Pet Vaccinations Schedule Recommendations

Pet vaccinations are one of the most important things you can do to keep your cat or dog healthy. Vaccinations should be administered on an appropriate schedule to offer your cat, kitten, puppy or dog the most protection. Vets generally consider some types of vaccines to be necessary, or "core" vaccines, while other vaccines are optional, or "noncore" vaccines. Here's what you should know about vaccination your pets.

When to Begin Vaccinations for Your Cat

Your kitten should begin a vaccination schedule at the age of eight weeks. He should receive boosters at twelve weeks of age, and again at six months of age. Thereafter, your cat should receive yearly vaccination shots.

When to Begin Vaccinations for Your Dog

Your dog should typically receive his first round of vaccinations at about eight weeks of age, though dogs considered to be at high risk of contracting parvovirus may be vaccinated against this deadly disease as young as five weeks. Your dog should receive booster shots at twelve weeks, and again at six months of age. Thereafter, your dog should receive yearly vaccinations.

Recommended Vaccinations for Your Cat

There are several vaccinations considered necessary for cats. Core vaccinations for cats include vaccinations against rabies, panleukopenia or feline distemper, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis. These vaccinations are usually administered as a combination vaccine.

If your cat goes outdoors at all or has any contact with other cats, your vet will strongly recommend vaccinating against feline leukemia, a contagious and deadly viral disease. Your vet will conduct a blood test before administering this vaccine, to make sure your cat hasn't already contracted the virus, and to ensure that your cat's immune system is strong enough to use the vaccine properly. If your cat is older than four months of age, hasn't yet contracted feline leukemia and is kept strictly indoors and away from other outdoor cats, then he isn't at risk of contracting feline leukemia from another cat and you don't need this vaccine.

Recommended Vaccinations for Your Dog

There are four core vaccinations vets recommend for puppies and dogs. Dogs and puppies should be vaccinated against rabies, canine distemper or panleukopenia, parvovirus and hepatitis. Parvovirus is particularly contagious among and deadly to puppies, so if your vet believes your puppy to be at risk of contracting parvovirus he may recommend vaccinating against this disease as early as five weeks of age. Otherwise, your dog should begin his vaccination schedule at eight weeks of age.

Some puppies may require an additional parvovirus booster at 15 weeks of age, especially if they're considered at high risk for contracting the disease. Other vaccinations your dog might need include the vaccination against Lyme disease, which is especially important if you live in the American Northeast, where Lyme disease is most prevalent. Your dog may also need vaccinations against leptospirosis and coronavirus, if you live in an area where these diseases are common. Ask your vet if your dog needs any vaccinations in addition to the core vaccinations.