Vaccinating Your Dogs and Cats


Vaccinations protect our pets from a number of potentially deadly infectious diseases. Because many pet owners share their homes with multiple pets, vaccination programs for both dogs and cats will be covered in this feature.

Vaccination Fast Facts for Dogs

- If you are adopting or buying a pet from an animal shelter, rescue society or a reputable breeder, the pet's vaccination program should have been started. You may have to pay a fee to cover this cost and will then be responsible for following up with booster shots. (Be sure to take records of any previous shots with you to the vet.)

- Pets obtained from other sources are frequently not vaccinated. Book an appointment for vaccinations immediately.

- A kitten or puppy's vaccinations should begin at about six weeks. One to three booster shots will be required over the next few months, depending on the age and breed of your pet.

- If you adopt an older pet, and its previous vaccination history is not known, you will be advised to start the booster series the same as you would you would for a young puppy, but fewer booster shots may be required in a mature immune system.

- Once the initial series of shots is complete, your pet will be protected from many contagious and often deadly diseases. In order to be effective, annual booster shots are necessary.

- For cats, vaccinations should include: feline distemper (panleukopenia), rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, feline leukemia, and rabies.

- For dogs, vaccinations should include: canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, adenovirus, distemper, and rabies. Vaccinations for giardia, lyme disease, and bordatella are also available and will be recommended depending on where you live.

- A veterinarian should examine your pet annually. This is a good time to take a stool sample. (If you ask in advance, your vet can provide you with a sterile container to collect the sample. Otherwise, use a clean zip-top baggie.) Your vet will test your pet's feces for internal parasites. The treatment is inexpensive and effective, and absolutely necessary.

- Your veterinarian should also conduct a general physical examination of your pet. This examination should include checking for any abnormalities and overall health, taking your pet's temperature, feeling the abdomen, listening to the heart and chest, and checking the eyes, ears, throat, and teeth.

- This first visit to the vet is a great opportunity to discuss general pet care, feeding, training, sterilization, and identification. Feel free to ask questions, no matter how silly they may seem.

The initial cost for the complete series may vary and seem expensive to you, but it's certainly better than paying for emergency medical treatment and watching your pet suffer the ill effects of a preventable disease. A good vaccination program is essential to protect your pet from disease and to ensure a long healthy life.

Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin