Today we had yet another of those sad situations in which a well-meaning pet owner misunderstood that the most important thing that happens on an annual visit is the “shots.”
Allow me to make this clear one more time: The most important thing that happens on a patient visit is the physical examination. Vaccinations for pets are certainly important, and prevention of infectious disease keeps pet lovers from having to deal with the kind of heartache I experienced repeatedly as a child when puppies commonly died from Distemper. It is a horrible way to die. Vaccination against Rabies is required by law. But keeping your pet healthy involves a lot more than that, such as detecting life-threatening problems: cancerous lumps (which might be hidden in the abdomen), ear infections (which you might not be able to see without an Otoscope), arthritis (which can be as painful for your pet as it is for you, and we want to catch it before it becomes disabling).
Today’s example pet owner failed to have problems caught early because she “gave the shots she got at the co-op” instead of having a full checkup at her pet’s doctor’s office.
For the remainder of today’s post, though, let’s focus on the difference between vaccines you “get at the co-op” and vaccinations your pet’s doctor uses.
Vaccines used by veterinarians are subject to stringent external controls by the Federal government as well as internal controls by the companies who produce them. Not only must vaccines be manufactured in a sterile environment, their temperature must be controlled within a proper range: not too hot, not too cold.
These controls are so strict that the vaccine companies we do business with won’t even ship vaccines on a day late in the week that might result in vaccine spending the weekend in a hot warehouse. All vaccines are shipped from Federally-inspected manufacturing facilities, express overnight, in insulated containers with refreezable icepacks.
These are important considerations to think of if you are thinking of purchasing vaccine from a feedstore, catalog or drug store. Consider the following true story:
The son of a veterinarian friend of mine was working at a now-defunct feed store in Gulfport, MS. It was a hot July day. An 18-wheeler pulled up to deliver feed, fertilizer and vaccines. A BLACK 18-wheeler. In July. After all the heavy bags were off the truck, the driver pulled out this store’s order of vaccines for dogs and cats. My friend’s son, having worked in his father’s practice, and knowing this was wrong, watched in amazement as the vaccine came from a CARDBOARD BOX, NO ICE PACKS AND NO INSULATION. Just July heat. From the blazing hot black truck the vaccines went inside the feed store’s refrigerator. By then, of course, any protective power they MIGHT have had from their unknown manufacturer had been destroyed. The next unsuspecting customer to come along to purchase vaccine, thinking he was going to protect his dog or cat, got absolutely nothing for his money.
And absolutely no protection for his pet.
Stories like this have been repeated again and again during my career. Stories of vaccines shipped mail-order from unscrupulous companies with no overnight shipping, and no method to keep the vaccine cool.
So, before you call the feed store, catalog sales or Internet site for vaccines, consider carefully the value that your pet’s doctor provides for your beloved family pet.