Vaccinations and Their Importance for Puppies and Kittens

Most people know that dogs and cats routinely get annual vaccinations. What some people are surprised to learn is that puppies and kittens go through a series of boosters when they are young.

In most areas of the country, vaccinations are started at six weeks of age. There are some variations after that but generally follow-up vaccines are given every three to four weeks for a series of three to four boosters. This can vary as well depending on the veterinarian’s preference.

The vaccination commonly referred to as the “distemper” vaccine is the one that is given as a booster over this period. “Distemper” vaccines are often given as a combination with several other vaccines. Some are a combination of three, five or seven other vaccinations all in one dose.

These vaccines help protect the pet from various diseases that can make a pet ill. These include Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus, Bordetella, and many times Leptospirosis. Many of the viruses vaccinated against can be highly contagious and can cause a puppy to become seriously ill.

Vaccinations are important to help build up the immune system of puppies and kittens. Pets that have not been thoroughly vaccinated and come in contact with viruses or other non-vaccinated pets are at risk of contracting a sickness that can even cause death. Kittens that have not been vaccinated commonly come down with severe respiratory diseases while puppies can come down with a number of things with the most commonly known disease being Parvo.

Aside from the feline combination vaccine that is also referred to as “distemper”, kittens can also be vaccinated for Feline Leukemia. Depending on the geographical location and the individual veterinarian’s recommendations, Feline Leukemia may or may not be indicated for each kitten. Typically, this vaccine also requires a booster about a month after the first injection.

Many veterinarians recommend the Leukemia vaccination for cats that have access to the outdoors and cats living in catteries, shelters and rescues. Cats that are housed singly or in very small numbers in a household of Feline Leukemia negative cats typically do not need to be vaccinated against the disease. However, it does vary depending on some small factors and should be discussed with the veterinarian. If the vaccine is to be given, a Feline Leukemia test should be performed prior to the injection to be sure that the kitten is negative for the disease at the present time.

Bordetella is another vaccination that is commonly given and is available for both dogs and cats. Typically, it’s a vaccine that is given to pets that are boarding, are taken to the groomer frequently or are exposed to many other dogs at dog parks, obedience training, and other events. Bordetella is commonly known as “kennel cough” as when infected, the pet will begin to cough. The vaccine is given to help prevent this ailment and is often more affected when given prior to the date of contact with the other pets.

There are many vaccinations available for pet’s through the veterinarian. It is important to only have your pet vaccinated by a licensed vet instead of purchasing vaccines over the counter, from breeders or from pet stores. The vaccines have to be kept at controlled temperatures at all times in order to be effective. Vaccines purchased elsewhere are not reliable and may not protect your pet.

Having the pet vaccinated through the veterinarian will also give the added bonus of having a physical exam to help ensure the health of the pet. Buying vaccines and administering them yourself, by a breeder or anyone other than the vet can cause certain things to go uncared for that could have been addressed by the doctor. The examination is the most important part of the appointment; even more so, in many cases, than the vaccinations themselves.

Understanding the importance of vaccinations can go a long way in understanding the general needs of your pet. State laws vary stating which vaccines are required for the various types of pets. Schedules vary from vet to vet regarding how often and which boosters are to be given. Regardless of how often it is recommended for your pet, keeping up with the routine care that your vet suggests is the best way to provide your puppy or kitten with the best care he deserves.