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Dr Shams Mir

Why bother vaccinating your pet?

Recent emergence of measles and mumps in children whose parents who have held back from getting them immunised, is a resounding reminder of the importance of immunisation in humans.

Though we are fortunate to have vastly controlled many infectious diseases in dogs and cats through vaccinations, we are unlikely to ever be able to eradicate them. Therefore, lowering guard on vaccinations in our pet dogs and cats can lead to more serious consequences of widespread disease outbreaks.

Some pet owners claim that their pets have stayed healthy without vaccination, but their pets are merely benefi ting from the vast majority of pet owners who responsibly vaccinate their pets on a regular basis, thereby minimising the prevalence of infection in the environment.

Contradictory information on the internet causes a lot of confusion. Some owners believe that repeated vaccination in dogs and cats can cause illness, but this information is not validated by scientifi c data and should be ignored.

Looking back at tens of thousands of vaccinations, I have carried out over the years, other than a few odd incidents of reversible instant reactions; I have never come across any adverse effects of vaccinations in dogs and cats.

The biological clock of our pets is known to tick roughly seven times faster compared to humans. By the time a dog or a cat turns up for the annual booster vaccination, it is not one but seven years gone by. With time the immunity against infections wanes at variable rates. The outcome of exposure to infection may then well depend on the dose of infection. There is a potential for pets to pick up overwhelming doses of infection from the environment. As animals age, like humans, their immune system becomes weaker, so older animals, just like elderly people, need more protections to stay healthy.

The modern vaccinations can protect dogs against as many as 8-10 infectious agents, most of them almost untreatable viral infections. Similarly cats can be protected against at least fi ve untreatable infections and rabbits against two deadly diseases. Leaving aside the science behind vaccinations, it makes sense to vaccinate and protect pets rather than to leave them exposed to infections that may prove expensive to treat or may be untreatable.

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