Vaccinating Your Pet, Part 1

Don't forget to vaccinate!

Don't forget to vaccinate!

Vaccinations for your pet..a tricky subject.  What to get, when to get them, how many to get?   And unfortunately every time you ask someone, you get a different answer.  I hope this information will provide some clarification on this issue, although it is by no means the definitive guide for your pet.  All animals have different needs and you should talk to your veterinarian for the best individual recommendation. 

First of all let’s cover what vaccines are considered “core vaccines” – i.e. those recommended for all pets.

  • Dogs: Core vaccinations for dogs consist of parvo virus, distemper virus (DPTV), adenovirus type 2 and rabies.  Other common but optional vaccines include parainfluenza, influenza, bordatella (also referred to as the kennel cough vaccine), Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and coronavirus.  These “optional” vaccinations are generally chosen based on whether or not the pet is at risk for exposure to these diseases.  Rabies is the only vaccine required by law.
  • Cats: Core vaccines for cats consist of panoleukopenia (also called “distemper”, not the same as canine distemper though), herpes virus (feline viral rhinotracheitis), calicivirus, and again rabies.  Optional vaccines for cats include feline leukemia, bordatella, and FIV.  Again, rabies is the only vaccine required by law.

Please note: there are many other vaccines available for a multitude of illnesses, but they are not always necessary or effective.  Some of them may even be harmful in the fact that it may give the owner a false sense of security.  If you have questions about a particular vaccine and whether or not your pet should receive it, please contact your veterinarian.

Now let’s talk a little bit about when it is appropriate to vaccinate:

Age of vaccination is the same for both puppies and kittens, but differ based on their environment and home situation.  Vaccinations can be given as early as 5-6 weeks old, but typically are given starting at 8 weeks old.  Vaccines are then repeated (or boostered) until the animal is at least 4 months old- frequency of boosters depends again on the animal’s individual situation, but varies from every 2 to every 4 weeks.  After these initial puppy or kitten series, the vaccines are generally boostered again after one year.  After that year, frequency can vary depending on individual situations and health.  These vaccines are generally repeated every 1-3 years (depending on the individual’s levels of exposure/risk and general health), although some studies have shown that these vaccines produce levels of antibodies that can last up to 7 years.  The exception is the intranasal bordetella vaccine, which should be given every 6 months.

Rabies is different in that an animal must be at least 3 months old to receive a rabies vaccine, and it is not boostered in this same manner – it is given one year from the initial vaccination date, and after that can be repeated every 1-3 years.  Rabies can be either a 1 year or 3 year vaccine, depending on local regulations and the product used (some areas do not recognize the 3 year, so even if a product licenesed for 3 years is used, it must be repeated yearly). 

Join us on Monday for Part 2 of Vaccinations which will discuss how many vaccines your pet needs.

Written by Dr. Cynthia Moon
Veterinarian at Wayside Waifs

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