Pet Vaccinations

Pet vaccination is an important part of pet ownership. Both cats and dogs have required vaccinations that prevent life-threatening illnesses.

Standard Cat Vaccinations

Kittens receive a combination vaccination called FVRCP, which stands for Feline Viral Rhinotrachetis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia. This prevents against three types of respiratory conditions that are highly contagious, especially among kittens, and can result in death.

The first vaccination is usually given by the breeder as soon as the kitten begins to wean off his mother's milk, which provides natural immunity. Vaccinations are then given every three to four weeks between the ages of six and 16 weeks.

Standard Dog Vaccinations

Puppies also receive a combination vaccination when they are weaned from their mother called DHLPP, which stands for Distemper, Adenovirus, Leptosporosis, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza. These are also highly contagious infections, which can be contracted virally, such as distemper, or through contact with infected feces, such as parvovirus.

The vaccination schedule is similar for puppies and kittens. Puppies receive their first vaccinations around five or six weeks and continue every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Afterward, annual boosters are often recommended.

Rabies Vaccination

Both puppies and kittens are required by law to have a rabies vaccination. Depending on your veterinarian, this booster may be given every one or three years.

There is no cure for this deadly disease, but it's completely preventable with a vaccine. Puppies and kittens both receive their first rabies vaccination at 16 weeks.

Additional Vaccinations

There are several other vaccines available for your cat or dog, but they are often not recommended, depending on your pet's lifestyle. If your pet isn't at risk for a particular illness, exposing them to a vaccination that could cause reactions or may not be effective isn't worth the risk.

Feline leukemia and feline AIDS are two such vaccinations for cats. Though there are few symptoms for these diseases, they are very contagious to other cats. Most veterinarians recommend testing your cat for these diseases, but if your cat isn't allowed outdoors or exposed to strange cats, they may not recommend the vaccines.

Additional dog vaccinations include bordatella, Lyme disease and coronavirus. However, if you live in an area with low instances of Lyme and coronavirus, your veterinarian usually won't recommend the vaccination. Bordatella is required every six months if you frequently board your dog or take him to a daycare, but if you don't, giving the booster at such a high frequency isn't necessary.

Vaccination Schedule

After the puppy and kitten vaccinations are complete, veterinarians often recommend annual boosters for the required vaccinations. However, many veterinarians now believe that our pets are over-vaccinated.

Another alternative is annual titers, which measure the level of antibodies in your pet's blood toward certain diseases. If the immunity remains strong, no additional vaccination is required. Titers are more expensive, but if you're concerned about over-vaccinating your pet, discuss your options with your veterinarian.

Vaccination options vary based on your pet and your veterinarian. Discuss the options with your vet to find a vaccination schedule with which you are comfortable.