Why does my pet need vaccinations?
Puppies and kittens are born with immature immune systems which make them highly susceptible to contracting disease. Thankfully, their mothers transfer to them part of their own immunity via colostrum when they nurse. Colostrum is a substance found in the mother’s milk for the first few days after giving birth. It provides her newborns with important protective proteins against several diseases. These agents are known as “maternal antibodies”. As long as maternal antibodies to a particular disease are active in the newborn’s system, they will help give protection against that disease. However, they will also render useless any vaccine given against that disease during the time they are functional. How long these maternal antibodies last varies between individuals and is affected by many factors. We do know that maternal antibodies are gone around 16 weeks of age. Therefore, the typical puppy/kitten vaccine series starts around 6-8 weeks of age. Boosters are administered every 2-4 weeks until around 16 weeks of age in hopes of narrowing the “window of opportunity” for infection. This window of opportunity is the time period between when the maternal antibodies wear off and the vaccines are able to stimulate the individual’s own immune response to a disease. If animals are over 16 weeks of age, they may require just one dose of some of the vaccines. The incidence of disease and death is significantly higher in areas where vaccinations are not commonly administered. This is especially true for Canine and Feline Distemper, Parvovirus and Rabies.