Vaccines: What Does My Pet Need and Why?

What vaccines are recommended for an individual pet depends on many factors: what kind of exposure to disease the pet has, what diseases are common in the area, what kind of stress factors are present, what type of lifestyle you and your pet lead, etc. The veterinarian will go over these factors during the examination and determine what vaccines are appropriate for your pet. It is important to realize that some diseases can be prevented through vaccination while others cannot.

No matter what factors exist, puppies and kittens need their initial series of vaccinations, called core vaccines. For dogs, the core vaccines are for rabies, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and canine hepatitis. For cats, the core vaccines are for rabies, feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpes), feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia (parvo) virus.

When a vaccine is given for the first time, even in an adult animal, it is best to give at least two vaccines 3-4 weeks apart. This is because the second vaccine (“booster”) will produce a much more significant response if it is given 3-4 weeks after the initial vaccine. The duration of immunity after the booster vaccine varies depending on the type of vaccine and kind of disease we are protecting against.

Some vaccines are not intended to prevent infection but are designed to reduce the symptoms of the disease should infection occur (as with the feline upper respiratory infections or canine Bordetella).

Even indoor pets need core vaccines. In both dogs and cats, the risk of rabies exists through the potential for inadvertently getting outside or other animals, bats especially, getting into the house. When you consider the consequences of rabies exposure and the legal implications of owning a biting pet (what happens to the animal is dependent on its vaccine status), it is clear why this vaccine is essential.

Your family veterinarian is the best source for further information on vaccines for your pet!

Written by Briarwood Animal Hospital