Vaccinating your dog or cat is a crucial responsibility for every pet parent. Staying up to date with your pet’s vaccinations protects them against a wide range of serious health problems, from rabies and parvovirus to feline distemper and calcivirus.
But how do you know what vaccines your dog or cat needs and when? And how often should you take your pet to the vet for a vaccine checkup? Keep reading to find out.
If you’ve just welcomed a new puppy or kitten into your family, you’ll no doubt be aware that pets need plenty of vaccinations in their first year.
For kittens, as well as a rabies vaccination, they also need multiple shots before 16 weeks of age to protect against feline distemper, feline herpesvirus, and calicivirus. For puppies, as well as a rabies shot, they also need to receive multiple shots to protect against distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus.
Your vet will be able to advise you on your puppy’s vaccination schedule. This will include information on which shots they need and which ones are not essential, as well as when these shots need to be administered.
Before we look at the vaccine schedules for adult dogs and cats, it’s important to understand that there are two types of vaccines available: core and non-core.
Core vaccines are those that are considered to be essential for every pet, while non-core vaccines may be recommended by your vet depending on where you live and your pet’s lifestyle.
For dogs, the core vaccines protect against parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis (adenovirus), and rabies. Non-core vaccines include shots for bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme disease, and leptospirosis.
For cats, core vaccines offer protection against distemper, calicivirus, herpesvirus, and rabies, while non-core vaccines can safeguard your pet against feline leukemia virus, bordetella, and more.
For more information on the vaccines your pet needs, ask your vet.
Once you’ve navigated the many vaccines of puppyhood and kittenhood, it can be hard to keep track of when your pet’s next booster shot is due. Below, you’ll find a general guide of how often your dog will need to receive the following core vaccines:
Rabies. Your dog may need a rabies vaccination every 1 or 3 years, depending on the laws that apply in your state.
DAP or DHPP. You can protect your dog against a range of other serious health issues with one vaccine. For example, the DAP vaccine protects against canine distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus, while the DHPP vaccine protects against those three issues as well as parainfluenza. Dogs need a booster 1 year after they receive the last of their puppy series of vaccines, and then every 3 years after that in most cases.
Your veterinarian will also advise you whether your dog requires any non-core vaccines. Some non-core vaccines need to be administered yearly, but others may require 6-monthly or other intervals. Check with your vet for more details.
How often does your feline need to be vaccinated? Check out the below for details of how often your cat needs to be administered core vaccines.
Rabies. Cats require a rabies booster shot every 1 or 3 years, depending on laws where you live and the vaccine used.
FVRCP. Please note that your cat will receive a combination vaccine. The FVRCP vaccine protects your cat against feline distemper, calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis (which is triggered by the herpesvirus). Your kitten will receive their first vaccination at around 6-8 weeks of age, followed by booster shots every 3-4 weeks until they’re around 20 weeks old. They’ll then receive another booster after 1 year, and then subsequent booster shots every 3 years in most cases.
Of course, your pet may need a non-core vaccine on the recommendation of your veterinarian. Vaccination schedules for non-core vaccines can also vary, so check with your vet for more information.
As you can see, it can be quite difficult to keep track of your pet’s vaccination schedules. This is where your veterinarian comes to the rescue —a good vet will always notify you when your dog or cat’s next shot is due.
Even if your dog or cat isn’t due for a vaccination, it’s still a very good idea to take them to the vet for an annual checkup. This way, your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your canine or feline does need any shots to help them stay healthy. Just as importantly, they’ll also be able to give your pet a thorough exam and work out whether they have any other health problems that need to be addressed.
In short, an annual checkup (or maybe even a 6-monthly checkup for older pets) is a great way to help your pet stay in shape and enjoy the best possible chance of a long and healthy life.