Many current news stories are focused on vaccine controversies, and you may be wondering if you should skip your pet’s next vaccination appointment. Vaccines are an important part of your pet’s health care plan, and our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team encourages you to keep your pet’s vaccines up to date. To help, we answer frequently asked questions about your pet’s vaccines and the diseases they help prevent.
Question: Why are vaccines important for my pet?
Answer: A vaccine is a biological preparation that stimulates your pet’s immunity to a particular pathogen. Vaccines are typically formulated from the causative agent’s weakened or inactivated form and prepare your pet’s immune system to fight future infections. They also can reduce your pet’s response to disease-causing agents, and in some cases, prevent infection altogether.
Q: When does my pet need vaccines?
A: Puppies and kittens should receive their first vaccinations at around 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by booster shots every three to four weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. Adult pets typically need annual revaccinations, but some vaccines require more frequent boosters, while others provide protection for up to three years.
Q: What vaccines does my pet need?
A: Vaccines are divided into core and noncore categories. Core vaccines are necessary for every pet, while noncore vaccines are recommended for certain pets based on their geographic location, lifestyle, and disease risk. Our veterinary team evaluates your pet’s specific details to devise their appropriate vaccination protocol.
Q: What are the core pet vaccines?
A: Core vaccines for dogs include:
- Rabies — Rabies is a deadly viral disease that causes severe neurological complications. The disease is transmitted through an infected animal’s bite, and most mammals, including humans, are susceptible. Most states, including Florida, require that pets be vaccinated.
- Parvovirus — Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the cells lining a dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Puppies are at highest risk, and signs include fever, lethargy, vomiting, and severe, sometimes bloody, diarrhea.
- Distemper — The distemper virus attacks a dog’s respiratory, GI, and nervous systems, causing signs including fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, vomiting, head tilt, muscle twitches, and seizures.
- Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) — Hepatitis is defined as liver inflammation. The ICH infection is caused by an adenovirus transmitted in an infected dog’s urine, ocular secretions, and nasal discharge. Signs can range from mild fever and decreased appetite to severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Parainfluenza — Parainfluenza is a viral disease that commonly causes respiratory signs and is usually included in a combination vaccination.
Core vaccines for cats include:
- Rabies — Cats are also susceptible to rabies and must be vaccinated according to Florida law.
- Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) — FHV-1, also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, is spread in the saliva and eye and nose discharges, and causes respiratory signs and conjunctivitis.
- Feline calicivirus (FCV) — FCV is a viral pathogen spread in the saliva and eye and nose discharges, and causes respiratory disease and oral ulcerations.
- Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) — FPV is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the rapidly dividing cells in bone marrow, intestines, and the developing fetus. The virus is shed in an infected cat’s urine, feces, and nasal secretions.
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) — FeLV is the most common cause of cancer in cats. The viral disease also leads to immune deficiency, which inhibits the cat’s ability to fight infection. FeLV is considered a core vaccine for kittens and for cats allowed outdoors.
Q: What noncore vaccines may my pet need?
A: Noncore vaccines for dogs include:
- Leptospirosis — Dogs frequently exposed to natural water sources, standing water, and mud are at higher risk for this bacterial infection.
- Lyme disease — Dogs who live in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent are at higher risk. The blacklegged tick that transmits Lyme disease is common in Florida.
- Bordetella — Dogs who are frequently boarded or who attend doggy day care facilities are at higher risk for this respiratory bacterial disease.
- Canine influenza virus — This is a respiratory viral disease that most commonly affects dogs who are frequently boarded or who attend doggy day care facilities.
Noncore vaccines for cats include:
- Bordetella — Cats who are frequently boarded or exposed to other cats are at higher risk for this respiratory bacterial disease.
- Chlamydiosis — Cats who are frequently boarded or exposed to other cats are at higher risk for this bacterial disease, which causes respiratory signs and conjunctivitis.
Q: Are vaccinations safe for my pet?
A: Adverse vaccination responses in pets are uncommon. The most frequent side effects are pain and swelling at the injection site and mild lethargy the day following vaccination. In rare cases, pets have an anaphylactic reaction—the reason a veterinarian must administer vaccines in a controlled environment, with appropriate medications available, if needed. Our veterinary team minimizes risk by devising an appropriate vaccination protocol based on your pet’s individual needs and choosing appropriate injection sites.
We hope that you now understand the importance of keeping your pet up to date on their vaccines. If your pet is due for their vaccines, contact our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team, so we can ensure they are protected against dangerous infectious pathogens.