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  • Vaccines: Protecting Your Pet's




    Puppies and kittens receive their initial protective antibodies from their mother’s milk. Antibodies when in contact with a disease causing agent help neutralize and stop infection from occurring. After weaning the material antibodies slowly decline and the youngsters can become susceptible to various diseases. As part of a preventative care routine, pet vaccinations can help protect your pet from life-threatening diseases.

    For most pets, routine vaccinations start around the age of 7 to 9 weeks old and are given every 2-4 weeks until the immune system can respond fully,  which occurs around 4 months of age. Some vaccines are bundled together so the pet experiences fewer injections. Most vaccines require initial injections and then a booster 2-4 weeks later. Timing is important to build the maximum immune response. Peak immunity against a particular disease is usually achieved 2 weeks after the last booster. In most cases, this will prevent or lessen the symptoms if an animal comes in contact with the disease causing organism. Adult boosters are then administered every 1-3 years depending upon the vaccine. 

    v Pet owners should note that vaccinations are preventative, not curative. A vaccination will prevent an illness, but if your pet is already suffering from a disease, a vaccine will not cure them.

    Core and Non-Core Pet Vaccinations

    There are several pet vaccinations that are necessary for all pets and others that are recommended only under special circumstances. Core vaccinations are those that are commonly recommended for all pets, and non-core vaccinations include those that are only administered to pets considered to be “at-risk.” Necessary vaccines depend on local regulations, geographic location, and your pet’s lifestyle. Your pet will be vaccinated according to their risk of exposure and your veterinarian will discuss the best options for your pet.

    Canine Vaccinations

    °         Bordetella (kennel cough)-  This is also a non-core vaccine that is first given to puppies when they are 9 weeks old, Booster shots are then given every 6 to 12 months, depending on the dog’s exposure. The vaccine has been shown to protect for more than a year but some busy kennels require immunization every 6 months. Although considered a non-core vaccine, it can spread readily through the air and should be considered for many pets, especially those who frequent dog parks or go to doggy daycare.

    °         Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus (DHPP)- First vaccine between 7-9 weeks and booster immunizations every 3 weeks until they are around 4 months of age. A booster is given a year after and then about every 3 years thereafter.

    °         Rabies- This is a core vaccine required by law. Different states may require it annually or allow a 3 year vaccine to be given every 3 years. Initial vaccine can be given at 3 months of age and a year later. Most states allow boosters every 3 years thereafter.

    °         Heartworm- Heartworm prevention is considered a core treatment and is started in young puppies, often at the first doctor’s appointment. It is continued throughout the life of the pet and adequate protection is confirmed through a routine annual heartworm test.

    °         Leptospirosis- This non-core vaccine can be given to a puppy aged 3 months or older and is an annual vaccination that is intended to prevent bacterial infections in the kidneys, liver, and other major organs. Depending on your dog’s risk of exposure, this vaccination could be lifesaving.

    °         Lyme- The Lyme vaccination is a non-core vaccine that is first administered when the puppy reaches 12 weeks old. The first booster is given 3 weeks later, and annual boosters are recommended for dogs that reside in areas with increased exposure to ticks carrying Lyme disease.

    °         Fecal Test- An annual fecal exam is recommended for all pets who like to explore the environment with their mouths. Most intestinal parasites are obtained this way and some animals can be infected by eating contaminated grass or water or by snacking on insects or other “treasures” they find.  

    Feline Vaccinations

    °         Feline Herpesvirus, Calici Virus, and Feline Distemper- These vaccines are considered core vaccines. Your kitten will receive their first vaccinations between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks, and they will need to be repeated once every 3 weeks until your kitten reaches 15 to 17 weeks old (depending on when vaccinations were started). A booster vaccination is administered annually for Feline Rhinotracheitis and Calici Virus. Feline Distemper boosters are given every 3 years.

    °         Feline Leukemia (FeLV)-  Non-core vaccine. It is recommended for cats that have high risk of exposure. Living outside with possible exposure to stray and/or feral cats is a risk factor and living in a densely populated environment is another.

    °         Rabies- This vaccine is also a core vaccination for cats. The initial vaccine is first administered between 12 and 16 weeks of age. A booster shot is necessary then every 1-3 years depending on the vaccine label and the state’s law regarding feline rabies.

    v Non-core vaccines for felines include Chlamydia, Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and Ringworm vaccines, but their use is only considered for pets with a high risk of exposure.

    Preventable Canine Diseases and Symptoms

    o    Adenovirus- A life-threatening disease that causes hepatitis.

    o    Distemper- Also a life-threatening disease that causes diarrhea, pneumonia, seizures, vomiting and potential sepsis.

    o    Heartworm- A life-threatening parasite contracted through mosquito bites. These parasitic roundworms reside in the lungs and if left untreated, spread to the heart. Early symptoms include coughing and exhaustion, especially when exercising. Rarely, the roundworms get lost within the host and spread to other parts of the body, causing blindness, immobility, or seizures. Without treatment, roundworms build up in the lungs and heart, causing a pet to cough up blood, faint, and lose significant weight. It eventually results in congestive heart failure.

    o    Leptospirosis-A life-threatening disease that causes severe liver and kidney damage and hemorrhaging within the lungs. Symptoms include loss of appetite, yellowed eyes (jaundice), vomiting, lethargy, and urine that is dark brown in color.

    o    Lyme- A disease transferred through ticks. It is most common in the northern hemisphere which is why the vaccination remains “non-core”. Symptoms include circular skin rashes, depression, fatigue, fever, and headaches. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught in earlier stages.

    o    Parainfluenza and Bordetella- Both are illnesses that are highly contagious and cause kennel cough. While it is generally not life-threatening, symptoms include a non-stop runny nose and excessive coughing.

    o    Parvovirus- A potentially life-threatening disease that results in diarrhea, vomiting, and deterioration of the white blood cells.

    Preventable Feline Diseases and Symptoms

    o    Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) - A retroviral disease (one that duplicates itself and integrates with the host’s DNA) that causes immune suppression. Most cats that have the illness appear normal for years until the disease eventually depletes the immune system entirely, resulting in death.

    o    Feline Leukemia Virus- A potentially life threatening virus that causes chronic immune suppression, leading to frequent infection and illness. It often results in cancer.

    o    Herpesvirus and Calicivirus- A highly contagious illnesses that cause fever, malaise, runny nose, and watery eyes.

    o    Panleukopenia (also known as Feline Distemper)-  A life threatening disease that causes pets to suffer dehydration, diarrhea, low white blood cell count, and vomiting.

    o    Rabies - a fatal disease attacking the central nervous system. Because there isn’t a cure for rabies, animals that contract the disease are euthanized. The greatest risk of keeping the pet alive is that the disease can be spread to humans.

    Pet Vaccination Concerns

    Similar to human vaccinations, pet vaccinations do carry a risk of side-effects. While negative side-effects do exist, it is important to note that your pet is statistically more likely to develop a life-threatening illness when not vaccinated, than to suffer adverse results from a vaccination. None-the-less, it is important to remain informed so you can ask your veterinarian the appropriate questions at your pet’s appointment.

    After being vaccinated, the injection site can be swollen or sore. Some pets also have a reduced appetite, fever, and experience lethargy. These side-effects should diminish over the next 24 to 48 hours. If you notice your pet’s side-effects are not subsiding, please contact our office. Very rarely, pets develop an allergy to a vaccine. Allergies can be detected within minutes of receiving a vaccination and if left untreated, can result in death. If you witness any of the following, contact our office immediately: collapse, non-stop diarrhea, continual vomiting, difficulty breathing, itching, or swelling of the legs or face.

    Regulations Regarding Rabies Vaccinations

    While the federal government does not mandate pet vaccinations for rabies, most states implement their own laws regarding pet vaccination. Vaccination laws also vary from country to country, so if you plan on moving, be sure to check necessary requirements to ensure a smooth transition for your family.

    v States in which your pet can receive exemption from being vaccinated include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey (dogs only), New York, Oregon (dogs only), Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. All other states require rabies vaccinations by law - for all pets.

    If you have any questions about vaccinations or scheduling new pet vaccinations, you may contact our clinic at 972-396-8387.