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Everything You Need to Know About Vaccinating Your Pet

Posted by Dr. Jessica Herman on

Everything You Need to Know About Vaccinating Your Pet

If you’re the proud owner of a new pet and wondering whether or not they really need their vaccines, the answer is yes. Yes, they do. 

Vaccines play a pivotal role in protecting dogs and cats from preventable disease and infections. Vaccinating your pet will improve their quality of life, extend their lifespan, and save you the worry, time and pricey vet bills that come with having a sick pet. 

To help make sure your pet receives the vaccines they need, when they need them, we’ve created a quick reference guide for you here. 

Talk to your vet about what vaccines are right for your pets and their lifestyles. Vaccines should start at 6-8 weeks of age for cats and dogs. 


Core vs. Lifestyle

Pet vaccines, regardless of species, are generally split into two categories: core and non-core, or lifestyle, vaccines. Core vaccines are vaccines recommended for every pet, while lifestyle vaccines are, you guessed it, specific to certain lifestyles or activities. 


Core Vaccines for Dogs

Rabies

Rabies is fatal and transmittable from pet to pet or animal to animal, including humans. For this reason, it is actually required by law for both dogs and cats. Rabies vaccine may be given yearly or every 3 years depending on where you live and your pet’s vaccination history.

Distemper 

Distemper is an often fatal virus that usually affects young dogs, and dogs that are unvaccinated. There is no treatment and dogs that do survive often have permanent and irreparable damage to their nervous system. Dogs become infected through airborne exposure, shared food and water bowls, or transplacentally from their mother. Distemper is common in the wildlife population and is a pathogen your dog will come in contact with on a daily basis making vaccination a must.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a highly contagious pathogen that commonly affects young pups. The virus attacks the GI tract and rapidly-dividing cells, such as those found in the bone marrow, often resulting in death. The virus spreads from direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, or people. It is a hardy virus that can survive years in the environment. Please keep your pet safe by vaccinating for this devastating disease. 

Adenovirus

There are two common forms of Adenovirus, one causing liver failure and the other causing respiratory disease. Both are highly contagious and there is no cure once the virus is contracted. Mainly puppies and young dogs are affected.

Parainfluenza Virus

Canine parainfluenza virus is a respiratory illness that is highly contagious. Although, not often fatal, this virus can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, or kennel cough. 

Fortunately the vaccine for Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, and Parainfluenza is combined into one injection (called Dappv), so less uncomfortable pokes for your dog! This vaccination starts at 6-8 weeks of age and is repeated every 3-4 weeks until the puppy reaches 16-18 weeks of age. Once an adult, this vaccine can be given yearly or every 3 years depending on the recommendation of your vet.

 

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

Leptospirosis

This vaccine protects against a bacteria that can cause deadly kidney or liver disease. Leptospirosis is also transmissible to people. Leptospirosis, if not treated promptly, is fatal to animals and humans. Lepto is transmitted through contaminated water, such as lakes and ponds, and urine of wildlife (including rodents and raccoons). Talk to your veterinarian to determine if your dog should receive this vaccine. This vaccine can be started at any age and requires a booster after the first injection. Then the vaccine is given yearly. 

Lyme

This vaccine helps prevent Lyme disease, which is easily transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme disease affects animals, as well as people causing severe joint pain, heart and kidney issues. Dogs in tick endemic areas and that are outside often should receive this vaccine. This vaccine can be started at any age and requires a booster after the first injection. Then the vaccine is given yearly. 

Influenza

The influenza vaccine protects from the dog flu, which is a highly contagious respiratory illness. Canine influenza causes high fever, lethargy, nasal discharge, pneumonia, and even death in severe cases. This vaccination is important for dogs in social situations, such as boarding, grooming, and dog parks. This vaccine can be started at any age and requires a booster after the first injection. Then the vaccine is given yearly. 

Bordetella

This vaccination protects from a bacteria that causes respiratory infection. Similarly to canine flu, this vaccine should be given to dogs in social situations since Bordetella is highly contagious. This vaccine can be started at any age. Depending on the area in which you live, this vaccine may be given every 6 months or yearly. 

 

Core Vaccines for Cats

Rabies 

Rabies is fatal and transmittable from pet to pet or animal to animal, including humans. For this reason, it is actually required by law for both dogs and cats. Rabies vaccine may be given yearly or every 3 years depending on where you live and your pet’s vaccination history.

Calicivirus/Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes)

These are common pathogens that most cats will be exposed to during their lifetime. These viruses typically cause respiratory illness, which can have lifelong effects for your cat.


Panleukopenia

This highly contagious disease can cause devastating effects on the GI tract, immune system, and nervous system. There is no treatment and oftentimes, results in death. Vaccination will help protect against this terrible virus.

Fortunately, Calicivirus/Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes), and panleukopenia are combined into one vaccination injection called FVRCP. This vaccine is given at 6-8 weeks of life and is repeated every 3-4 week until the cat is 16-18 weeks old. This vaccine is then given annually or every 3 years depending on the recommendation of your vet.

 

Non-Core Vaccine for Cats

Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia is transmitted only from cat to cat by blood, mutual grooming, and in utero. Once contracted, the virus can affect many organ systems. There is no cure and effects from the virus are lifelong. This vaccine is reserved mainly for outdoor cats, or indoor cats that live with a cat that goes outdoors. This vaccine is recommended for all kittens. Once adulthood is reached, discuss with your vet if the vaccine is still necessary for your cat. 




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