run out.

This is where vaccines come into play. Vaccines are used to trigger immune responses in our pets to help their own immune systems fight against any future infections. That means the vaccine is helping the body familiarize itself with a certain disease and build-up a defense against it which can lessen the severity if the disease is contracted or even prevent certain diseases.

Timeline for Vaccinations.

The reason for annual vaccinations is determined by the USDA based on studies that have been performed and they are licensed based on those results. Some vaccines have now been shown to last 3 years which is why some standards have changed. Some regions may have different guidelines and vets also consider the pets lifestyle while developing a vaccination plan.


But what about the side affects you may ask? Every medical treatment has risks associated with it. You must weigh the benefits against the risks.

It is also important to note that a vaccine is meant to cause a response to the immune system but generally the symptoms associated go un-noticed by owners. The most common noted adverse reactions are mild and short-term and include tenderness at the injection site, slight fever, or sneezing/cough (depending on if an intranasal vaccine was administered). More serious signs such as an allergic reaction may occur but are less likely. Severe reactions are rare.

As veterinary medicine has progressed, pets are living longer and healthier lives. Use of vaccines in the last century alone has prevented millions of deaths and the spread of disease. Not only is this important for your own pets but for your family and the community in which you live. Certain diseases can be passed from animals to humans such as rabies and leptospirosis.


A vocal minority argue that vaccines are not necessary, and many pets remain healthy regardless and disease is on the decline. It is important to realize that this is a result of vaccinations doing their job, as well as improved safety regulations and standards.



AVMA. (n.d.). Vaccinations. Retrieved from AVMA:

USDA. (2018, April 11). Licensed Veterinary Biological Product Information. Retrieved from USDA: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: