It is recommended that vaccines should
be administered by a local veterinarian.
This is because veterinarians have access to superior vaccines and can handle
problems that may arise from vaccine reactions. The veterinarian can also ensure
that proper administration techniques are followed. However, if individual
situations require that the vaccine be given at home, the following general
suggestions are a must:
- Develop a vaccination schedule with the help of a veterinarian.
- Review and update the vaccination program annually.
- Refrigerate vaccines prior to use, and use entire contents after opening.
- Purchase all vaccines from a reputable source.
- Follow all label directions exactly.
- Give only the recommended dose by the recommended route.
- Use sterile syringes that have not been used for other purposes.
- Throw away all outdated and opened bottles.
- Do not use unnecessary vaccines.
- Do not mix two vaccines unless required by manufacturer.
- Do not vaccinate sick animals.
It is important that pet owners establish a consistent health program to
reduce the amount of infectious disease present on their premises. All animals
are susceptible to many infectious diseases. Infectious diseases can enter a
home/yard through new pets or be carried onto a location by other animals and
humans. It is important to identify what diseases are a potential problem in the
area or in the home. With a veterinarian, a strategy may be formed for
protecting against and decreasing exposure of a pet to infectious diseases. A
written vaccination schedule should be created and followed. The vaccination
schedule should be modified as conditions warrant and available vaccines change.
It is advisable to develop a complete program of nutrition, sanitation, and
health care to help ensure healthy and happy animals.
Adjuvant: A necessary component of inactivated vaccines, adjuvants are
additives to the vaccine suspension which help the bodyís immune system
recognize the dead virus particles and mount an effective immune response
against them. Aluminum salts are usually the adjuvant type seen in commercial
- Vaccine: A vaccine is a mixture of killed or modified microorganisms or
their parts, administered to help prevent sickness from infectious diseases.
Active immunity: Active immunity is obtained when the individualís own
immune system responds to an infectious disease. The active immune response
may be stimulated by either the disease itself or a vaccine.
Passive immunity: This type of immunity against an infectious disease is
obtained by receiving antibodies made by another individualís immune system.
The most common example of passive immunity occurs when a kitten consumes
colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mother. It is rich in
antibodies against diseases for which the mother has immunity. When the kitten
nurses from its mother for the first time, it receives passive immunity
against those diseases. Over time, however, the maternal antibodies wear out,
and the kitten must actively mount its own immune response. Because of this
decline in maternal antibodies, it is essential to vaccinate kittens at a
- Killed (inactivated) virus vaccines
- These vaccines are composed of
whole or parts of the killed virus to which the body mounts an immune
response. Generally, killed virus vaccines are more stable for storage and
less likely to cause the disease being vaccinated against; however, they
are more likely to produce vaccination reactions due to the high level of
virus particles and the adjuvants that are used.
- Modified live virus vaccines
(MLV vaccines) - These vaccines are
composed of living viruses which have been altered to avoid causing
the disease being vaccinated against. Despite being changed, these
vaccines will still stimulate an immune response by the body. The changing
process (attenuation) of these viruses is usually accomplished through
repeated culturing of the virus in a tissue to which it is not adapted.
MLV vaccines do not require the use of adjuvants, are less likely to
produce vaccination reactions, and stimulate a good immune response with
fewer doses than a killed virus vaccine. However, some MLV vaccines have
been known to actually cause the disease they are trying to prevent. This
occurs when the attenuation or changing process is not complete.
- Usually safe for pregnant animals
- Stable in storage
- One dose required
- Faster immune response
- Stronger and more durable response
- Fewer post-vaccination reactions
- Not recommended for pregnant animals
- Possible viral shedding to other animals
- Improper handling may inactivate the vaccine
- Bacterial vaccines-
Avirulent live bacteria (AVL) - Bacteria can be made avirulent
(non-infective) through different mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms
include gene manipulation and culture under abnormal conditions. AVL
vaccines are uncommon in veterinary medicine, although they do exist for
small animals, especially for intranasal use.
- Bacterins - Bacterins are killed whole bacteria or their parts. Some of
the bacterin vaccines are among the most notorious for producing
vaccination reactions. Like the killed virus vaccines, bacterins are
unlikely to cause disease through retained virulence (ability to cause
disease) and are more stable for storage.
- Fungal vaccines - These vaccines are used to prevent fungal infections and
the most common fungal vaccine for cats is used to prevent Microsporum
canis (see page C230 for more details).
- Toxoids - This is an inactivated toxin (poison), administered to stimulate
the bodyís immune response against the poison itself, rather than against
the organism which produces it. Probably most common is the tetanus toxoid.
Due to the delay in producing an immune response, toxoids are used in
prevention rather than treatment. Toxoids are also used because of their
- Antitoxin - An antitoxin is purified serum from another individual,
containing antibodies against a toxin. Antitoxins do not produce an immune
response and are not technically vaccines. They provide immediate protection
against a toxin and are given for treatment of existing disease, rather than
for long-lasting prevention. Antitoxins which are used in veterinary
medicine include tetanus antitoxin and rattlesnake venom antitoxin.
Antitoxins are a form of passive immunity.
- Antiserum - This is purified serum from another individual which contains
antibodies against different organisms (bacteria or viruses). Antiserum is
another form of passive immunity.
Note: The feline leukemia, panleukopenia,
rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and
chlamydiosis vaccines often come combined as one injection known as a
"mixed" or "cocktail" vaccine.
Please see the vaccination schedule on page A905 for additional information.