Vaccines: what, when, and why?

At Four Paws, we believe that vaccines are vital to maintaining a healthy pet population. Diseases such as Canine Distemper and Feline Leukemia are much less common than in decades past and that is a direct result of the widespread use of vaccines. The decision of what vaccines are needed for each pet comes down to evaluating the pet's age, health status, lifestyle, and the diseases that are most common in the area you live.

  • Why does my puppy or kitten need so many vaccines? It all comes down to immunity. Puppies and kittens do not develop their full immune system until they are 16 weeks old. In order to reduce the risk of puppies and kittens contracting deadly diseases, we must start their vaccine series at 6-8 weeks and booster their vaccines every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Before 6 weeks of age they are still benefiting from their mother's immunity. Do not allow your puppy or kitten to interact with unvaccinated pets and avoid public places until they are fully vaccinated.
  • What is a core vaccine? Core vaccines are very important vaccines that all pets, regardless of lifestyle, should receive. These vaccines protect pets against severe, life-threatening diseases. In dogs, the Distemper-Parvo vaccine (DAPP) and Rabies vaccine are considered core vaccines. All cats should receive the Feline Distemper vaccine (FVRCP) and Rabies vaccine.
  • What are non-core vaccines? These are vaccines that are given only if a pet's lifestyle warrants the vaccine. In dogs, the most common non-core vaccine is the Bordetella vaccine. All dogs that interact with other dogs should receive the Bordetella vaccine. Other non-core dog vaccines include the Leptospirosis, Lymes, and Rattlesnake vaccines. The most common non-core vaccine for cats is the Feline Leukemia (FELV) vaccine. Cats that spend time outside or have contact with other cats should receive the Feline Leukemia (FeLV) vaccine.
  • How often should my pet be vaccinated? After the initial puppy and kitten series, core vaccines are boostered at approximately 1 year of age and then at minimum every 3 years. At Four Paws, we recommend annual vaccination for high risk pets. Non-core vaccines are administered annually.
  • Should my older pet be vaccinated? Age is not a disease. All healthy pets regardless of age should continue to receive core vaccines. Older pets have weaker immune systems so it is important to keep them up to date on their vaccines.
  • What pets should not be vaccinated? Vaccines are avoided in pets that experience life-threatening vaccine reactions, pets with autoimmune diseases, and pets undergoing chemotherapy. By vaccinating healthy pets, we create herd immunity which in turn protects those pets that are unable to receive vaccines.

Vaccines are an important part of maintaining healthy populations of dogs and cats and preventing life-threatening diseases. If you have a question regarding vaccines, call Four Paws Veterinary Clinic to discuss what vaccines are appropriate for your pet's lifestyle.