Pet vaccines: which vaccinations are necessary for your dog or cat?

Pet vaccines: which vaccinations are necessary for your dog or cat?

Published on 6th April, 2021 at 06:32 pm

On the fence when it comes to pet vaccines? Here’s what you need to know about your dog’s or cat’s annual shot.

We all love our furry friends and want them to live long, healthy lives. One way to ensure this is to make sure that they receive their pet vaccines. But what exactly are the benefits to our dogs and cats when getting vaccinated, and what are the risks if you opt out of your pet’s annual vaccinations?

Why are pet vaccines important?

“Vaccines are a cornerstone of preventative health care, which is important because it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it,” explains Dr Travis Gray, a veterinarian at the Cape Animal Medical Centre. As with human vaccinations, pet vaccines allow their systems to produce antibodies, which help their immune systems to remain strong. “While rabies shots are required by law, there are a number of infectious diseases that are all preventable through vaccination and can save a lot of money and heartache for owners in the long term.”

Some of the severe illnesses that can be contracted by dogs are parvovirus, which has a survival rate of only 75-85%, and distemper, which has an even poorer prognosis of around 50%. When it comes to cats, feline immunodeficiency virus is a nasty one, as is feline panleukopaenia. All of these diseases are contagious and, even with proper treatment, recovery is not always guaranteed.

So, do all pets need to get their shots to remain healthy? “Yes, but the vaccination schedule of a pet should reflect how at risk they are of getting the disease,’’ says Dr Gray. “For example, a cat that lives exclusively indoors isn’t as much at risk as a cat who wanders. Therefore, they shouldn’t be vaccinated the same. The appropriate schedule is something that pet owners should discuss with their vets at their vaccination visits.”

Are pet vaccines safe?

As with human vaccinations, there are a lot of untruths doing the rounds regarding the efficacy and necessity of pet vaccines. “I think the most harmful myth is that vaccinations are just money-making schemes. This is not true at all,” Dr Gray clarifies. “Not only do vaccinations prevent very serious diseases, but those annual trips to the vet are sometimes the only time we get to see your pet. During the visit, we can check their teeth, eyes, heart and weight to detect any issues that may cause problems in the future.”

Unfortunately, nothing in life comes without risk. “Severe reactions to vaccinations are exceedingly rare, but nevertheless possible,” says Dr Gray. “But, as a vet, I see far more animals suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases than reactions. That is why, in my opinion, the negligible risk associated with vaccination is vastly outweighed by the benefit – a longer, healthier life for your four-legged family members.”

If my pet falls ill and isn’t vaccinated, will my pet insurance cover it?

Yes, if your pet isn’t vaccinated, most pet insurers are still likely to cover your pet, as long as the illness isn’t a preventable disease or otherwise excluded from cover like congenital and hereditary diseases or pre-existing conditions. Pet insurers generally stipulate that they don’t cover preventable diseases, because animals who are up to date on their vaccinations are unlikely to contract them. This means that the onus is on the owner to ensure that their pets go for their annual shots to stand them in good stead for many years of health and happiness.

It’s also important to remember that it isn’t just the risk of losing a beloved furry friend that is at stake if you opt out of pet vaccines. You also run the risk of losing a lot of money in the process. Veterinary care is costly and, according to Robyn Lee Kotze of Petsure, a division of Hollard Insurance*, treatment costs can range from R700 for minor ailments to R25 000 and upward for surgeries. This is why having pet cover is so important.

We know how stressful it can be when your pet is in an accident. Don’t let the prospect of a big vet bill prevent your furry friend from getting the medical care they need. Pet Accident Cover is one of several benefits Reality Access for Fedhealth members get to enjoy and help save big when it matters most. Learn more here.

* The Hollard Insurance Company Limited (Reg. No. 1952/003004/06), a Licensed Non-Life Insurer and an authorised Financial Services Provider

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