As a convenience for pet owners, many veterinary practices offer booster immunizations at the same time that a spay or neuter procedure is performed. Frequently, a several-day course of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as meloxicam, is provided for post-operative pain.
Over the last decade in human medicine the use of NSAIDs peri-immunization has been discouraged, due to the possibility of diminishing the body’s immune response to the vaccine. The B lymphocytes of the immune system, responsible for antibody production, express the inflammatory enzyme COX-2. Research has shown that suppressing this activity may significantly reduce antibody production.
The limited veterinary studies of this effect have shown differing results. A 2012 Duke University study showed no decrease in antibody response in mice given once-daily dosing of meloxicam for 3 days post-vaccination. However, a 2013 University of Kentucky study showed a decreased immune response in horses given flunixin meglumine prior to vaccination.
Given the lack of research in more ‘traditional’ companion animals, it may be worth considering other pain-relief options for procedures scheduled along with vaccinations, when an actual anti-inflammatory is not specifically indicated. Despite the increased security and recordkeeping requirements for controlled drugs such as tramadol and buprenorphine, they may be better choices in these cases to help ensure a full immune response to the vaccine.
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