Vaccinating Your Pet Annually – Is It Really Necessary?

Bali a high risk location for pets

The life expectancy of pets living in Bali is significantly shorter than for pets living in Australia, USA or Europe. Even if we exclude the large population of stray animals and those loosely ‘owned’ by locals, and take as our sample group only those pets with responsible owners, this statement still hold true. Poisonings, road traffic accidents and the dog meat trade are three of the main threats. Also very prevalent though are infectious diseases and parasites.The viral diseases Parvo and Distemper are rife in the stray dog population, as is Panleukopenia virus in cats. Meanwhile the island is covered in ticks that act as a vector for the blood parasites Ehrlichia, Babesia and Anaplasma. So it’s not hard to see that danger lurks around every corner!


What should I do routinely to protect my pet?

Typically the vets at Sunset Vet recommend three basic preventative steps to minimise the risk to your pet from infectious disease and parasites. These are:

  1. Vaccination – multi-vaccine yearly (dogs, cats), kennel cough yearly (dogs), rabies every 2-3 years depending on brand used (dogs, cats)
  2. De-worming – using Drontal, Panacur or Canex every 3 months
  3. Anti-parasitic – using either a monthly spot-on such as Revolution or Frontline, or an oral medication such as Bravecto or Nexgard. Bravecto is the weapon of choice at Sunset Vet as it provides 3 months of protection.


Is vaccination absolutely necessary or just a way for vaccine companies and vets to make money?

Firstly it must be made clear that at Sunset Vet we see initial vaccination as mandatory, not optional. Parvo and distemper (dogs) and panleucopenia (cats) are so rife here that unless your pet is living in a sterile bubble, they will usually encounter these viruses at some point, and if they are unvaccinated they will probably die. If they had just 1 of the 2 initial vaccines they also may die, but have a slightly better chance. This is not big pharma propaganda, as the Sunset Vet isolation room (where the parvo, distemper and panleukopenia patients are hospitalised) is full of unvaccinated animals, and we simply do not see these diseases in animals that are fully vaccinated.


However the anti-vaccine lobby in veterinary medicine generally do not dispute the need for the initial vaccination course, rather the contentious issue is whether or not annual booster vaccinations are required or not. This is the issue for which there is legitimate debate within the pet owning and indeed scientific community.


What is the recommended vaccination schedule?

The initial vaccination course must be completed when you first vaccinate your pets and this is generally two multivaccine shots 2-4 weeks apart followed by a rabies vaccine. Sometimes the rabies vaccine and multivaccine are combined into the same shot (known as Eurican 7) for convenience though our experience suggests that separating them causes higher protective antibody levels. Once the initial multivaccine course has been completed, your dog/cat only needs an annual booster – or a blood test to check antibody level and then a booster if the antibodies are below the protective threshold.


Are there adverse effects to vaccinations?

Some in the veterinaty community have questioned whether over-vaccination could actually do harm to an animal’s immune system, and could even contribute to the development of allergic disease. Although this causality is unproven, it is definitely true that the incidence of allergic and other immune mediated diseases has increased over the years. However this could be due to other factors such as genetics or commercial pet foods, we really don’t know why.


Do all animals need annual vaccination?

In a nutshell – no. Animals that have already received several booster vaccines MAY have a level of antibodies that is already above the protective threshold. The problem is that not ALL animals will do, and vets don’t know which ones will and which ones won’t unless they did expensive serology blood tests on all of those animals. As a result vets advise all animals receive booster vaccinations to be on the safe side, as in some countries a vet could be sued by an owner for not following the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines if that pet were to go on and contract the disease in question.


What is the pre-vaccination blood test?

At Sunset Vet some of our customers have voiced concerns over annual vaccination and potential adverse effects for their dogs, so we now offer an optional in-clinic blood test where we are able to determine whether a dog has either protective, borderline or under-protective antibody levels for the main two diseases parvo and distemper viruses. A small amount of serum is required and the test takes an hour to run.


What is Early Vaccination?

Early vaccination can be given when your puppy/kitten is 6 weeks old under certain circumstances, such as when the pups or kittens are weaned too early so that they don’t get the protection of the antibodies in their mother’s milk. Early vaccination is also recommended if the pups and kittens have had contact with other unvaccinated animals, such as if they come from a market (typically the bird market in Denpasar).


Which vaccines are essential?

Multivaccine is essential as it protects your pet against fatal infectious diseases that are rife in Bali such as parvo and distemper (dogs) and panleukopenia (cats). Rabies vaccine is essential as Bali is not yet rabies-free and this fatal disease can also be transmitted to humans from dogs/cats.

Kennel Cough vaccine for dogs is not essential as kennel cough is not a fatal disease. However it is recommended because kennel cough causes an unpleasant hacking cough and some boarding kennels will only accept dogs who have had this vaccine.


Are vaccines guaranteed to protect my pets from these infectious diseases?

No they are not, sadly. Vaccine failure occurs quite frequently in Bali. There are a number of possible reasons, one of them being that either the distributor or the vet accidentally (carelessly) broke ‘cold chain storage’. This means that the vaccine, which is highly temperature sensitive, may be deactivated if not kept in a refrigerated environment from manufacture right through to administration. There are other possible reasons for vaccine failure too such as giving the vaccine to an animal already sick with a weak immune system, or to an animal already infected with the virus but not showing symptoms yet (i.e. during the incubation period).


Sunset Vet offers veterinary services via their Kuta (24hr) and Ubud (8am-10pm) clinics. For further information or to make an appointment call them on 03619348915 (Kuta) or 0361975296 (Ubud), or visit or or Instagram: sunset_vet_bali


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