Making the Right Choice About Pet Vaccines

Q: There are so many options for my dog ​​regarding vaccinations and so many options on whether to vaccinate or titer check instead. What is the right decision for my pet?

A: You’re right that the sheer amount of information out there right now can be confusing and overwhelming. You also need to navigate all the different opinions and misinformation surrounding vaccinations and protecting your pet’s health.

The bottom line is that there are still many devastating infectious diseases in the environment that can affect your pet and become a human health problem.

It is important to understand that different regions of the world require other supplemental vaccines depending on the diseases in those areas.

However, there are some basic vaccinations that all dogs should receive in their lifetime. The rabies vaccine is the most critical core vaccine, as the rabies virus is still prevalent throughout the world, including northern Arizona, causing devastating and life-threatening disease if left untreated.

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Blood titers are a way to test a dog’s immunity level against certain diseases and can be helpful in determining when to give boosters.

The dog should have received several vaccinations prior to titration as he would not have innate immunity to these diseases, so titration is not a replacement for vaccinations when your dog is young. However, when it comes to the rabies vaccine, blood titers are not an acceptable alternative as this vaccine is required by law and titers do not qualify.

The other main vaccines include the Distemper/Parvo vaccine, as well as the Bordetella or kennel cough vaccine. You can collect blood titers for these diseases once your pet has had a couple of vaccinations. Still, the actual titer tests can take much longer and not be as accurate compared to making sure your dog is up to date on those vaccinations.

Some other non-core vaccines may include the leptospirosis vaccine, the canine flu vaccine, and the rattlesnake vaccine, which are given based on your dog’s potential exposure to those diseases.

Q: My dog ​​is old and has been a little stiff the last few days. Can I give him some ibuprofen to help with his pain?

A: Thank you for asking before giving your dog human medications. A dog’s metabolism differs significantly from that of a human and it cannot tolerate certain human medications.

Ibuprofen is one of those medications that is well tolerated by humans, but not something a dog can tolerate and therefore should not be given.

The safety margin for ibuprofen in a dog is very narrow, which means that even a small amount of ibuprofen can cause significant damage to internal organs. Even small amounts of ibuprofen can reach toxic levels in your dog, leading to stomach and intestinal damage, kidney damage, and if left untreated, can be fatal.

Your vet can prescribe many safe dog pain relievers to ease your dog’s pain and discomfort. Turning to human medications is never a good decision unless your vet specifically tells you to do so.

Marijuana legalization has also caused a problem in our dog community, as it has become a popular way for some owners to treat their pet’s pain; however, this is another drug that dogs metabolize very differently from humans, and the proper dosage for dogs has not been determined.

So we’re seeing dogs become much more affected and require medical attention with much smaller doses of marijuana than humans. Although this may be an alternative pain therapy for dogs in the future, the dosage and efficacy are undetermined at this time.

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be contacted at [email protected]