From the first moment your puppy enters a veterinary clinic, a conversation about vaccines is typically on the table. In fact, the first several rounds of vaccines are often the main reason that puppies and kittens visit the vet's office. There are many reasons you should establish care early-- developing a relationship with a veterinarian for when your pet suffers from an illness or injury, acquainting your pet with the process of visiting a vet (including the unique sights, scents, and sounds) at a time when they are impressionable to socialization cues and also not under distress, as well as receiving valuable education on pet ownership, wellness, and preventative care from a healthcare provider. While anti-vaccination stances have not permeated the veterinary field quite as extensively as in human medicine, there are still many concerns and anxieties that owners face about vaccines. Like with many pet care topics, there is a wealth of misinformation floating around the web. Horror stories, blogs that denounce the practice of vaccination, and influencers that claim the whole thing is a sham abound. However, as with all things, pet owners deserve to have the facts, to have access to accurate information, so that they can make their own, truly informed decisions alongside their veterinary provider.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Are Vaccines Safe?
My Breeder Gave Vaccines / Can I Give Vaccines?
Titers as a Vaccine Alternative?
What Vaccines Does My Pet Need?
This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for veterinary care. Work with your veterinarian to discuss what vaccines are right for your pet.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has a Vaccination Guideline Group that has published vaccines guidelines. These were last updated in 2016. Additionally, the American Animal Hospital Association provides guidelines for dogs (2017) and in conjunction with the American Association of Feline Practitioners, guidelines for cats (2020).
Puppies and kittens receive a series of vaccines in order to protect them when they are most vulnerable. When they're born, they are protected by 'maternal antibodies' passed down from their mother. These antibodies slowly wane as the animal ages. These antibodies also prevent the young animal's immune system from mounting an adequate protective response after vaccination. This creates a 'window of susceptibility' where maternal antibodies are too low to protect from infection, but still high enough to interfere with vaccination. It is during this window that puppies and kittens receive vaccines every few weeks. After completing that series, they 'graduate' and receive boosters one year later. At that point, the period between vaccines may be further increased, depending on the vaccine.
Rabies, regardless of studies on the length of protection from vaccine, is mandated by local laws. It is important to stay in compliance with these laws. If your dog ever bites someone, bites another dog, is bitten by another dog, or has a scuffle with a wild rabies vector species, the outcome with animal control services, including the necessity of quarantine, the duration of quarantine, and the location where your pet is allowed to quarantine, will depend on your dog's vaccination status. Most states allow rabies to be given every 1 or 3 years, in accordance with the product label. Other states require that rabies be given every year. A number of states allow rabies exemption within certain circumstances. You can read about your local rabies laws online.
- Core: Rabies (as required by law)
- Core: D2APP (Distempter, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza*) every 3 years after receiving booster one year after puppy series
- Bordetella (kennel cough) annually for dogs that board, go to daycare, visit dog parks, or otherwise have close contact with non-housemates
- Lyme annually at the start of tick season in regions where tickborn disease is common and dogs that frequently go outdoors in wooded areas
- Leptospira annually for dogs that go outside (even in urban areas) in regions where leptospirosis is endemic.
- Influenza annually for dogs in the USA that frequently board, go to day camp, or participate in show
- Core: Rabies (as required by law)
- Core: FVRCP (Feline viral rhinotracheitis, herpes virus, calicivirus, and parvovirus) every 3 years after receiving booster one year after completion of kitten series
- FeLV (Feline leukemia virus) core for cats under 1 year of age due to increased susceptibility. Vaccination should then be done every 1-3 years for FeLV negative cats considered high risk for exposure (access to outdoors, frequent contact with cats of unknown FeLV status, housemate that is high-risk)
- FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) annually for high risk cats, not typically administered to house pets that are kept indoors only
- Bordetella (kennel cough) as needed in households with a confirmed infection to help limit spread
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