Everything You Need to Know About Routine Vaccinations for Your Pet
Vaccinations are an important part of routine veterinary care to help protect pets from serious sickness and disease. From the time dogs and cats are puppies and kittens, they generally require a series of shots at each of their wellness visits. These shots are essential for keeping your furry friends healthy and well, which can help them thrive throughout their lives.
It’s natural to have questions about why your pet needs vaccines, the risks they may cause, and why it’s so important to stay up to date on your pet’s vaccines. We hope the following information is helpful to you.
Common Questions About Vaccinations for Pets
Pet-owners often have questions about their pets’ vaccinations. Vaccinations are an important part of routine wellness-care visits for pets and with good reason. Here are some answers to questions our staff frequently hears.
Why Does My Pet Need Routine Vaccinations?
Like people, pets are vulnerable to certain viruses and other germs they can catch from other animals or may encounter just from going outside. Many of these diseases can make pets very sick. Some, such as rabies, can be deadly – and can even be passed to people if an infected animal bites someone. The good news is, we have vaccines that can protect your pet from these diseases.
Which Vaccines Does My Pet Need?
The exact regimen of vaccines a pet should get varies, depending on the type of pet you have, whether your pet goes outdoors, what diseases are common in your area, and other factors. There are some “core vaccines” that most cats and dogs should get.
Core Vaccines for Cats
Cats should get immunization against:
- Feline distemper, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Feline herpes, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Feline calcivirus, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Rabies, as early as 12 weeks
Testing and vaccination are strongly recommended for feline leukemia, as well, especially for cats who go outdoors. This is a very contagious virus, easily spread among cats. Cats that go outdoors are at greater risk of exposure. New cats or kittens can bring the virus into your household, so it’s important to screen for it even if your pet will remain indoors, especially if you have other cats.
- Feline leukemia testing for all cats, starting as early as 8 weeks
- Feline leukemia immunization following a negative test
Your cat may also encounter parasites or other germs from eating birds and rodents or digging in dirt. If your cat goes outside, talk to your vet about preventives for these illnesses, too. Yearly fecal testing can screen for internal parasites and other diseases, so you can treat any infections that may occur.
Core Vaccines for Dogs
Dogs should get immunization against:
- Parvovirus, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Distemper, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Canine hepatitis, series starting at 6 to 8 weeks
- Rabies, as early as 12 weeks
Additionally, it’s often advisable to vaccinate against kennel cough, a very contagious infection dogs can catch from other dogs when they go to the groomer, a dog park, a “doggie daycare” center, or other community environments. Canine influenza is another concern your vet may recommend vaccination for.
Why Does My Pet Need to Get Booster Shots of Some Vaccines?
Vaccines are given in a series, to optimize how the immune system naturally builds its defenses. Kittens and puppies may get a series of shots spread out over a number of weeks. Once initial vaccinations are complete, your pet may need some shots, such as the rabies vaccine, yearly. Booster shots are important because immunity can wane over time. Getting vaccine boosters during the annual checkup can help keep your fur baby’s immune system robust so that they can lead a healthy and happy life.
Do Pets Who Stay Indoors All the Time Need the Same Vaccines as Pets Who Go Outdoors?
There are some vaccinations that all pets should get, regardless of whether they stay indoors or outdoors. Rabies is one example. While an animal that stays indoors is less likely to come in contact with the rabies virus, it only takes on exposure for a beloved pet to contract this horrible virus that is almost always deadly and can easily transmit to humans. So routine rabies vaccination is advised for all pets.
There are some viruses, however, that indoor pets are much less likely to encounter than pets who go outside.
Vaccine Must-haves for Outdoor Pets
One example is feline leukemia. This virus is easily transmitted among cats. Kittens should be tested for exposure. If tests are negative, and the cat will stay inside, it might not be necessary to vaccinate against the disease. However, it’s very common for kittens to stay inside and older cats to venture outdoors. So, it often makes sense to adjust your approach to managing the risk for feline leukemia, such as through vaccination, as your pet gets older.
What Should I do if My Pet Misses Some Vaccinations?
While it’s ideal to stay on top of routine wellness care, including vaccinations, for your pet, falling behind on appointments isn’t uncommon. If this happens to you, we recommend scheduling a catch-up visit as soon as possible. We can evaluate any risks of missed vaccinations and develop a schedule for catching up. In some cases, your pet may simply need booster shots. For some vaccines, however, it may be advisable to start the vaccine series from the beginning.
Are Vaccinations Harmful to My Pet?
Many people feel concerned there may be risks to vaccinations. While no medication is completely without risk, the diseases these vaccines protect against are far more dangerous and often can be fatal. The benefits of vaccinating your pet overwhelmingly outweigh any risks. Our staff is happy to answer any questions or address concerns you may have about your pet’s vaccines.
Will My Pet Have Side Effects to Their Vaccines?
Similar to vaccines for humans, pet vaccinations sometimes can cause side effects. Muscle soreness, lethargy, and mild fever aren’t uncommon. Occasionally, a pet may develop a firm lump near the vaccine site. These side effects are normal and generally not serious.
There are some symptoms that may indicate a more serious reaction. Facial swelling, hives, and vomiting may be signs of an allergic reaction. Contact our staff right away if you notice these signs after your pet has had a vaccination at our practice.
Stay on Top of Vaccinations to Keep Your Pet Healthy
Your pets are members of your family. Our staff are committed to helping you keep your furbabies healthy and well. If your pet is due for vaccines, or if you’re unsure whether shots are up to date, it may be time to schedule a wellness care or annual check-up appointment. We can help evaluate your pet’s immunity and risk – and determine if catch-up vaccines are necessary. And we’re always happy to answer any questions you might have about vaccinations.