Given the vital importance of vaccinating pets, it’s important to consider the debate over the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. There have been many issues over the years over the safety of some vaccines, such as the feline leukaemia virus vaccine that has been linked with skin tumours in cats, and also a long running debate over the necessity for vaccines to be given every single year.
On the safety issue, from by experience as a vet, and also from studying the evidence, I think it is clear that with all vaccines currently available for dogs and cats the benefits the protection they offer far outweighs any potential risks. So I would have no hesitation in recommending that all pet owners make sure that their pets have all the available vaccinations.
The timing of vaccinations does present a slightly less clear picture however. Most people are aware that many human vaccinations only need to be given every 5 or 10 years in many cases, but for their pets they are expected to have injections every 12 months. There are many reasons behind this discrepancy, including differences between people and pets and between the diseases we protect against, and the vaccines we use. It is also worth remembering that some human diseases such as flu do require regular booster injections, so it is not just pets that need repeat vaccinations. And in recent times new research has shown that for some key diseases such as distemper and parvovirus, less regular booster vaccinations are required than was previously though, and now most vets would recommend that only two vaccines (leptospirosis and kennel cough) are given annually to dogs, with the others usually given every 3 years.