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May 7, 2009

Vaccination: Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — myminizoo @ 3:11 pm

This post is part of a three part series on vaccinations. I strive to always be an informed pet owner, so I have been doing research on vaccinations on top of what I have been learning in school.  The first part will address what immunity is and what a vaccination does to stimulate immunity.

The basic function of the immune system is to recognize foreign  cells that invade the body and destroy them, thus protecting the body from illness. There are two types of specific immunity.

Humoral immunity- The body acquires the ability to recognize invading cells, called antigens, and stimulates the production of antibodies, which bind to the antigens and destroy them.

Cell mediated immunity- Certain cells within the body to recognize and destroy foreign cells without the production of antibodies.

Ideally we want a combination of the two types of immunity to be fully protected. Immunity can be aquired in many different ways. It can be acquired passively, either from mothers milk, during gestation or from injection of preformed antibodies made in another animal. It can also be acquired actively, either from contracting the disease and fighting it off, or from receiving a vaccine towards a particular disease.

A vaccine is essentially a preparation of an antigen( the agent that causes a disease), that will bring about production of antibodies towards a disease without causing the animal to become ill. In order to not cause illness the bacteria or virus must be altered or weakened in some way. Typically vaccines are either killed or weakened before being injected into an animal.

When the vaccine is injected the body recognizes the foreign cells and creates antibodies towards them. The body also creates memory cells which function to remember the invading organism and launch a secondary response to it if the animal is exposed to it again. In this way the animal is protected against disease.

Vaccines are an amazing discovery that have saved many lives. In the next part I will discuss common pet vaccines and the dieases they prevent.

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