Vaccines stimulate your pet’s immune system to fight dangerous infectious diseases, and keeping your pet’s vaccines up to date can save their life. Our Desert Vet team wants to provide important information about your pet’s vaccines to ensure they are properly protected.
Puppy and kitten vaccines
When puppies and kittens are born, their immune system functions only partially, making them highly susceptible to infectious diseases. They receive protective immunity from their mother when they drink their first milk (i.e., colostrum), which is highly concentrated in antibodies to support the immune system. Puppies and kittens should remain with their mother for their first few months to benefit from these natural antibodies, but their protection starts to wane sometime between 6 and 16 weeks of age, and vaccinations are therefore crucial to provide continued protection. Puppies and kittens should start receiving vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and then booster shots every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks of age.
Core versus non core vaccines for your pet
Veterinarians describe vaccines as core or non core, but what does that mean?
- Core vaccines — Core vaccines are those that all pets need. These vaccines protect your pet from diseases that are endemic to the area, pose a potential public health risk, are highly infectious, and are required by law.
- Non core vaccines — Non core vaccines are those recommended based on your pet’s lifestyle, and are not necessary for every pet.
Core vaccines for your dog
Vaccines required for all dogs include:
- Rabies — Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. Wildlife, such as bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes, can carry the disease, which is typically transmitted through an infected animal’s bite. Humans are also susceptible, and once signs manifest, the disease is almost always fatal. The vaccine is required by law in most states.
- Parvovirus — Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that attacks the rapidly dividing cells found in the lymph tissue, intestinal tract, bone marrow, and developing fetus. Transmission occurs by contacting an infected dog or contaminated objects or surfaces.
- Distemper — Distemper is a viral disease that attacks a dog’s respiratory, intestinal, and nervous systems. Transmission occurs by contacting an infected dog or contaminated objects or surfaces, and a mother dog can pass the disease to her unborn puppies.
- Infectious hepatitis — Infectious hepatitis is caused by an adenovirus that targets the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, and blood vessels. Transmission occurs by contacting the urine, nasal discharge, or ocular secretions from an infected dog.
Core vaccines for your cat
In addition to rabies, vaccines required for all cats include:
- Feline rhinotracheitis — Feline rhinotracheitis is a herpesvirus that causes respiratory disease and conjunctivitis in cats and kittens. Transmission occurs by contacting an infected cat’s nasal discharge, saliva, or ocular secretions.
- Feline calicivirus — Feline calicivirus causes respiratory disease in cats and is spread by an infected cat’s saliva, nasal discharge, and ocular secretions.
- Panleukopenia — Panleukopenia, which is similar to the canine parvovirus, attacks the rapidly dividing cells in the bone marrow, intestinal tract, lymph tissue, and developing fetus. The disease is spread by an infected cat’s urine, stool, and nasal secretions.
Vaccines based on your dog’s lifestyle
Non core vaccines for dogs include:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica — B. bronchiseptica is an important bacterial pathogen commonly identified in dogs with kennel cough, and the vaccine is recommended for dogs frequently exposed to other dogs.
- Parainfluenza — Parainfluenza is an important viral pathogen commonly identified in dogs with kennel cough, and the vaccine is recommended for dogs frequently exposed to other dogs.
- Leptospirosis — Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that causes lethargy, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice. The vaccine is recommended for dogs who live in rural areas and who frequently swim in or drink from natural water sources.
- Diamond rattlesnake toxoid — This vaccine can reduce the signs when a dog is bitten by certain rattlesnake species and is recommended for dogs at high risk for encountering rattlesnakes.
Vaccines based on your cat’s lifestyle
Non core vaccines for cats are recommended for those who are allowed outdoors or who are frequently exposed to other cats. These vaccines include:
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) — FeLV is considered a core vaccine for outdoor kittens and cats. The virus is the most common cause of cancer in cats and leads to immune deficiency, which impairs a cat’s ability to fight infection. Transmission most commonly occurs through an infected cat’s bite.
Vaccines are an important part of your pet’s health care plan. If you would like to ensure your pet is protected, contact our Desert Vet team, and we will devise an appropriate vaccination schedule for your pet.