Having read and responded to the comments on my last blog post concerning primary vaccinations, I thought it would be helpful to summarise my viewpoint on vaccinating adult or elderly cats and dogs.
As of 2010, it has been accepted that the duration of immunity (DOI) for core vaccinations (distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus) is in the region of 3 to 4 years. However, it must be said that there is some variation amongst different vaccination manufacturers, with some stating that they offer 7 to 9 years or even lifetime immunity.
So, what do you do as a pet owner? The answer is very simple: you ask your vet to do a blood titre (pronounced ‘tighter’) every 3 to 4 years which measures the level of antibodies present in your pet’s blood, to see if they are still immune to the diseases being covered. You can, of course, have these done more often if you are concerned, and it is good to know that blood titres can be used as proof of immunity for kennels and catteries.
The truth of the matter is that you should be making sure your pet sees a vet on annual basis, regardless of the discussion around vaccinations. You are your pet’s voice when it comes to overall health so seeing your veterinarian is a bit like taking your car to the garage for its annual checkup. Think of it as a ‘Pet MOT’. Similarly, your vet will also ask about…
Overall fuel consumption.
Is your pet eating and drinking normally? An average dog or cat will drink 60 to 100ml of water per kilogram of weight, per day, for example.
What’s the bodywork like?
Are there any abnormalities occurring with your pet’s fur or skin? When a pet feels ill, one of the first things to go is the natural sheen of a good coat for example. Are there any lumps or bumps that need monitoring?
Exhaust gas check.
Are your pet’s motions normal? Are they urinating normally (good flow, no straining, normal colour) and defecating ok (is it mucoid, blood stained, normal colour?). Has there been any vomiting or diarrhoea recently? Is worming and flea prevention up to date? Any unusual discharges noted?
How are your pet’s activity levels? Are they slowing down due to arthritis perhaps? Any breathing problems associated with exercise?
Of course, these are just some of the questions your vet will ask – on top of this there is a full physical examination (equivalent to a 30-point car check!). There is also a very useful ‘wellness’ test for our older cars (I mean pets!) including urine and/or blood analysis, which gives an overview of kidney, liver, blood sugar and other organ functions.
So, finally, see your vet on an annual basis as this is the best birthday gift you can give it. Full stop. You can also use that time to discuss blood titre and/or vaccination frequency. Just do it. Simple really.
Veterinarian and Co-founder of MedicAnimal