Vaccinating pets can have complications but it is unlikely, says veterinarian

Jordan Woodsworth says it's troubling when misinformation spreads or legitimate scientific study is taken out of context, but it's easier than ever in the age of the internet and social media. 

Dr. Woodsworth specializes in wellness and preventative medicine in small animals at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

She spoke with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning to discuss vaccinating pets. 

- FROM 2008: Pet owners, vets raise questions about vaccinations

The subject has hit a tender spot for many people after a video, shared by the Planet Paws Facebook page in February, shows an impassioned speech from U.S. veterinarian, John Robb, making a case about the dangers of over-vaccinating pets.

Video claims

Text in the video claims animals are vaccinated with standardized doses in some parts of the U.S. — meaning a small calico kitten would receive the same dose as a Tibetan mastiff, for example. 

Dr. Woodsworth says there are potential risks with vaccinations, as there are with any other medical procedure, but the benefits of vaccinations outweigh the risks. 

"I think it's one of those things we as veterinarians have to be really careful to inform our clients of so that they can actually participate in informed consent," Dr. Woodsworth said. 

She said veterinarians will inform owners of signs and symptoms of things to keep an eye on for a day or two.

"Those things can happen. If we address them appropriately, we can make it so that animals do OK at the end of the day," Dr. Woodsworth said.

Ways to avoid complications

Vaccines do undergo rigorous testing, she said.

"Not only do they test for safety, they also test them for efficacy under challenge," Dr. Woodsworth added.

Students are trained to look for any potential complications, such as tumours at the site of injection as mentioned in the video.

Dr. Woodsworth said one in 10,000 cats will develop tumours but there are ways to decrease risks — but some things can't be helped, such as the cat's genetic makeup. 

"We can choose vaccines that have decreased inflammatory properties and we can vaccinate less frequently."

Vaccinations are not only to protect the animal but the general public, as well, Dr. Woodsworth said.