Our Philosophy on Vaccinations and Routine Examinations & Testing
Here at The Country Vet we serve a diverse client base than spans across Marin and Sonoma Counties and beyond. Our clients and patients generally lead very healthy and active lifestyles, enjoying the outdoors and all that our beautiful area has to offer. Over the years, our recommendations have evolved as new evidence arises about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and also in response to emerging diseases that affect our pets. Our goal is to balance the risks and benefits and only recommend vaccines and treatments if the benefit well outweighs the risk. Our vaccine and routine testing philosophy has been thoughtfully considered and distilled down to a few core vaccines and tests. These recommendations meet current UC Davis guidelines and are designed to meet the needs of most pets in this area. Of course, there are other vaccines available, so consider your options and if you feel your pet would benefit from one of them, please discuss it with your vet.
Core recommendations for dogs:
DHPP (without Lepto) annually
Rabies every 3 years
Fecal testing annually
Heartworm testing annually
Core recommendations for cats (we use PurVax brand, which is less likely to cause certain cancers and reactions):
FVRCP and Rabies annually
Fecal testing annually
Other non-core vaccines are recommended and given on a case by case basis depending on exposure or lifestyle. These vaccines include:
Bordetella (for kennel cough in dogs). We only advise this vaccine if your kennel, doggie day care or groomer requires it. This vaccine has limited efficacy and even vaccinated dogs can contract kennel cough.
Leptospirosis (for dogs in higher risk areas). We only advise this vaccine if your dog visits areas where Lepto is more prevalent. The vaccine is likely to cause a vaccine reaction which is why it is not recommended as a part of the core vaccine schedule. While we do see Lepto in this area from time to time it is very rare. Furthermore, the vaccine only covers 4 of the 16 known strains of Lepto so being vaccinated does not fully protect your dog. Our vets have made the decision to not vaccinate dogs every year for this disease because they feel the risk of an annual vaccine over your pet’s lifetime potentially causing an auto-immune disorder is greater than the likelihood of your pet contracting Lepto. That said, if you have concerns about this disease, do not hesitate to talk with your vet.
Giardia (for dogs with previous resistance or high exposure). The Giardia vaccine is only advised under special circumstances, such as if your pet is continually showing a positive fecal test results after repeatedly being treated.
Feline Leukemia (for cats that have exposure to the outside). This is highly recommended for any cat with exposure to outdoors. A Leukemia/FIV test is required prior to vaccinating for the first time.
Annual examinations for dogs and cats are essential to their overall health. The annual visit creates a space, once per year, for key conversations between you and the vet to happen. This is when we can make sure you are informed about your pet’s health, preventative care, diet, testing, behavior issues and more. This is also a time when you can ask the vet questions. Education is the key since we know knowledge is power. The better informed you are the better you will be able to make decisions about your pet that are best. Many clients feel their pet seems healthy and can do without a yearly examination. Other pet owners feel they can’t afford it. While sometimes this is true, there are many things that can go unnoticed by pet owners that are picked up at their annual visit such as dental disease, internal organ problems, eye diseases and more. So, an investment of under $60.00 per year can very likely help your pet lead a healthier life and save money down the road. Our motto has always been one of preventing problems before they become big and annual exams are a part of that philosophy. If we can pick up problems while they are small and treatable you can avoid unnecessary pain and suffering for your pet and also potentially save on greater expenses in the future.
One way to reduce the risk of giving unnecessary vaccinations to your dogs is to do Vaccine Titer testing. This blood test can be done once per year and will measure your pet’s antibody levels against Distemper and Parvo (the key components of the DHPP vaccine). If levels come back adequate, then we know your pet does not need their annual booster of DHPP. If their test comes back inadequte, then we will most likely advise another quick visit to booster their vaccine.
Some veterinarians in the area have started offering the DHPP as a 3 year shot but our experience with titer testing has shown us that there is great variability in how dogs immune systems respond to vaccines and a 3 year duration of protection should not be assumed. Quite a few dogs will have a titer that comes back as inadequate even though they just received the vaccine only one year ago. This is why we still recommend the DHPP as a yearly vaccine but offer titer testing as a way to SAFELY avoid a vaccine by proving that the pet is still protected. Other vets may use a “longer lasting” 3 year vaccine but guaranteed 3 year protection can only be provided by using a vaccine that is highly adjuvented and much more irritating to your pet’s immune system.
Heartworm testing for dogs is advised yearly even if you are giving a heartworm preventative once per month. This is because every medication has a failure rate and sometimes pets may throw up the dose or spit it out when you’re not looking and miss a dose. We also know that monthly doses can occasionally get missed. Since heartworm disease is so devastating and going through heartworm treatment can cause serious problems, we still advise testing once per year. Unlike many vets, though, at this time we do not require annual testing in order to refill heartworm preventative.