Why does my vet insist that my pets have a yearly exam, when they just need their “shots?”

Yearly comprehensive physical exams are a done for a multitude of reasons. The top reason is to ensure your pet is healthy and can have the vaccinations to protect them from disease. If pet comes in for an exam, and during our history taking, you mention he has been limping, or hasn’t been eating right, or may be sleeping more than normal, these are clues that something bigger might be going on and we might want to investigate further and possibly post-pone the vaccines.

Another, very big reason for the physical, is to provide the best preventive care and early detection we can so your four legged family member can be with you for a very long and happy lifetime. We all know they don’t live nearly long enough, so our goal is to keep them as healthy and happy as possible!

Although vaccinations are important our focus has shifted to the overall health of the pet during the annual visit.. As part of the comprehensive physical exam, a very thorough history is taken on your pet, and its lifestyle, activity, and exposure to other animals. This helps us determine what recommendations we make for vaccinations, wellness care and preventive measures. The days of cookie cutter yearly shots are gone where all dogs and cats received the same vaccines. Over the years veterinarians and drug companies started to look at vaccines and ask, do we really need to do it this way? Has anyone ever looked at how long the vaccinations actually protect a pet for? Well, the answer is no. Up to that point they had not, and since the drug companies told veterinarians that they needed to be administered on a yearly basis, we did.

Over the past 10-12 years the powers that be did start looking into just how long these vaccinations lasted. It turns out that on average they provide immunity for 3 years. That is, after they have had their complete puppy/ kitten series, followed by 1 year boosters. Because of this knowledge, most veterinarians have adopted a 3 year protocol. For this, we rotate the vaccines over a 3 year time period. There are some vaccines, such as Bordatella (kennel cough), leptospirosis, and feline leukemia that are still given yearly. The core vaccines, such as canine distemper and parvo, the feline respiratory series and rabies are put on the 3 year rotation.

Ok, now that that is clear as mud, the history and the physical exam helps us determine what vaccines are needed for your pet!