Common Misconceptions about Vaccines in Pets


Vaccines play an important role in animal health by reducing disease prevalence in our pets. Even though vaccines are common in pets there still seems to be common misconceptions associated with them. Listed is the most common misconceptions noted with vaccines.

Vaccines provide %100 protection

Many people believe that if their pet is vaccinated against a disease this guarantees they will never get that disease. That is not entirely true. Vaccines boost the immune system’s response to a particular  disease. Sometimes that response can prevent infection, in other instances it prevents the pet from getting serious illness and allows for quicker recovery if the disease is contracted. It is also important to note depending on the disease some vaccines may prevent symptoms but may not prevent the infected pet from being contagious.

Pet is up to date with just one set of  vaccines

There are some new pet owners who get their pet and are told that they had their first shots already whether it is from a breeder, pet store, or adoption agency.  Because of this, they sometimes believe that their pets are up to date on their vaccines. Most pets regardless of their age need a minimal of two sets of vaccines ~ 2-4 weeks apart to be up to date on vaccines.

All pets require the same vaccination protocol

While most kitten and puppy vaccine protocols are very similar, as they get older vaccine protocols may vary depending on the lifestyle of the pet and where they live geographically. Pets who spend a considerable amount of time outside will have different vaccine recommendations compared to those who are inside most of the time.  There are also parts of the country where certain diseases are more prevalent compared to other areas. Therefore vaccine recommendations may include common diseases prevalent in a specific area that the pet lives in.

All Distemper vaccines are the same

The common core vaccines given to both cat and dogs are frequently referred to as distemper vaccines. In cats what is commonly referred to as feline distemper is a 3-way vaccine which includes protection against the herpes virus, calici virus and panleukopenia virus.

Compared to cats, the distemper vaccine for dogs does protect against the distemper virus. Where distemper vaccines may differ in dogs is in what other viruses they protect against. Almost all the canine distemper vaccines also protect against adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.  Where they may differ is that some may also provide coronavirus protection, while others may protect against leptospirosis.

Vaccine reactions depend on age of the pet

Though it may seem younger pets are more prone to reactions, vaccines reactions can happen in any pets regardless of age. Vaccine reactions typically can occur if a pet is receiving a certain vaccine for the very first time and is sensitive to it.  It can seem like younger pets are more prone because that is  the time when most pets receive vaccines.

Certain breeds are more prone to vaccination reactions than others

In my clinical experience it is a fact that there are breeds that are over represented for vaccine reactions. But just because your dog is a certain breed that does not guarantee they will or will not have a vaccine reaction.  I have seen vaccine reactions in all breeds.


Tips regarding vaccine reactions

Vaccine reactions though not common, do occur with pets. Here are a list of tips regarding vaccine reactions.:

  • In my experience while most pets who are vaccinated don’t experience reactions, you never know which pets will react until unfortunately after they receive the vaccination. So if your pet is receiving a specific vaccination for the first time, it is recommended that your appointment with your veterinarian is scheduled in the morning. This is so you can avoid an emergency visit if your pet experiences a vaccine reaction.
  • This tip is primarily for dog owners. When you bring your puppy for follow-up booster shots just remember at each visit your puppy may receive  a new vaccine. So even if your puppy did not have a reaction at the last visit, if he or she is receiving a new vaccine at the current visit, there is still a risk for a reaction.
  • This is for those pet owners whose pets get yearly vaccines. If you are taking your pet to a new clinic, keep in mind that another veterinarian may use a different manufacturer for vaccines then your previous veterinarian so your pet may still be at risk for experiencing a vaccine reaction.
  • If your pet experiences  a vaccine reaction and you had to go to an emergency clinic. There are vaccine  manufacturer’s that may cover the cost of the emergency visit as a good will gesture. Just ask your veterinarian for more details.

Final thoughts

When getting your pet vaccinated,  ask questions so you know exactly what your pet is getting vaccinated against. Also feel free to discuss the likely lifestyle your pet will experience so you can maximize the vaccination protocol that is best for your pet.

5 thoughts on “Common Misconceptions about Vaccines in Pets

  1. Good basic points about vaccine protocols, too bad you didn’t go deeper and provide more cautions or touch upon the importance of titer testing before considering boosters or mention examples of vaccine dangers like dogs who get cancer right at injection sites. It would have also been great in the “Final thoughts” section if you recommended that people question the need for so many vaccines at all.

    There is growing recognition that vaccines and the marketing around them are profit centers for vets, directly by the profit on providing them ($$) and indirectly by their boosters and the secondary visits they require ($$). Encouraging more people to resist the heavy handedness of veterinarians pushing vaccines and the often unnecessary boosters, would improve/protect the lives of many innocent pets.

    I don’t expect you to believe me, so here are resources for you to validate my statements, including Dr. Jean Dodds, the vet widely recognized as the foremost expert on vaccines and their dangers:

    • Hello Ken
      Thanks for sharing your comment about the blog posts. As far as your resources that you have provided, I and many veterinarians tend to disagree with anything dogs naturally magazine states regarding dog’s health. I think many of their points are weakened because it is followed by attacking the integrity of the veterinary community. Also I am very familiar with Dr. Jean Dodds and I also disagree with some of her statements regarding vaccines. One of her most popular statements I disagree with is her stating that a dog only needs one vaccine at 12 weeks of old and it provides enough protection. My clinical experience tells me otherwise. My colleagues and I have seen and treated many dogs who contracted parvo who have received just one vaccine. I don’t think she even considers a dog’s lifestyle when it comes to her statements on vaccine protocols. I have seen first hand how dangerous it can be to generalize vaccine protocols for all dogs. Different dogs will have different needs for vaccines as I have stated in the article.
      Your statement “There is growing recognition that vaccines and the marketing around them are profit centers for vets, directly by the profit on providing them ($$) and indirectly by their boosters and the secondary visits they require ($$). Encouraging more people to resist the heavy handedness of veterinarians pushing vaccines and the often unnecessary boosters, would improve/protect the lives of many innocent pets.” sounds like a conspiracy theory against veterinarians and there are several facts you haven’t considered that would invalidate that statement. First fact is that vaccines are not the biggest profit makers for most veterinarian, professional services are. Next fact is that there are many pet owners who buy their own vaccines and administer them to their pets. Also there are many breeders who purchase their own vaccines and administer to their puppies before they go on sale. Finally vaccine only clinics are becoming more and more popular which are associated with pet and feed stores (these stores make the most profit from the vaccines). All these are perfect examples of how vaccines protocols are still being used without the alledged “heavy handedness” of a veterinarians. Also these provide significant competition to veterinary clinics greatly decreasing the profit margin a clinic can get from vaccines.
      Other facts to consider and research as well Ken is vaccines titers. One is for many pet owners titers can be cost prohibitive. Also even though there are titers available for Distemper, rabies, and lepto, Most of the core vaccines also protect against adenovirus, and parainfluenza. Titers for those diseases are not typically readily available. But it is important that dogs are protected against these disease especially if they are going to be around other dogs.
      Overall there will always be strong disagreements regarding vaccine protocols even between veterinarians. But what is most dangerous is the mindset that all pets are the same and all will benefit from the same vaccine protocols.

  2. Thanks for the details. My wife just got a new dog. It is a cute little thing, and the breeder said she has all of her shots. I will have to call them and ask if the puppy needs any more. I have no idea if she has two sets of shots. I really appreciate you letting me know that fact.

  3. I got a new dog, so I want to make sure that I take good care of it. It makes sense that I would want to have it vaccinated! I’ll be sure that I do my research to make sure that it’s not prone to vaccination reactions. I’ll talk to my vet to see what they think.

  4. It is interesting to know that not all pets require the same vaccination protocol. It makes sense that pets who spend more time outside will have different vaccine recommendations. My sister lives in the mountains and says that the vaccine against ticks is highly beneficial for her dog.

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