Vaccine 101 for Pets

By Marisa Pasekoff, Managing Veterinarian & Partner

Vaccines. A word we have become all too familiar with, if we weren’t already. Administering them and their frequency has become a touchy subject and the root of many conversations. My goal in this blog is to inform and educate our viewers about the recommendations of our veterinarians from Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital only. As is always the case, each patient is an individual and these general recommendations should always be taken in consideration of your pet’s health and medical history. First, I will break down the recommendations for dogs and follow up with recommendations for cats. For your exotic pets, I highly recommend you consult a veterinarian with more experience in this field.

Dogs

Distemper – This vaccine is often a combination vaccine to protect against multiple diseases. These include: Distemper, Hepatitis (also seen sometimes as Adenovirus), Parvovirus and Parainfluenza. Depending on various variables, we will add in a component to protect against Leptospirosis. As a puppy, this vaccine is often started at 8 weeks of age and given every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is 16-20 weeks old. The Leptospirosis component is often given with the second injection or sometime after, and is a series of two injections. After the puppy receives the initial series, their next booster will be at a little over one year of age and then every three years after that. The Leptospirosis component stays as an annual booster. If a dog older than 5 months of age presents to us without any vaccine history, we will recommend a series of two vaccines (the initial one and a booster) and this will suffice as the initial series.

Rabies – This vaccine is recommended between 12-16 weeks of age, or any time after that with dogs without prior vaccine history. The next booster will be given at a little over one year of age and then every three years after that. There are occasions where the veterinarians will recommend a booster sooner if your pet has been involved in a fight with another unvaccinated pet or wildlife.

Lyme and Canine Influenza – These vaccines can be given as early as 8 weeks of age and require a booster 3-4 weeks later to be considered an initial series. These vaccines, however, can be given at any age after 8 weeks and need an annual booster.

Bordetella (“Kennel Cough”) – This vaccine is given any time after 12 weeks and is often given as an intranasal vaccine initially (nose drops instead of an injection). The booster is most commonly given as an injection one year later and annually after that. If a patient receives this vaccine prior to 12 weeks of age, a booster will be recommended once the patient reaches 12 weeks old.

Cats

Distemper – This is not the same vaccine that dogs receive. It is a vaccine, however, that is also a combination to protect against multiple diseases. These include: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia. As a kitten, this vaccine is often started at 8 weeks of age and given every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 16-20 weeks old. After the kitten receives the initial series, their next booster will be at a little over one year of age and then every three years after that. If a cat older than 5 months of age presents to us without any vaccine history, we will recommend a series of two vaccines (the initial one and a booster) and this will suffice as the initial series.

Rabies – This vaccine is recommended between 12-16 weeks of age, or any time after that with cats without prior vaccine history. The next booster will be given at a little over one year of age. Because our veterinarians use the Purevax vaccine (which we feel is safer for our feline patients), this vaccine is recommended annually. There are occasions where the veterinarians will recommend a booster sooner if your pet has been involved in a fight with another unvaccinated pet or wildlife.

Feline Leukemia – This vaccine is most often recommended for kittens and cats who will either go outside or have exposure to unknown cats (even through screen doors). Typically started at 12 weeks of age or older, there is a booster 3-4 weeks after the initial immunization and annually after that.

As mentioned previously, these timelines are used as a guideline. The vaccine protocol for a two-pound Chihuahua puppy will likely vary from a twenty-pound Great Dane puppy. It is always recommended to discuss with your veterinarian what is best for your pets.

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