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
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.
Non-Core Pet Vaccinations
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.
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 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
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.
Canine Diseases and Symptoms
o Adenovirus- A life-threatening disease that
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
o Parvovirus- A potentially life-threatening
disease that results in diarrhea, vomiting, and deterioration of the white
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.
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.
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
Regarding Rabies Vaccinations
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.