I hear this question a lot in my practice, and it’s a great one: Does my senior dog or cat still need vaccinations? Similar to so many things in veterinary medication, it depends.
What Shots (Vaccinations) Do Older Dogs Need
Some family pet owners tend to consider parvo and distemper in dogs and feline panleukopenia, calicivirus and herpesvirus in felines as diseases that only affect pups and kittens. By the time our pets are 8, 10 or 12 years — or older — they must have been immunized for these illness several times in their lives: the first couple of times as puppies or kittycats, a booster at one year then boosters every three years, as advised by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners. So how most likely is it that they are getting among these illness in their golden years?
The short answer is that older family pets have little risk of establishing these transmittable illness if they were effectively immunized as puppies or kittycats and developed an immune action. However that does not indicate there is no risk to an older family pet.
Why Vaccinations Are Important for Older Pets
In uncommon instances, an immunized animal doesn’t develop an immune response to the particular disease. My colleague Ronald Schultz, DVM, PhD, an immunology specialist at the University of Wisconsin, states about 1 in 1,000 dogs won’t establish resistance to parvo, for instance, and about 1 in 5,000 will not establish resistance to distemper. Genetics play an essential function in whether an animal reacts to a vaccine and whether he develops a negative reaction to it.
Another thing to think about is that a senior animal’s immune system is no longer at its strongest. Like so many other things, the immune system’s efficiency decreases with age. (The $5 term for this decline is immunosenescence.) A family pet may be more at risk of infection in aging and less able to eliminate one off.
The kind of vaccine is likewise an element. While the core vaccines — parvo, distemper, adenovirus and most types of rabies vaccines — have actually been shown to be protective for a minimum of 3 years (and, sometimes, for seven or more years), noncore, or optional, vaccines for bacterial diseases such as bordetella or leptospirosis do not supply long-lasting immunity and might need to be administered every year if your animal is at risk for those illness. If these noncore vaccines are not offered each year, immunity is lost. Dr. Schultz states family pets who haven’t been immunized yearly for these types of illness ought to receive two doses of vaccine two to four weeks apart, just as they did when they got the preliminary vaccination.
Keeping senior family pets immunized can assist protect them from disease, but like any medical procedure, vaccinations aren’t without risk. Reactions to them are rare, but they can take place. If you are concerned about giving vaccines because your pet is old, has a chronic disease or has actually had reactions to vaccines in the past, talk with your vet about a titer test for parvo, distemper and adenovirus in dogs and panleukopenia in cats to examine immune reaction. If he has sufficient levels of antibodies to distemper, parvo or adenovirus, he’s immune. If he does not have detectible antibodies to disease, he needs to be revaccinated. Titer testing can be done every 3 years to inspect your senior pet’s level of antibodies and help guarantee that his immune system is still humming along.