While vaccines are controversial among us humans, they exist for a good reason. Not only do they protect us humans from diseases like the flu, they also offer protection to our pets. In this article you will learn more about how to vaccinate your pets and which vaccinations are necessary.
Even if there is no legal vaccination requirement for pets in Germany, it is still important to protect your pet from infectious diseases such as distemper or rabies. In addition, there is a rabies ordinance in Germany that states that an animal infected with rabies must be killed if it has not been vaccinated against the disease. Vaccination is therefore a good way to protect your pet and save on treatment costs for more serious diseases. If your vaccinated animal falls ill anyway, the course of the disease will be easier and shorter thanks to the vaccination. This gives your pet a better chance of a long and healthy life in the long term.
How pets get infected
Pets can contract a disease under a variety of circumstances. The main reason is that your pet spends a lot of time outdoors. Direct infection can occur when your pet sniffs, plays, or fights with other pets. Indirect infection usually occurs through sniffing out the excrement (ugh..) of sick conspecifics or through the transmission of bacteria via hands, shoes or utensils such as feeding bowls. Even though an animal has become infected, that does not mean that the disease will necessarily break out in them. In this way, even healthy animals can harbor and excrete pathogens without becoming ill themselves. Pathogens are usually host-specific - meaning that either only cats or only dogs are infected. However, there are some exceptions, such as rabies, which can also be transmitted to humans.
When does my pet need which vaccinations?
In general, your pet should only be vaccinated when necessary.
In the first few weeks of life, cats and dogs are protected by antibodies against various pathogens that they ingest through their mother's milk. However, these antibodies are broken down again over time, so that the animals are no longer protected from the pathogens. It is therefore advisable to vaccinate your pets at around 8 weeks of age.
Dogs should be protected against more serious diseases such as:
- Leptospirosis (transmitted by germs that your dog can ingest by drinking from standing water or puddles, for example)
- Parvovirus** (can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea)
- Distemper (similar to the measles virus)
- kennel cough (a respiratory disease)
In cats, the diseases are:
- cat flu
- FIP (feline infectious peritonitis aka feline coronavirus)
- FeLV (feline leukemia virus)
Young cats and dogs should be revaccinated after four weeks.
If there is an increased risk of infection through travel, animal boarding or free-roaming cats, vaccinations against fungal infections, etc. are also available.
In general, however, you should always consult your veterinarian first, as they have to check the health of your animal. Only then can a vaccination appointment be arranged, since possible side effects could cause serious damage to health. In addition, your veterinarian knows best which vaccinations are appropriate for your pet and when.
There are many factors that determine what type of vaccine makes the most sense for your pet. An example: Is your pet often out in nature and with other animals? Do you know what diseases are common in your area? Or does your animal have previous illnesses? Vaccines can also cause side effects in individual cases. A weakened immune system, poor diet, stress or illness can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccination. So make sure your pet is thoroughly screened before vaccination.
How often should I have my pet vaccinated?
Again, the answer to this question depends on where you live and how high the risk of infection is. In addition, travel or contact with other animals play a role in the frequency of vaccinations.
Your veterinarian should be informed about all factors (the state of health of your pet, the current epidemic situation and new recommendations from the Stlko Vet*) and can recommend suitable vaccinations for your pet accordingly. (*Stlko Vet= Standing Vaccination Committee in Germany)
Some vaccines need to be boosted annually, others only every two or three years. While rabies, parvovirus and distemper generally require boosters every three years, leptospirosis vaccines should be boosted annually.
You'll have to spend most of your money on basic vaccinations, since your pet's vaccinations will need to be boosted after a few weeks. It is best to calculate about 30 to 40 euros per vaccination and about 50 to 70 euros for the rabies vaccination. A popular method for dogs is the combination vaccination. The combination vaccine, as the name suggests, is a combination of vaccines against six diseases in a single vaccine dose (distemper, parvovirus, rabies, leptospirosis, kennel cough and canine hepatitis). This combined vaccination costs about 50 to 70 euros.
To sum up this blog post in one sentence: Vaccinations are important for your pet's health, but you should ALWAYS consult your trusted veterinarian first. If you want to learn more about the basics of animal husbandry, check out our other blog posts and until then, stay happy and healthy 😊.