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Confused by all the information out there about vaccinations for pets?
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Confused by all the information out there about vaccinations for pets? You’re not the only one. Differing opinions and information from all kinds of sources have led people and pet parents to become more baffled than ever on which way to turn. 

Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight disease. Contained within the vaccine is an antigen, which looks like the disease-causing organism to an immune system, but doesn’t actually cause the disease. By getting a vaccine, the body’s immune system is mildly exposed to the disease so that when and if the pet is ever infected with the real disease, they are better able to fight the illness.

Not all vaccines are mandatory, but there are some, called core vaccines that are considered vital or required for all pets based on the risk of exposure, the severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. For dogs, core vaccines include canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Non-vital vaccines for dogs that can be given might include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria. For cats, core vaccines are pan leukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies. Non-vital vaccines for cats may include feline leukemia, Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis, and feline immunodeficiency.

Talking to a vet can help determine what vaccinations are best for the pet. The vet will also have a vaccination schedule depending on the types of vaccinations the pet is given, their age, medical history, and environment. Each state has its own laws governing the rabies vaccine but in almost all states, proof of rabies vaccination is required.

Pet parents and their vets can also discuss a titer test. A titer test is a blood test that measures the level of antibodies in a pet and is useful when making a decision about vaccinations, especially when the pets’ medical history is unknown. There's no specific amount of years that a pet parent needs to schedule a titer test, some vets recommend yearly, while others suggest every 3, 5 or even 7 years. The cost of the titer test will also vary, as well as who actually tests the blood. Some vets do it at their location, while others use outside services.

While vaccinations have both risks and benefits, pet parents can talk to their vet and discuss any questions or concerns they might have. Whichever option a pet parent decides, what’s most important is the health of a pet.