Nope, this isn’t a post on where to get your pet her "shots." This entry is all about where to best administer your pets’ shots––as in, where on their body the vaccines should go...and why it matters.

You might already know this, but let’s go over it anyway: Some vaccines are more likely to yield untoward reactions than others. And those that do most often lead to local tissue  troubles like hard lumps, abscesses, and even cancerous tumors.

Vaccine-associated sarcomas, highly aggressive skin cancers associated with certain triggers within the vaccines, are the scariest kind of local reactions. The possibility of this typically deadly kind of reaction helped push vaccine manufacturers and veterinarians to adopt newer, safer vaccines.

Intra-nasal vaccines (in the nose), intra-dermal vaccines (IN the skin, as opposed to underneath it) and safer adjuvants (a non-active "carrier" in the vaccine) have all helped make vaccination safer, for both cats and dogs.

Not only are the nose and the skin new targets for vaccine administration, we’ve also changed our protocols for how often vaccines are given (core vaccines are now recommended only once every three years) and for WHERE on the body they’ll go, if they’re made to go under the skin. 

It’s getting so that veterinarians are coming to an understanding of how important the standardization of vaccine protocols can be. Now that many of us give all rabies shots on the right hip, flank, or leg of dogs, and way down over the right leg for cats, it’s become easier to tell which vaccine is responsible for a local tissue reaction––so we can tell the manufacturer and investigate the lump quickly. 

The Feline leukemia vaccine, the vaccine most often implicated in vaccine-associated sarcomas, is now given way down on the left leg in cats (instead of between the shoulder blades). Not only does this help us tackle a problem  earlier (it’s easier to see and feel a lump on the leg), but if we do find an aggressive cancer, we can always remove it––along with the leg, unfortunately.

So next time you’re at the veterinarian’s for a basic round of vaccines, ask  if they have a protocol for vaccine location and why. If they do, and can articulate why they take that tack, that’s a great thing. If they don’t, perhaps you can help persuade them to change. 

On a related note: DailyVet BFF Dr. Phil Zeltzman (of fabulous newsletter and glorious vet surgical fame) will be discussing vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats on the Martha Stewart satellite radio channel (XM #157 and Sirius #112) tomorrow night, Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 8 p.m. EST. Don't miss it!

Dr. Patty Khuly