The Importance of Pet Vaccinations

When it comes to regular veterinary care and maintenance for your dog or cat, keeping them current on their vaccinations is important to their overall health. Vaccines prevent your pet from contracting common diseases by triggering protective immune response and producing antibodies to prevent contraction of the disease if the pet is exposed.

Pet vaccinations are highly effective, with minimal risks and few if any side effects. While these risks and side effects will vary depending on the vaccine used, you can talk to your veterinarian to understand the details further and determine what is right for your pet. The benefits of vaccinations are that your pet is then protected from contracting dangerous diseases which can cost hundreds to thousands to treat if they were to be exposed without the protection from the vaccine, and end up contracting the disease. Even worse, many of the diseases covered by today’s pet vaccinations can be fatal. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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What Vaccinations Does My Pet Need?

There are two types of vaccinations that are often referred to as core vaccines, and optional vaccines. Core vaccines are the most commonly accepted and done, and required by law in some cases (such as rabies) and may be required if you travel with your pet, board your pet, and so on. Non-core, or optional vaccines protect your pet from various diseases, but are not considered required by most veterinarians. Core vaccinations should always be done and kept current for your pet – cat or dog – while optional vaccines are a personal decision that should be discussed between you and your vet to determine what is right for your pet.

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Dog Vaccinations

Core Dog Vaccinations
According to the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine website, the core dog vaccinations include canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV), and rabies. Initial puppy vaccination can start when the dog is between 6-8 weeks of age, with boosters given ever 3-4 weeks, with the final booster being given no sooner than 16 weeks of age to ensure their immune system is able to accept and develop the necessary antibodies to be covered. For dogs older than 16 weeks, two boosters given 3-4 weeks apart will provide adequate coverage. After the initial vaccinations are completed, annual revaccination is recommended to maintain complete coverage.

In most states, the rabies vaccination is required by law. Puppies and dogs being vaccinated for the first time, or with unknown vaccination history, should be administered one dose at 16 weeks of age or older, with revaccination in one year. After that, most rabies vaccines will allow for a booster every three years.

In some cases, after the first year’s annual booster, revaccination can be done as infrequently as every three years, in the case where vaccines are approved for 3-year administration. As each manufacturer may vary, it’s important to speak with your veterinarian about the options. In addition, even if your pet qualifies for 3-year revaccination instead of the traditional 1-year option, that doesn’t mean you can forego annual checkups. Making sure your dog is still seen by your vet at least once a year is the best way to keep them happy and healthy and to check for other ailments such as osteoarthritis, skin issues, flea and tick preventative, regular deworming, heartworm preventative (which requires annual testing), and more.

Non-Core Dog Vaccinations

Optional vaccines for your dog should always be discussed with your veterinarian, who can help assess the risk for your dog based on their environment, geographic location, and any travel or other socialization plans you may have with your pup. Non-core vaccines include:

  • canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
  • canine influenza virus
  • Bordatella bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
  • Leptospira
  • Borrelia burgdorferi
  • canine coronavirus
  • canine adenovirus-1
  • Lyme disease

Depending on the risk factor based on your lifestyle, location, and individual concerns for your dog, you and your vet can develop the best plan of action.We recommend the Vanguard crLyme by Zoetis as it has the most thorough coverage of any vaccine on the market today. It is a simple 2 dose series initially, followed by an annual revaccination whenever your dog comes for their regular shots and checkup. The most current canine vaccination guidelines can be found on the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website.

Cat Vaccinations

Core Cat Vaccinations
The core feline vaccinations include feline herpesvirus 1, feline calcivirus, and feline panleukopenia virus, along with rabies. For initial kitten vaccination, it is recommended that the cat receive boosters starting at 6-8 weeks of age, repeated every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 16 weeks of age. After that, a booster is recommended in one year, with the option to move to 3 year revaccination boosters thereafter. Similarly with dogs, it’s still important to make sure that your cat sees your vet at least once per year, and to determine if 3-year revaccination is right for you and your cat.

Rabies again is required by law in most states, just as it is with dogs. Cats and kittens can be vaccinated at 12 – 16 weeks of age, and boostered annually. While there are both three year and one year revaccination options for cats, depending on the type of vaccine used and which is right for your cat. In rare cases, cats can develop sarcomas as a reaction to the rabies (and other) vaccines, and some types of vaccines are less likely to cause this reaction. It’s of the utmost importance that you speak with your vet about the options and what is right for you and your kitty.

Non-core Cat Vaccinations

Optional cat vaccinations include feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Chlamydia feels, bordatella bronchiseptica, and virulent FCV. Of these non-core cat vaccinations, FeLV is the most common, due to the high instance of FeLV in feral cat communities. Depending on which brand is used, after the initial set of two boosters administered 3-4 weeks apart, either annual or 2-year revaccination is recommended. As always, discuss the options available with your vet.

The other optional vaccines, such as FIV, are entirely risk based. To better understand your risk, schedule an appointment to discuss the options and alternatives to ensure your cat is covered. You can also read UC Davis’s vaccination protocols for more information (just remember they are based in CA, so NJ laws vary slightly).

Ready to schedule your pet’s vaccination appointment? We look forward to hearing from you!