Monitoring for Pet Vaccine Reactions: A Vet Tech’s Guide

Published on November 6, 2020 by arothstein

Vet Tech administering a vaccine on a dog

Working as a vet tech is an adventure. Each day brings new challenges and the chance to care for different types of animals. Vet techs can apply the skills they learn in school. They will learn many skills including how to educate pet owners on taking care of their pets. One of the most important topics a vet tech must educate pet owners on is pet vaccine reactions.

Why Are Animal Vaccines Important?

Animal vaccines are vital to our pets because they prevent many serious illnesses. Vaccinating a pet is the most effective and easiest way to ensure that they have long, healthy lives. There are various vaccines and vaccine combinations for different animal diseases. Although there may be risks to vaccinating some pets, there are many more benefits. A veterinarian can examine a pet and determine the best course of action to take with vaccines to keep a dog or cat healthy.

Vaccinations can help avoid costly treatments for diseases that can be prevented. Responsible pet owners know that their dog or cat must have an annual wellness exam. The vet examines the pet and may order diagnostic tests if there is anything unusual. During the exam, the cat or dog will be given the necessary vaccines. A lot of pet owners aren’t aware of the costs involved in the event of an unexpected diagnosis. Here’s what pet owners should know.

Vaccinations prevent diseases from passing between animals and also from animals to people. Conditions that can be passed between animals and humans are known as zoonotic. When people pass diseases to animals, they’re known as zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases spread through animal waste or contact with animals. Ensuring that a pet gets the appropriate vaccine can prevent the spread of disease.

What are the Common Vaccines for Pet Dogs and Cats?

Every dog or cat owner should understand how a vaccine works and the reactions to watch out for. A vaccine can fight against organisms that cause disease. A vaccine contains antigens that appear to be the disease but don’t cause the illness. A dog or cat’s immune system is stimulated when administering a vaccine. If the animal is ever exposed to the actual disease, the immune system is better equipped to fight it off.

Core vaccines for dogs are:

Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease that’s most common in young puppies that haven’t been vaccinated and older dogs that have weakened immune systems. The virus affects dogs in a way that is similar to the measles virus in people. The most effective way to prevent a dog or puppy from getting the virus is with a vaccine. The distemper vaccine protects dogs from parvo, hepatitis, and parainfluenza.

The distemper parvo vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects dogs from several diseases. The combination of drugs used in the vaccine depends on your veterinarian and the breed and age of your dog. The vaccine is commonly abbreviated as DHPPV, DA2PPV, or DHPP.

Additional vaccines for dogs are given at the discretion of the veterinarian, depending on the risk of exposure.

Core vaccines for cats are:

Feline distemper is most common in very young kittens, cats with weak immune systems, and pregnant females. The virus that causes distemper attacks the bone marrow, stem cells, and blood cells in the intestinal tract. Kittens as young as six weeks old can get the vaccine, which is administered at regular intervals until the kitten is 16 weeks old. The vaccine protects cats from distemper, herpesvirus, calicivirus, and feline leukemia. Additional vaccines for cats may be administered depending on the cat’s health.

All states have laws regarding when dogs and cats should get the rabies vaccine. Most veterinarians administer the first rabies vaccine to puppies at about 16 weeks. The second vaccine is administered one year after the first dose. Adult dogs get the rabies vaccine every year or every three years depending on state laws and the vaccine the vet uses.

Kittens can get their first rabies shot when they’re 8 to 12 weeks old. However, most vets administer the first vaccine when the cat is between four to six months old. The booster vaccine is given one year later.

What are Some of the Reactions to Look Out For?

There are risks associated with any type of medication or vaccination. However, reactions to pet vaccines are minimal. Vaccines have saved the lives of millions of pets. Responses to a vaccine are usually minor and may include:

Although reactions from vaccines may occur weeks or even months after the injection, most reactions occur within 24 hours after the injection is administered. Most pets safely get vaccines each year without any serious side effects. It is normal for a pet to have a minor reaction. A vaccine is inflammatory so a reaction could last for a couple of days following the injection.

Most cats and dogs only experience soreness at the injection site, drowsiness, lack of appetite, a slightly elevated temperature, and little interest in playing. All of these symptoms are quite normal. With advances in veterinary technology, severe reactions to vaccines are more unusual than in previous decades. Pets with the highest risk factors are small breed dogs, and male dogs that have been neutered.

What to Do and Who to Call in an Emergency

Before vaccinating a dog or cat, a vet tech should make sure the pet parent knows the number of the emergency vet clinic in their area, if your vet hospital isn’t available 24/7. If their pet is having any unusual symptoms like difficulty breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea following a vaccine, they should call your vet clinic immediately. An emergency clinic can inject an anti-inflammatory medication before the reaction becomes life-threatening. Vomiting can be a sign that a pet may be having a severe reaction and should visit the your vet clinic immediately.

Preventing A Recurrence

If a dog or cat has had a severe reaction to a vaccine, there are steps to take before it’s time for the annual wellness exam. It’s vital for you to know about the reaction and what vaccine caused it. You can discuss it with the vet at the emergency clinic.

Corticosteroids or antihistamines may be given before a vaccine in the case of a previous, severe reaction. The antihistamine or corticosteroids should be in a pet’s system to protect them before the vaccine is given. A veterinarian may recommend keeping a pet at the hospital for the day to observe them following the injections as a precaution. Extra medications will cost a pet owner, but it’s worth the additional cost to keep a cat or dog safe.

Pets that have had severe reactions to vaccines shouldn’t be given several at the same time. Vaccines delivered within two weeks of each other can interact, and a pet owner won’t know which one caused the adverse reaction. It’s safer to spread them out over a period of three to four weeks. Injecting one vaccine at a time allows the vet to determine which one may have caused the initial reaction.

Mobile vet clinics are an excellent concept. Mobile clinics offer vaccines at a reduced rate making it easier for owners with multiple pets to keep them protected. However, if a dog or cat has had an adverse reaction to a vaccine, it’s preferable to schedule an appointment with a vet clinic. A pet that has had a response to a vaccine should be given pre-medication and observed following the injection for their safety.

Did learning about pet vaccine reactions interest you? Do you have the qualities needed to make you a good vet tech? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge, qualities and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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