Your pets hate it! Getting them to the vet is a major project. They know where they are going and they want no part of it.

So why do you get them vaccinated? You do it because your pet can become exposed to a variety of diseases. Many of these are deadly. Your dog or cat may never leave the house or yard, but he can be exposed anyway by animals running loose in the neighborhood. Even if your pet survives the disease, he may have permanent damage. If you vaccinate your pet, you will not only be protecting him, you will also be helping to prevent the spread of disease to other animals.

Puppies and kittens born to a mother who has been properly vaccinated will be protected by the antibodies in their mother’s milk. Once those antibodies have been absorbed into the babies’ bloodstream they will stay there for a few weeks providing protection against disease. Then these antibodies will be gone and the puppies and kittens will have no more protection.

This can be any time during the first four months so it is very important to begin a vaccination schedule early. The vaccinations enable the babies to make their own antibodies, but if they still are getting antibodies from their mother this will prevent their immune system from being stimulated. In order to get their immune system stimulated as soon as possible, they must be vaccinated every three or four weeks until they are four months old.

Until your puppy or kitten has had his vaccinations at four months, don’t let him get exposed to any diseases. This means don’t take your puppy on walks or to the dog park or anywhere he could meet other dogs running loose. Don’t let your kitten outside. If you take your pet to the vet, keep him in a carrier. Don’t let him greet any sick animals. Once he has been vaccinated, yearly boosters will keep his immune system strong and keep him from getting sick.

Dogs are vaccinated against distemper, parvo, leptospirosis, canine hepatitis and kennel cough. Most of the time distemper, parvo, leptospirosis and canine hepatitis are combined in one injection. Kennel cough is given separately. Cats are vaccinated against upper respiratory viruses and feline leukemia virus. Every dog and cat should be vaccinated yearly to protect them and to stop the spread of disease.

Both dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies and receive a booster every one or three years according to the laws of your state.

Although there is always a risk of side effects, they are much smaller than the risk of the disease itself. The side effects may be minor and short lasting or require care from your vet. Some symptoms may include fever, sluggishness, loss of appetite, pain around the site of the injection site, vomiting, or difficulty breathing. If you think your pet is having a bad reaction to a vaccination call your vet immediately. However, most cats and dogs do not have any major problems with their regular routine vaccinations. The protection they get from the vaccinations greatly outweigh any risks.

The Pittsburg County Animal Shelter is located at 1206 N. West St. in McAlester. The hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The phone number is 918-423-7803. The adoption fee is $20 for dogs and $15 for cats. All have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.