What You Should Know…..

We all believe strongly that we should protect our furry family members as best we can.  I feel it is important for my readers to know why vaccinations are important and information about the diseases that are prevented by immunizing your pet.

 

Should We Vaccinate?

I know everyone is concerned about the effect of vaccination on the health of their pet, but not vaccinating could be far worse.  Vaccines are given to prevent common infectious diseases that can be life-threatening. Believe it or not, they protect humans as well, preventing diseases that can be transmitted to humans from an infected pet. Many vaccinations do not need to be given by a veterinarian.  You can buy them at your local feed store.  They are cheaper, effective and humane, if given correctly, to prevent disease rather than to treat the disease once your pet is already sick.  I love my veterinarian, don’t get me wrong, but veterinarian bills can add up quickly.

 

How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines work through a process known as “immune memory”.  Survivors of a serious infection develop specific resistance to the same disease.  Immune memory prompts a faster and stronger response against the same organism making the animal immune to disease. Altered versions of the microbe are used in vaccines, so the animal’s body thinks it has the disease, (but doesn’t), and builds up a preemptive immunity.  The vaccine, even though made with a version of the microbe, are made safe and do not make your pet ill.

 

Why Are Vaccinations Especially Important in Puppies and Kittens?

Puppies and kittens have immature immune systems that make them highly vulnerable to severe infectious complications. At birth they receive limited protection (called antibodies) from their mothers. These antibodies decrease after birth and disappear by 16-20 weeks of age.  Therefore, vaccinations can help the young ones survive this critical period by safely “jump starting” their immune systems.

 

Why Do Puppies and Kittens Need a Series of Vaccines?

If the puppy or kitten still has antibodies from their mother in their system, there is sometimes interference with the vaccine and immune system does not recognize that the vaccine is there.  This will result in an inadequate immunization with just one dose.  Giving multiple vaccines, usually 3, during the critical period, between 8 and 16 weeks of age helps each puppy and kitten reach an optimal level of protection.

 

Why Vaccinate Adult Animals?

Although puppies and kittens fare much worse with disease, adult animals can suffer significant illness from preventable infectious diseases.  For diseases with strong public health concern, such as Rabies, vaccination is legally required.  For others such as Bordetella, (Canine “Kennel Cough”), vaccinations are required by many groomers and boarding facilities.

 

Why Are Booster Vaccinations Required in Adult Animals?

The immune memory created by vaccinations decays over time and eventually fail to be effective.  Adult boosters will amplify waning immunity to help prevent disease breakthrough in mature animals.  In the case of Rabies, vaccine boosters at specific intervals (1 or 3 years) are legally required.  In the case of Bordetella, “Kennel Cough” up to date status boosters are required by many groomers and boarding facilities.

Below are the vaccination schedules for both dogs and cats. Click the vaccine in the first column for a description of the disease prevented by the vaccine. Core vaccines should be given; non-core are optional.

 

Vaccine Schedule for Dogs; Core and Non-Core Vaccines

Dog VaccineInitial Puppy Vaccination (at or under 16 weeks)Initial Adult Dog Vaccination (over 16 weeks)Booster RecommendationComments
Rabies 1-yearCan be administered in one dose as early as 3 months of age. States regulate the age at which first administered.Single doseAnnual boosters are required.Core dog vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal in dogs, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.
Rabies 3-yearCan be administered in one dose as early as 3 months of age. States regulate the age at which first administered.Single doseA second vaccination is recommended after 1 year, then boosters every 3 years.Core dog vaccine.
Canine DistemperAt least 3 doses, between 6 and 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing their initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.Core dog vaccine. Caused by an airborne virus Distemper is a severe disease that, among other problems, may cause permanent brain damage.
ParvovirusAt least 3 doses, between 6 and 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing their initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.Core dog vaccine. Canine "parvo" is contagious and can cause severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Parvo is usually fatal if untreated.
Adenovirus
(Canine Hepatitis)
At least 3 doses, between 6 and 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing their initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.Core dog vaccine. Spread via coughs and sneezes. Canine hepatitis can lead to severe liver damage and death.
ParainfluenzaAdministered at 6-8 weeks of age, then every 3-4 weeks until 12-14 weeks of age.2-3 dosesA booster may be necessary after 1 year depending on veterinarian recommendations. Revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.Non-core dog vaccine. Parainfluenza infection results in cough and fever. It may be associated with Bordetella infection.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica
(kennel cough)
Depends on vaccine type; 2 doses are usually needed for protection.1 dose of the intranasal or oral product, or 2 doses of the injected product.Annual or 6-month boosters may be recommended for dogs in high-risk environments.Non-core dog vaccine. Not usually a serious condition, although it can be dangerous in young puppies. It is usually seen after activities like boarding or showing.
Lyme Disease1 dose administered as early as 9 weeks, with a 2nd dose 2-4 weeks later.2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart. May be needed annually, prior to the start of tick season.Non-core dog vaccine. Generally recommended only for dogs with a high risk for exposure to lyme disease-carrying ticks.
Leptospirosis1st dose administered at 12 weeks; 2nd dose 4 weeks later.2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart.At least once yearly for dogs in high-risk areas.Non-core dog vaccine. Vaccination is generally restricted to established risk areas. Exposure to rodents and standing water can lead to a leptospirosis infection.
Canine Influenza1st dose as early as 6-8 weeks; 2nd dose 2-4 weeks later.2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart.Yearly.Non-core dog vaccine. Similar to bordetella.

 

 

Vaccine Schedule for Cats; Core and Non-Core Vaccines

Cat VaccineInitial Kitten Vaccination (at or under 16 weeks)Initial Adult Cat Vaccination (over 16 weeks)Booster RecommentationComments
Feline Rabies1 dose as early as 8 weeks, depending on product. Revaccinate 1 year later.2 doses, 12 months apart.Required annually or every 3 years depending on vaccine used. State regulations may determine the frequency and type of booster required.Core cat vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal in cats, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.
Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)1 dose as early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.1 dose given 1 year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.Core cat vaccine. Feline distemper is a severe contagious disease that most commonly strikes kittens and can cause death.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)1 dose as early as 8 weeks, then 1 dose 3-4 weeks later.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.1 dose given 1 year after the last dose of the initial series, then annually.Non-core cat vaccine. Should test FeLV negative first. Transmitted via cat-to-cat contact. Can cause cancer and immunosuppressant conditions.
Feline Herpesvirus1 dose as early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.1 dose given 1 year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.Core cat vaccine. Feline herpesvirus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), a very contagious upper respiratory condition.
Calcivirus1 dose as early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.1 dose given 1 year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.Core cat vaccine. A very contagious upper respiratory condition that can cause joint pain, oral ulcerations, fever, and anorexia.
Feline Bordetella Bronchiseptica1 dose at 8 weeks, then 1 dose 3-4 weeks later.2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart.Annually.Non-core cat vaccine. A contagious upper respiratory condition.

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