Recommended Pet Vaccinations

Keep your dogs and cats healthy with these pet vaccinations.

| September/October 1983

Back in July of 1978, MOTHER EARTH NEWS published an article by Kansas veterinarian Randy Kidd on how to restrain a farm animal. Little did we (or Randy) know that the one piece would lead to many more, yet very few issues of MOTHER since then haven't carried a feature by Dr. Kidd on some facet of livestock care. 

Well, "MOTHER's medicine man" has now decided to share some of his "vet's-eye view" on pets, the very special creatures that we humans—for centuries—have welcomed into our homes and hearts. We hope that our readers will find Dr. Kidd's columns on this subject to be as informative and enlightening as have been his commonsense articles on livestock.  

In my last column I talked about choosing the "perfect pet" and, this time around, I'd like to discuss some of the simple, commonsense steps you can take to see to it that your chosen critter stays as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

In past issues of MOTHER, I've presented a good bit of information on the basics of preventive pet care: a well-balanced diet, daily exercise, interaction with a loving and caring human family, and a relatively clean environment. However, there's one aspect of creature care that I haven't stressed a whole lot (and one which is vital to your animal's long-lasting well-being): a good program for pet vaccinations. I've always believed that seeing to it that a pet is immunized against disease is, in many ways, like building a protective wall around a castle. Because, just as moats and ramparts surrounded medieval structures to protect their inhabitants from invading armies, you need to have your pet's immunization system built up in order to guard your loved one from marauding diseases.

You may be surprised to hear this, but a proper program for pet vaccinations should—if possible—really be started with the mother of your puppy- or kitten-to-be, because if "Mom" is up on her shots, her offspring will have a much better chance of getting a healthy start in life. (Check with your favorite vet for specific recommendations, but, generally speaking, a pregnant animal will need a booster shot of some kind about 30 to 90 days prior to her due date if she's to provide her youngsters with the immunization "head start" they need.)

After her "children" arrive, the mother will pass some of her antibodies on to them through her colostrum (first milk). Therefore, there's really no need to have the young'uns vaccinated immediately, since their systems will be protected against disease (thanks to Mom's milk) for about six weeks. Furthermore, shots tend to have very little effect on extremely young lymphocytes (the white blood cells, formed in the lymphatic system, which play an important role in synthesizing antibodies), because the maternal antibodies still present in the animal interfere with the action of the vaccine.

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