The Right Choice For Your Pet’s Health

As veterinarians, we want your furry companions to live long, healthy lives. But like humans, dogs and cats are vulnerable to a variety of viral and bacterial infections, some of which can be extremely serious—even fatal. That’s why it’s essential that your pets receive timely immunizations and booster shots for common yet potentially dangerous conditions.

August is National Vaccination Awareness Month, a time when we focus on the importance of pet immunization across the country. Here, we’ll review the basic immunization schedules for dogs and cats, and hopefully clear up any confusion you may have about what vaccines your pets need.

Core vs. Non-Core Vaccines

Pet vaccines are divided into “core” and “non-core” vaccines. Core vaccines are those recommended by veterinarians for every pet, whereas administration of non-core vaccines can depend on your pet’s lifestyle (for example, how much time your cat spends outdoors or whether you regularly board your dog in a kennel with other animals). Here, we’ll take a look at the core vaccines for both dogs and cats, and provide some facts on why each is so vital.

Core Vaccines for Dogs

Rabies (1 year & 3 years)

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is 100% fatal to dogs—and a bite from a rabid animal poses a significant health hazard to humans.
Schedule: Administered in a single dose to animals as young as 3 months of age and reinforced by annual boosters. The longer-acting 3-year vaccine is administered in a single dose at about 3 months of age. A single booster is recommended after 1 year and subsequent boosters at 3-year intervals thereafter.

Distemper

Distemper is a viral infection with symptoms that include fever, watery eyes, lethargy, decreased appetite, and vomiting.
Schedule: Given in 3 doses, given when a puppy is between 6 and 16 weeks old. Puppies should receive a booster shot after 1 year, and adult dogs at 3-year intervals thereafter.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus—or “parvo,” as it’s commonly called—is highly contagious among dogs and can cause profound gastric disturbances, such as vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and even death.
Schedule: Given in 3 doses, given when a puppy is between 6 and 16 weeks old. Puppies should receive a booster after 1 year, and adult dogs at 3-year intervals thereafter.

Adenovirus Type 1 (Canine Hepatitis)

Canine hepatitis is a contagious viral illness spread by contact with urine or feces from infected animals. Left untreated, the disorder can result in severe liver damage or even death.
Schedule: Given in 3 doses, given when a puppy is between 6 and 16 weeks old. Puppies should receive a booster after 1 year, and adult dogs at 3-year intervals thereafter.

Adenovirus Type 2 (“Kennel Cough”)

Spread by coughs and sneezes, “kennel cough” is a common respiratory condition in dogs that spend significant time being boarded in groups.
Schedule: Given in 3 doses, given when a puppy is between 6 and 16 weeks old. Puppies should receive a booster after 1 year, and adult dogs at 3-year intervals thereafter.

The four previously mentioned vaccinations are often in a combination vaccine called “DHPP”.

Leptospirosis

A potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects dogs but can also infect a wide variety of domestic and wild animals as well as humans.

The organism is usually spread through infected urine, but contaminated water or soil, reproductive secretions, and even consumption of infected tissues can also transmit the infection. Introduction of the organism through skin wounds can also occur. Common carriers of the organism include raccoons, opossums, rodents, skunks, and dogs.
The leptospirosis organisms rapidly advance through the bloodstream leading to fever, joint pain, and general malaise.

Schedule: Given in 2 doses, given when a puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks old. Adult dogs are boosted at 1-year intervals thereafter.

Other Vaccines for Dogs

While not considered “core” vaccines, other immunizations are regularly administered to prevent several types of canine influenza, bordetella (kennel cough) as well as Lyme disease (a vector-borne illness carried by deer ticks). Ask your vet about these disorders to determine whether your pet is a good candidate for immunization.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Rabies

As in dogs, untreated rabies is 100% fatal in cats, making prevention essential.
Schedule: Given in a single dose to kittens as young as 12 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two shots, 1 year apart, with boosters recommended every 3 years thereafter.

Feline Distemper

Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can result in severe gastrointestinal symptoms.
Schedule: Given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3–4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3–4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 1 year and every 3 years thereafter.

Feline Herpesvirus

In cats, herpesvirus can spawn a highly contagious and potentially severe respiratory infection called FVR.
Schedule: Given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3–4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3–4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 1 year and every 3 years thereafter.

Calicivirus

Calicivirus is a viral disease characterized by fever, joint pain, mouth ulcers, and weight loss.
Schedule: Given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3–4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3–4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 1 year and every 3 years thereafter.

The four previously mentioned vaccinations are often in a combination vaccine called “FVRCP”..

Other Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccines for cats include protection against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV), a blood disease that can be transmitted via cat-to-cat contact. Your vet can perform a quick blood test to determine whether your pet has the disease. Another common but non-core vaccine is designed to prevent Bordetella bronchiseptica, a bacterial respiratory infection that most commonly affects cats that live in large colonies or crowded quarters. The disease can be severe, especially in kittens. Ask your vet if your cat is a good candidate for either of these vaccines.

We understand how important your pets’ health is to you. That’s why we encourage all pet owners to bring their pets in for their needed immunizations. If you have questions about what vaccinations are right for your pet, contact us. We’re here to help.

 

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