Dog and Cat Vaccination 101

Why do my pets need to be vaccinated?

Vaccines are very important to manage the health of your pets. Vaccinating your pets is one of the easiest ways to protect your pet from highly contagious disease and even deadly diseases. Also, vaccination prevents diseases that can be passed between animals and also from animals to people, like rabies and leptospira. Lastly, vaccination of animals makes pet owners avoid costly treatments for disease.

Vaccines help prepare animal’s immune system to fight future infections from disease-causing virus or bacteria. Vaccines contain antigens (killed virus or modified live virus or modified live bacteria). When vaccines are injected to animals, they can stimulate the immune system in an animal’s body but do not cause. Thus, the animal’s immune system can be prepared to recognize the pathologic virus or bacteria and fight against them quickly and effectively to reduce the severity of illness in the future.

Which vaccines should my pet receive?

Which vaccines your pet should receive is decided by animal’s age, lifestyle, exposure risk, animal’s health condition, and regulations. In most countries, Rabies vaccines are required by law for all cats and dogs even though they are living indoors only.

Vaccines are divided into “core” vaccines that every pet should have, and “noncore” vaccines that a pet should have depending on exposure risk.

Core vaccines are recommended for all puppies and kittens and adult dogs and cats with an unknown vaccination history. These vaccines protect pets from a disease, significant illness and/or death.

These include vaccines for canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV), and rabies in dogs and for feline panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies in cats.

Noncore vaccinations are given for individual pets that have a greater chance of exposure to those diseases. These diseases can cause serious illness or even death of your pet in some cases. Depending on where you live, some of these may be can be categorized as “core” vaccines due to higher disease prevalence in that area (i.e. Lyme vaccines or Leptospirosis vaccine).

Canine noncore vaccines include Bordetella, Leptospirosis, Lyme, Canine Influenza (H3N8 and H3N2), Parainfluenza. Noncore vaccines for the cat are those that protect against feline leukemia virus (FeLV), Chlamydophila felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Vaccines against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) are currently not recommended for use.

How often should my pet receive vaccinations?

  1. Core- vaccines

    For puppies, one dose of Canine DAP (distemper virus, adenovirus, and parvovirus) vaccine is recommended every 3-4 weeks from 6-8 weeks of age, with the final booster being given around 16- 20 weeks of age. For kittens, one dose of FVRCP (feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type 1) is recommended with the same interval like puppies. For dogs and cats older than 16 weeks of age, two doses of the same vaccine given 3-4 weeks apart are recommended. And then, animals need a booster every three years. For rabies vaccines, It is also generally recommended that a single dose of rabies vaccine can be given around to puppies when they are 16 -20 weeks. Kitten recieve the vaccine even though they can receive rabies vaccine at the earliest at 12 weeks old. After the first rabies vaccine has been given, an animal must have a booster one year later regardless of the duration of immunity of first rabies vaccines used (1 yr rabies vaccines vs. 3-year rabies vaccines). After one-year rabies booster, subsequent booster intervals are determined by the type of vaccine used (1 yr. vs. 3 yr.).
  2. Non- core vaccines

    When most noncore vaccines are given for the first time for puppies, kitten or adult animals, we recommend administering two sets of vaccines 2-4 weeks apart.

The vaccination is an important part of your pet’s routine. It protects them from potentially severe or deadly disease and improves their quality of life.

If you have any questions, give us a call at 613-542-7337.

Written by: Dr. Cho, DVM