May Blog 2017
12 Reasons why not to administer Over the Counter Vaccines
Following the school of thought that “less is more” and “cheaper is better,” I’m here to discuss why you should not consider giving over the counter vaccines. I have hopes that this will shed light as to why most veterinarians do not recognize over the counter vaccinations. There is a fine line you walk between affordable and wasting money on un-useable products. Where as I understand pet care is expensive but I truly believe prevention is key to keeping your pet healthy the longest.
1) When purchasing over the counter vaccines, you have to think about how they are stored. Sure, Dr. Foster and Smith claim they get “fresh” vaccines shipped to them weekly, but if they provided adequate storage, you should not need to rotate the “old ones” for fresh ones. The recommended storage temperature for most vaccines is between 35.6f -44.6f. Not meeting the required means the vaccine is null and will not provide protection to your pet. Not to mention, feed store vaccines are kept in a refrigerator, but are the temperatures monitored regularly? How long were they on a shipping truck or storage shelf before they were put into rotation by some teenage kid working his first job and dropped them a couple of times? There are so many unknown variables that the “unknowns” become risky. At a veterinarian, your vaccines are shipped directly to the clinic overnight and opened immediately, placed into a temperature monitored refrigerator and administered via professionals. There are no unknown factors.
2) To touch on professional use of vaccinations, would you go down to your local pharmacy, buy the vaccines from the pharmacist and give yourself your own shot? No? That’s the point. Your pharmacist is trained to administer vaccines and you trust them justly. If you wouldn’t do that for yourself, why do that for your pet? Technicians and Veterinarians have training on administering vaccinations. Humans do not have a subcutaneous area where medications or vaccinations can be delivered, so even medical staffs do not have training on administering vaccines in this manner. Giving a subcutaneous vaccine intramuscularly can cause a reaction under the skin, and abscess, or become very painful for your pet. Fear free veterinarians, like those at Petplex, use the smallest gauge needles to administer vaccines. This prevents your pet from feeling too much of the “pinch.”
3) The inexperienced or misinformed dog owner may not receive advice or instruction on how to or how often to administer vaccines from a feed store or online supplier. In puppies and kittens, the proper vaccine protocol is essential to building the young immune system. We recommend beginning vaccinations no sooner than 6 weeks old. Up until this time, the mother’s maternal antibodies should provide the proper immune system. Between 6-8 weeks pets should begin forming their own immune system, therefore needing vaccines at that time. We administer vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until they are over 16 weeks (4 months) of age. At which time, the immune system has enough antibodies to fight off an infection or a deadly virus. Yearly administration is recommended thereafter. Most vials of over the counter vaccines say something along the lines of “administer vaccines every 2-3 weeks for 4-6 weeks.” This would account for a total of 2 boosters. That’s if you happen to read the fine print. Most of the time, pets are given one and considered “done.” There’s the ever popular, “he had all his puppy shots” as well. These “puppy shots” are not truly useful unless they were given at a proper time period with a proper & safe vaccine. Your 3 year old dog may still develop Parvovirus if he only received those two shots the breeder got from the local feed store. We will still need to test him for his protection and the protection of other puppies that are not finished with their vaccine regimen.
4) Another factor that plays into this, many pet owners assume that the multi-way vaccines include a rabies vaccine in them. However, by law you cannot administer a rabies vaccine at home. They must be given by a Veterinarian. Many pets therefore go without a rabies vaccine and their exposure to such a deadly virus is imminent. Rabies is a spread primarily through wild animals like bats, opossums, and raccoons. Your pet is still at risk if they’re outside unattended or ten to defend their territory. Due to the public health risk, it is necessary, and in some, places enforced legally.
5) Did you know that if you order online you can select standard shipping methods? That’s cool if you don’t want to pay outrageous over night fees but don’t you think in ten days that tiny ice pack they placed in your vaccines box has melted in the back of some hot delivery van trunk? Your vaccine has been rendered useless by this time. Safe shipping methods shouldn’t be an option.
6) There’s talk that cutting out the middleman is the best way to go about anything. This means there is less room for error. Well, getting vaccines from a veterinarian means there is no middle man. We receive vaccines directly from the manufacturer. However, online sources and feed stores have to order vaccines from the manufacturer, get them in the store, and the send them home with you safely and efficiently.
7) Okay, you gave vaccines at home. Now what do you do with the syringe and needle? Throw them in the trash? Most likely, that’s you only option. This is a biohazard. Disposing of these remains properly are essential so dangerous medical supplies do not reach the wrong hands.
8) Owners feel vaccines keep pet safe but if you are not giving effective vaccines. Your pet is at risk! Vaccines are supposed to limit the spread of disease. If the vaccine isn’t effective of doing that, illness is being spread. For every one dog infested with a deadly virus, plenty more will suffer. Disease can stay in the environment for quite some time! Do you want your new puppy to be at risk?
9) Vaccines often come in variable administration methods. Not all of them are fear free and easy to give. Your cat probably won’t agree with the oral vaccine you just administered. This causes a fearful incidence and stresses your pet out.
10) There are affordable and safe options out there! Many shelters, humane societies, and pet stores have vet clinic monthly or weekly. Call your local humane society and ask if they have any grants that can be used towards vaccinating your pet. These clinics allow your pet to have an exam by a veterinarian, safe vaccines and rabies vaccinations! Safe preventative care could literally be a phone call away.
11) Okay, so you gave Fluffy his first vaccine. About 20 minutes later his face appears puffy, and he has hives all over. A couple more minutes and he’s wheezing when he breaths. You realize poor Fluffy is having an anaphylaxis (Allergic) reaction to the vaccine you gave and panic! Fluffy and you are 30 minutes away from the vet! This circumstance is scary to think about but entirely possible. Giving a vaccine while you’re at the veterinarian’s office provides security in that if something unforeseen occurs, Fluffy and you are in exactly the right place.
12) Lastly, by vaccinating at home, one can assume that means your successfully avoiding the office call and ordeal of going to the veterinarian. Unfortunately for your pet, that means his/her health is not being monitored by a veterinarian until (s)he is sick and requires such care. Things that are monitored annually that are of immediate importance are weight loss/gain, heart murmurs & arrhythmias, lungs and airway problems, skin issues and/or masses, and dental disease. All of the above can have detrimental problems that can affect long term health. Preventative care is the best care! Your office call isn’t just an annoying fee that’s tacked on, it is a professional examination of your pets total body health and maintenance.
In closing, my hope would be to deter over the counter vaccine users cheaper alternatives or a new mindset on their pet’s long term health. Under vaccinating is risky for public health reasons but for your pets health as well. Vaccines prevent your pet from developing deadly diseases and/or viruses. We hope that you consider cheaper alternative to over the counter vaccines by calling your local human societies and/or pet stores. Also, if the ordeal is just too much stress on Fluffy, consider using mobile veterinary services, like the one here at Petplex.
Thank you for reading!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Vet Tech