Vaccination Protocols for Dogs and Cats - Position Statement

March 14, 2012

Position

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supports the use of vaccines by veterinarians to control and prevent infectious disease in dogs and cats.  Vaccines play a very important role in preventive medicine and will continue to be a mainstay for animal health and for reducing the risk of human exposure to zoonotic disease.

Vaccination of dogs and cats is a veterinary medical procedure for which antigen selection and revaccination intervals need to be individualized for each patient.  Veterinarians should ensure that pet owners are informed of and understand the risk factors associated with infectious disease, as well as possible risks associated with vaccination.

The decision to administer any particular antigen should be based on the risk of contracting the disease, and protocols may vary depending on what disease entities are prevalent in any given area. 

Optimal revaccination intervals may differ for the various vaccines and antigens administered, and may vary from patient to patient to address their individual risk factors.  Vaccination needs should be assessed regularly as part of a comprehensive preventive health care plan.

Background

  1. Vaccines have an important role in protecting animals from infectious diseases.  The risks of not vaccinating can be significant, not only to the individual animal, but also to the population at large. The spread of infectious disease is best controlled by vaccinating as many animals as possible in each community.  Historically, immunization practices and vaccination protocols have contributed to significantly reduce the incidence of many life-threatening diseases.
  2. Existing serologic and challenge data, as well as expert panels, suggest that vaccination may provide immunity that lasts beyond the label recommendation of vaccines for some viral diseases.  Every patient’s vaccination needs should be assessed at least yearly as part of a comprehensive preventative health care strategy.
  3. For some infectious diseases, measurement of serum antibody titers may provide baseline information to monitor immunity and help with vaccination decisions.  Although titers are not always consistent in predicting an individual patient’s immune status, and results may vary among tests and between laboratories, they may be helpful in making the decision to revaccinate.  Veterinarians must remain cautious in interpreting serological data, as alternative information exists as to what are considered minimum protective titers; however, high titers can usually be assumed to confer protection for most vaccines where titers can be shown to correlate with protection.
  4. The CVMA acknowledges that the use of vaccines is associated with certain risks.  These risks are usually transient, mild, and of very low frequency.  However, more serious adverse events can and, rarely, do occur.  Adverse events can occur as a reaction to the vaccine itself, or can occur due to the inappropriate use of a vaccine. The CVMA recognizes the need for surveillance of infectious diseases and adverse events to best predict optimal revaccination intervals. Furthermore, the CVMA encourages the development and use of surveillance tools.  It is strongly recommended that veterinarians report adverse events in order to ensure accuracy regarding the frequency and types of adverse events encountered in practice.
  5. The CVMA acknowledges that veterinarians will exercise their best professional judgment in order to optimize disease prevention when formulating vaccination protocols. This would include evaluating the needs of the individual patient for vaccination by applying current scientific information on infectious diseases on a case-by-case basis.  Points to consider include: the animal’s age, breed and health status, its environment, lifestyle, travel habits and risk of exposure, regional variations in the prevalence of certain diseases, as well as adverse events which may be associated with vaccination.  Additionally, vaccine-preventable infections can change in their geographic boundaries over time, or in the severity or type of illness produced; this should be considered when deciding on the vaccine needs of the pet.

References

  1. 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccination Guidelines (page on Internet) Available from https://www.aahanet.org/PublicDocuments/CanineVaccineGuidelines.pdf Last accessed March 28, 2012.
  2. American Association of Feline Practitioners Vaccination Guidelines 2006 (page on Internet) Available from http://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/feline-vaccination Last Accessed March 28, 2012.


(Revised March 2012)