So many of us have experienced the aches, sneezing, coughing, and sore throat that can come along with a bout of the flu. Today, thanks to decades of science and medical technology, vaccinations help curb the spread of infectious disease throughout the human population. Vaccinations can provide active acquired immunity to certain diseases, in hopes to prevent the contraction of, or lesson the severity of an acquired infectious disease. Knowledge of human infectious diseases and the development of vaccinations eventually gave rise to the use of vaccinations in domestic animals. Below is a review of some of the vaccinations available for the use in dog and cat infectious disease prevention.

Core Canine Vaccines: These vaccines are recommended for all puppies and dogs. These infectious diseases can have a significant effect on the dog’s health and are distributed widely. Some vaccines can be started as early as six weeks and most need boosters.

  • Rabies Virus (fatal, progressive neurological disease)
  • Canine Parvovirus (virus that causes severe gastrointestinal signs, can also affect the bone marrow and heart)
  • Canine Distempervirus (often fatal disease that can cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, and/or neurological signs)
  • Canine Adenovirus (virus that can affect the liver)

Non-core (which does not mean not recommended) Canine vaccines: These vaccines are utilized depending on geographic location and a dog’s lifestyle (e.g. active outdoors, show dog, frequents boarding, grooming, daycare, and training facilities.) Note: This list does not include all of the available vaccines for dog. Check with your local veterinarian as to which non-core vaccines they recommend for your dog.

  • Canine Leptospirosis (urine-borne bacteria that can cause kidney and liver disease, can affect other mammals INCLUDING HUMANS)
  • Canine Parainfluenza Virus and Bordetella Bronchiseptica (causes of infectious respiratory disease, often referred to as “kennel cough”)
  • Canine Borrelia Burgdorferi (bacteria that causes Lyme disease)
  • Canine Influenza virus (causes similar signs to human influenza)

Core Feline Vaccines: These vaccines are recommended for all kittens and cats. These infectious diseases can have a significant effect on the cat’s health, and are distributed widely. Some vaccines can be started as early as six weeks, and most need boosters.

  • Rabies Virus (fatal, progressive neurological disease)
  • Feline Herpesvirus 1 (virus which can cause respiratory signs, conjunctivitis, and corneal ulcers. When contracted, it is often a life-long infection. Recurrent signs of illness often are a result of infection)
  • Feline Calicivirus (virus which can cause respiratory signs, conjunctivitis, and oral ulcers)
  • Feline Panleukopenia Virus (virus which affects the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow)

Non-core Feline vaccines: These vaccines are utilized depending on geographic location and a cat’s lifestyle (e.g. active outdoors, show cat, multi-cat environments, frequents boarding, grooming, daycare, and training facilities.) Note: This list does not include all of the available vaccines for cats. Check with your local veterinarian as to which non-core vaccines they recommend for your cat.

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (virus that compromises the immune system and cause significant, often life-threatening, body-wide issues)
  • FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) (virus compromises immune system leaving patient susceptible to infections and can lead to the development of cancer)

There are certain situations when vaccines are not recommended. On the day of vaccinations, your pet should be overall healthy. If your pet is scheduled for vaccines but is ill, please have your veterinarian examine your pet, address the illness, and plan to vaccinate at another time when the illness has cleared. In cats and dogs with significant illnesses (e.g. severe immunologic diseases, auto-immune diseases, cancer), vaccinations are not recommended. Consult with your local veterinarian if any significant health concerns arise with your pet.

With the advent of vaccines, an unfortunate condition began to come to light in many cats. Tumors were sometimes discovered developing at the site of certain vaccinations. These vaccine-induced sarcomas can be locally invasive masses. Thankfully, vaccine companies have recognized certain ingredients are more prone to inducing these tumors. Vaccine technology/formulations have been changed to decrease the chance of these tumors developing. Again, consulting with your veterinarian about which vaccines (especially non-core) are appropriate for your cat is crucial. Our hopes are to protect our cats from the threat of infectious diseases but provide the lowest risk of vaccine-induced sarcomas by giving the safest available vaccine and the least amount of vaccines needed for the cat’s lifestyle. –Peter Olson, DVM

Peter Olson, DVM, is a 2007 graduate of The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife Beth share their home with two dogs, two cats, four turtles and a Russian Tortoise.

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