Vaccinating Your Dog Or Cat: What's Really Needed?

4 November 2015
 Categories: , Blog


Vaccinations are an important part of preventative veterinary medicine. For many owners, they provide the first line of defense against potential illnesses like rabies, feline leukemia, or parvovirus. They also help to stem the spread of potentially communicable diseases in your pet. While not every type of pet requires yearly or early vaccination, dogs and cats certainly do. Learn what the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) suggests for each in the helpful article below.


Cats have incredibly sensitive systems and are prone to a number of devastating diseases. Furthermore, they tend to socialize when let outdoors, increasing the risk of spreading communicable diseases. Even if your cat stays indoors, he or she is not fully protected--viruses and bacteria can travel home with you on your clothes, hands, or shoes. For this reason, all kittens and adult cats should be vaccinated regularly.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association recommends that all cats be vaccinated with at least the core group of vaccines, including the following:

  • Rabies
  • Feline panleukopenia
  • Feline herpesvirus-1
  • Calicivirus

Your veterinarian will work with you to establish a protocol that works best with your cat's needs. Some vaccines provide protection for less than a year, while others may cover your furry friend for as much as several years.

The frequency mostly depends on your cat's health and risk level. Felines that remain indoors usually need just the core vaccines. Those that go outside regularly may need other non-core vaccines that cover diseases like feline leukemia or bordetella, as there is an increased risk of transmission when they encounter other animals.


Communicable diseases are very common in dogs, and they can spread extremely fast if pet owners don't vaccinate. The 2015 dog flu outbreak is a good example of how fast disease can spread. Because most dog lovers take their furry friends out and about, whether it's just around the neighborhood or through the dog park, man's best friend has an increased risk to contract communicable diseases. 

In 2011, the AVMA updated vaccination schedules for dogs based on new evidence and information. In the changes, new core vaccinations were identified. These include:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Adenovirus-2

All puppies should receive these vaccinations before the age of six months, with regular boosters at intervals set by your vet throughout life. Much as it is with cats, or even human children, the exact schedule will depend on your pet's health and risk factors for disease.

Depending on where you live, your vet may also recommend that your dog be vaccinated for canine parainfluenza virus--a disease rapidly spreading throughout some areas of the United States. Dogs in shelters, pet boarding or multi-dog homes may also require bordetella bronchiseptica, leptospira spp., and borrelia burgdorferi vaccinations, as each is extremely contagious.

Preventative care doesn't just keep your pet healthy throughout his or her life--it can also save you money. Treating many of these diseases can be very costly, and isn't always successful. A simple round of vaccinations should be considered an affordable way to prevent higher vet bills later on down the road. For questions about whether pet vaccinations are right for your pet, schedule an appointment with your vet today.