Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Update & Vaccine Reactions

The Bulldog I discussed on March 2nd, continues to do well. His hematocrit is up from 25 last week to 34 this week. Remember on admission it was 12.5! Our low normal is 36. We are still doing a very slow wean down with the prednisone. I’m cautiously optimistic because I’ve seen this start to decline again sometimes during the wean down/off period, forcing us to increase the dose.

I had a case last week that was pretty unsettling. She was a young healthy cat in for a check up and vaccines. The clients  also had a dog with them for a problem visit. I took care of the cat first and we put her back in her carrier. Shortly after, while I was examining the dog, the cat got restless in her carrier and vomited. We took her out and cleaned everything up, but as the next 10 minutes went on, she got more lethargic and her eyelids became swollen and red. It was pretty apparent she was having a vaccine reaction. She also had some respiratory distress. I NEVER see this type of reaction in cats. I have only seen a few dogs - in 13 yrs- have a severe vaccine reaction (collapse, pale gums). Dogs usually have facial swelling or hives. They respond rapidly to injections of steroids/antihistamines.  Cats usually just get a little sleepy or go off food over the following 24-36 hrs. THAT is not even "reaction" just more like a "side effect" of the vaccines. 

So this cat was brought down to our treatment area and given some oxygen and injections to help stop the reaction. She did slowly improve. This cat is strictly indoors and I advised her I would NOT give this cat vaccines EVER again. 
A case like this (and like the border collie on March 2) bring up some issues that we encounter with clients about vaccinations. 

There are people who absolutely will not vaccinate at all. They won’t even do a PROPER puppy or kitten series. This is taking precaution to the extreme. The immune system of a young animal requires a series of boosters and then again, at 1 to 1 1/2 yrs of age, to give the animal true protection against these diseases.  After that, the vaccines can and SHOULD be tailored to the animal’s lifestyle/exposure risks and the owner’s desires.  And, by the way, it is never recommended to give 1/2 a vaccine to a smaller dog. The vaccine is made and tested based on the antigenic load IN the vaccine. This is what is required to stimulate the immune system to work properly and it is NOT based on the size of the animal. Giving any less than the FULL vaccine would be malpractice and your dog would NOT be protected!

If a dog or an owner has an issue,  titers can be done for some vaccines (this is after the PROPER vaccine series and boostering). BUT while these titers are helpful they are NEVER a guarantee that a dog would be protected if exposed to that disease. 
Then there are people that want to vaccinate against things their animal is EXTREMELY unlikely to ever encounter (ie, a single cat living INSIDE only, the owner never brings other cats in and they want a feline leukemia vaccine). I don't like to over-vaccinate either.
In both of these cases, it is our job to educate the client. NOT everything on the internet is scientifically based and not everyone knows how to properly evaluate whether something is truly statistically significant, other factors are at play or it’s just ONE person’s tragic story.  Vaccine reactions will and do happen - and no one can predict which animal is going to be the one. There are several factors that come into play -size/breed, number of vaccines given at ONE time, some antigens have a higher rate of causing reactions (Leptospirosis vs Kennel Cough for example) and some brands seem to have a higher rate of reaction (this will vary according to which vet you ask too!). Some of that depends on what they add to the vaccine to help boost the immune response - these are called "adjuvants."

Many of the diseases we are able to prevent through vaccination are far worse than a "vaccine reaction." In this country, especially, most people are removed from seeing many of these diseases (even some vets have never seen certain ones - like canine distemper). However, it's also understandable that if it was YOUR dog or cat that had the issue, that ONE is very significant. This is why communication between clients and vets is important. 

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