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WHAT ARE CUSTOM VACCINATIONS?
Custom vaccination is becoming an increasingly popular method of preventing overvaccination in pets. Some veterinarians feel that introduction of unnecessary vaccine antigens into pets contributes to immune system disease or malfunction leading to development of disease or possible death.
Vaccination frequency in pets should ideally be tailored to the level of immunity to each specific disease being vaccinated against. In dogs Canine Distemper, Canine Adenovirus-2 (Hepatitis), Canine Parvovirus and Rabies are considered to be "core vaccines". In cats Feline Calicivirus, Feline Herpesvirus-1, Feline Panleukopenia Virus and Rabies are considered to be "core vaccines". Levels of immunity to the individual diseases can be measured and therefore monitored for adequate levels of protection of the individual pet. If the level of immunity falls below an adequate level of protection, referred to as a titer, the pet can be vaccinated against that specific disease, thus avoiding the unnecessary introduction of antigenic stimulants to the immune system. Although Rabies titers can be measured, public health regulations require vaccination for this disease regardless of proof of protective antibody levels in either dogs or cats.
HOW ARE PETS TESTED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION?
The titer is measured by taking a blood sample and measuring the level of protection in the animal at that time. On dogs, the testing is done in-clinic and usually takes less than 1 hour to get the titers on all three diseases. With cats the blood is submitted to the diagnostic lab and results on the titers for all three diseases usually returns within 7 days.
HOW DO WE DETERMINE REVACCINATION?
If the core viral vaccine component antibodies are measured and are below the cutoff titer for the specific disease, the animal is vaccinated and then rechecked annually for adequate protection.
ARE PUPPIES AND KITTENS TESTED AS WELL?
Puppies and kittens receive passive immunity (colostrum) from their mothers' milk that they ingest just after they are born that gives them a passive protection for the first 6 to 16 weeks of their lives. Because this is a temporary protection, a routine vaccination schedule is followed until the puppy or kitten is 16 weeks old with boosters given every 2 weeks from 6 to 16 weeks. The titers are check annually starting 1 year after the last dose.
WHAT ABOUT LEPTOSPIROSIS?
Leptospirosis is not considered a core vaccine but in our area vaccination is strongly recommended due to the prevalence of the disease in Northeast Kansas. Dogs that are allowed to exercise or housed in areas where wildlife is present may be exposed to Leptospirosis present in the urine of mice, rats, raccoons, etc. Leptospirosis vaccines are associated with the potential for increased adverse vaccine reactions so their use should be carefully evaluated on individual exposure factors. The duration of protective immunity for leptospirosis vaccines in dogs is unclear, but titers for this disease along with assessment of risk factors for infection may help in the decision to vaccinate initially or revaccinate.