By: Dr. Heather Lineaweaver
The ongoing goal of veterinary medicine is to provide the highest standard of care to our companion animals. One way we’re doing that is updating vaccination protocols. In the past, vaccines for viral diseases were given yearly. Studies have shown, however, that vaccines against most viral diseases last at least three years. Three-year rabies vaccines have been around for decades, but now there is more availability of the core vaccines (DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats) labeled for three year protection. Over-vaccination is a concern for veterinarians and clients alike, and increasing the period between vaccines helps alleviate these concerns. The only downside is that three-year vaccinations can lead to the mistaken impression that our pets only need physical exams every three years as well.
Yearly veterinary visits are essential for several reasons. Most importantly, pets age an equivalent of five to seven years in one human year, and many changes can occur in that time. Regular physicals allow your veterinarian to identify abnormalities and address them as early as possible. Early detection and intervention increases the likelihood of successful treatment. Heart disease, dental disease, weight changes, lumps, behavioral problems, and skin and ear issues are just a few of the things that your veterinarian will look for. When your pet becomes a senior (7-10 years, depending on breed and species), screening blood work will be recommended to check internal organ function and test for diseases that may not be apparent on exam. Again, early intervention leads to better treatment.
In addition to detecting disease processes early, yearly visits are important for preventive health care. Several vaccines are only protective for one year. They are considered lifestyle vaccines and depend on how much time your pet spends in different environments. These include Lyme, leptospirosis, canine influenza, bordetella, and feline leukemia vaccines. For dogs and cats, regular screening for intestinal parasites is also important. In addition, a yearly 4DX test is recommended for dogs. The 4DX checks for heartworm infection and exposure to three tick-borne infections – Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma. Lastly, appropriate flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives can be reviewed and discussed during the visit.
The ready availability of three-year vaccines has improved the quality of care we are able to provide to our patients. Even with advancements in medicine; however, the yearly exam is still of utmost importance in keeping our four-legged friends happy and healthy. We look forward to seeing you and your pet at their next checkup!