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Vaccination Station: The Finer Points of Shelter Protocols

One of the joys of my current job is getting daily reminders of how much I don’t know, despite my constant efforts to find out everything in the world. The source of all these sobering reminders is the e-mails I receive from shelter veterinarians and staff asking about every infectious disease control permutation and scenario imaginable. Nowhere is this more true than on the subject of vaccine use in the shelter environment. Fortunately, we now have a set of recommendations designed just for shelter dogs, courtesy of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and available online. A similar set of recommendations for shelter cats from the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) was  release[d] this summer.

The AAHA and AAFP guidelines cover all the basic aspects of vaccine use in shelters: what types of vaccines are recommended, which diseases we should generally vaccinate against, how often vaccines should be given, which animals are candidates for vaccination, and more. This is the first time ever that shelter-specific guidelines have been included in the recommendations published by these respected organizations. As the AAHA guidelines compellingly state: “The impetus for separate shelter guidelines was the Task Force’s recognition that this rapidly developing area of veterinary practice faces unique challenges. What best serves a clinical companion animal practice may not be ideal in an environment housing an ever-changing population.” Finally, we are seeing widespread recognition of something many of you have known for years: dogs and cats in shelters need special care!

To celebrate this auspicious development, I’m devoting this column to common vaccine questions I have received over the years. This will allow me to go into a little more detail about the rationale and finer points of the recommendations contained in the AAHA and AAFP guidelines. So here they are, if not ripped from today’s headlines, at least plucked from the jumble of my inbox.

 Read the questions and answers.


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