Pet Vaccines and Vaccinations

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Newport Harbor Animal Hospital
Pet Vaccines and Vaccinations

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Lifetime Care for your Pet provided by Newport Harbor Animal Hospital servicing Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine and surrounding cities since 1947.

Your guide to pet vaccination:

As a trusted and loyal companion, your pet depends on you to keep them healthy. This is your guide to understanding the diseases your pet can be protected against so they can enjoy the best possible quality of life for the longest possible time.

Pet vaccinations are one of the most important preventative measures you can take for the health of your dog or cat. Vaccinations help protect your pet from viral and bacterial diseases. At some time in their life, your pet may be exposed to a serious or even fatal infectious disease. Without proper vaccination, they are left unprotected.

Whether your pet spends time indoors or outdoors, they may be at risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Fortunately, vaccines to prevent many of these diseases are available through your veterinarian. Vaccinating your pet is the best and least costly way of preventing disease.

How does pet vaccination work?

When your pet receives a vaccine, their immune system produces special substances called antibodies. The antibodies work against viruses or bacteria that cause disease and can be regarded as the bodies "fighter pilots". Later, if your pet is exposed to the same disease, antibodies will help destroy those viruses or bacteria. It is important to note that vaccines are preventative rather than curative. Vaccinating a sick animal is not going to help and in fact is not advised. A healthy pet and healthy immune system is required in order to build protective antibodies in response to a vaccine.

In many cases, vaccines which help protect against several diseases are combined, thereby reducing the number of shots your pet receives at any given time.

How often should my pet be vaccinated?

The number and frequency of pet vaccinations can be determined during a routine examination by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian takes several factors into consideration when making that decision, such as your pet's lifestyle, life stage and risk of exposure.

Since the protection provided by a vaccine may gradually decline after an animal is vaccinated, periodic re-vaccination may be necessary. Such booster vaccines are necessary to "remind" the immune system to produce enough protective antibodies or fighter pilots. Routine examinations performed by your veterinarian at vaccination time, will help them identify problems in your pet. Early detection of problems allows for early treatment and a better prognosis in general. Your veterinarian will recommend a health care program that includes the diseases and frequency of vaccination required for your specific situation.

How do I know which vaccine my pet needs?

The vaccines your pet needs are dependent upon their lifestyle, life stage and risk of exposure to certain diseases. As a general rule of thumb, pups and kittens typically receive a series of initial vaccinations, followed by boosters. At each wellness exam your veterinarian will recommend which vaccines your pet needs as well as when they should be administered. At Newport Harbor we use the AAHA canine vaccine guidelines and the AAFP feline vaccine guidelines to help design the personalized program for your pet.

Why do puppies and kittens require more shots than older pets?

Puppies and kittens are as vulnerable as they are adorable and their immature immune systems can't fight off diseases as well as older dogs and cats. A nursing puppy or kitten receives antibodies from their mother's milk that protects it during the first months of its life. However, the protection received naturally through maternal antibodies can interfere with early vaccinations, making it difficult to pinpoint when vaccines stimulate immunity. This is why puppies and kittens need vaccinations several times during their first few months of life. If maternal antibodies interfere with early vaccinations, later doses will still stimulate the puppy/kitten to produce their own antibodies to provide protection.

Time to produce protection:

Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the antigens (virus particles in the vaccine) must be recognized, responded to, and remembered by the immune system. In most puppies, disease protection does not begin until five days post vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to fourteen days. In some instances, two or more vaccinations several weeks apart must be given to achieve protection. In general, modified live vaccines provide the fastest protection.

Are pet vaccines dangerous?

Not usually. Unfortunately, a perfect, risk-free vaccine does not exist. Without question, vaccines have saved countless lives, and they continue to be indispensable weapons in the battle against infectious diseases. However, as with any medical procedure, there is a small chance that reactions may develop as a result of vaccination. In most cases, the risks associated with vaccination are much smaller than the risks of disease if vaccines were not given, i.e. the benefits far outweigh the risk of a reaction. In order to minimize the risk of a reaction, please inform us of any problem your pet may be experiencing or any medication your dog or cat is receiving prior to your pet being vaccinated.

What possible risks are associated with pet vaccination?

Mild reactions usually start within several hours to a day after vaccination, and last no more than a day or two: - discomfort at the site where the vaccine was given - mild fever - diminished appetite and activity - development of a small, firm, non-painful swelling under the skin at the site where the vaccine was given. The swelling usually goes away after several weeks, but if you notice such a swelling, contact us.

Severe reactions to vaccinations are very uncommon. Your pet is at far greater risk of contracting an infectious disease than of experiencing side effects from a vaccination.

Please let us know if you have concerns about vaccinating your pet and to find out more about the risks associated with the vaccination.

We understand the important place canine and feline companions hold in hearts and homes. That's why we encourage every pet owner to visit us regularly to make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and in general good physical condition.


Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious disease in healthy animals.

Our Pet Health Mission.

"To provide Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine and surrounding cities the highest quality veterinary care for every client and pet patient under our care. Our goal in every case is a healthy pet and a happy client."