The Cheapest Way to Save Your Pet’s Life

Posted on November 16, 2012 under Pet Health & Safety

A veterinarian prepares to give a puppy a vaccination.Just imagine – for a little cash, you could buy years of happiness with a healthy pet. Really! And we’re not just talking about pet insurance.

Vaccinating your pet to prevent disease is a smart move for both your bank account and the health of your pet.  Vaccines have long been the best method to prevent some very serious and endemic diseases in dogs and cats.

Deadly Diseases Reigned In

The most notable vaccine, of course, is the rabies vaccine. Rabies is an incurable disease, transmissible to humans through bite wounds.  Distemper is another deadly but preventable disease, known as canine distemper in dogs and panleukopenia in cats. Both are highly contagious within their species.  Historically, distemper was a real problem for our pets, causing many deaths.

In the 1970s, yet another fatal and endemic virus for dogs that came onto the scene: parvovirus. It was controlled only after a vaccine was produced.  Both of these diseases and several others are now uncommon in the USA thanks to routine vaccination of dogs and cats which provides an immunity of variable duration.  However, by no means are the diseases eradicated, especially in third world countries and occasionally in the USA in unvaccinated dogs and cats.

There are a host of other vaccines for your pet that prevent certain medical conditions such as: upper respiratory infections, hepatitis, Lyme disease, leptospirosis and feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus in cats.  Some of the vaccines are required before boarding your pet, since the viruses are contagious.

Pet Insurance for Vaccines

At Pets Best Insurance, our BestWellness routine care coverage helps pay for these vaccines, and it can be added to any accident and illness plan. BestWellness  also helps pay for the annual physical exam, diagnostic screening  test for early detection of medical problems, test for heartworms  and gastrointestinal parasites, teeth cleaning, spay/neuter and more.  The coverage is designed to provide nearly twice as much in benefits as premium to encourage preventing and early detection of disease in our insured pets.

When Should I Vaccinate?

When to vaccinate your pet is being revised on an ongoing basis, as vaccines improve and we learn more about pets immunity after vaccination. The general rule is that a series of vaccines is required when your pet is a puppy or kitten because their immune system is not yet mature. The series should start at 6-9 weeks of age, depending on the vaccination history of the mother, the type of vaccine and local incident rates of viruses that can be prevented through vaccination.

Most vaccines are given 2-3 weeks apart.  A series provides better overall protection by sequencing the vaccines over time to provide some temporary immunity while the puppy and kitten’s immune system matures enough to develop long lasting antibodies.  And some vaccines require a follow up immunization in order to develop immunity, even in an adult dog or cat, with a mature immune system.

Vaccination frequency after one year of age depends on a host of factors that only your veterinarian can advise, since some factors depend on your pet’s age, health and local infection rate.  There are guidelines available for veterinarians, but they won’t be perfect for every pet or situation. The goal is to not over vaccinate, yet provide lasting protection without any gaps in immunity. Some vaccines last longer than others and some pets will have a longer lasting immunity than other pets.

Which Vaccines Do We Really Need?

Many pet vaccines are combination products, where more than one disease is immunized against in the same injection. Others must be given independently, by a different route or simply separately from other vaccines. Again, since factors vary; only your veterinarian can provide the best advice regarding what vaccines are right for your pet.  The list of vaccines available for your pet includes*:


– Rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus-2, parvovirus, bordetella, Lyme disease, leptospirosis and parainfluenza.


– Rabies, panleukopenia (distemper), herpesvirus-1, calicivirus, leukemia, immunodeficiency, chlamydiosis and bordetella.

Routine Care Matters

Pets age faster than people – about 7 years on average for each year for humans. (More for large breed dogs with shorter life spans, and fewer for small breed dogs with longer life spans.)  As a result of aging differences, and because pets cannot tell you when they are ill, it’s best to have an annual physical exam for your pet even if vaccines are not due.  A good physical exam along with age-appropriate and location-appropriate diagnostic testing can provide a crucial safety net. Early detection of medical problems will allow your veterinarian to adjust your pet’s vaccine schedule depending on current exposures or situations.

*American Animal Hospital Association & American Association of Feline Practitioners