Pet Vaccinations 101

Pet Vaccinations 101

An Overview for Pet Owners


As a pet owner, you hear a lot about vaccinations and how your four-legged friend has to have them. But what are pet vaccinations? And what vaccinations should your pet have?

Protecting Pets from Disease

Simply put, vaccinations are given to protect your pet against disease. During vaccination, a modified bacteria, parasite or virus is administered to your pet by injection or intra-nasally. The vaccination triggers an immune response within your pet’s body to protect against a specific disease.

Vaccinations for Young Pets

Veterinarians usually recommend giving puppies and kittens a series of vaccinations starting when they are approximately six weeks old. Young animals need to be vaccinated early on since the natural immunity in their mothers’ milk gradually wears off and they become vulnerable to infectious diseases.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a series of vaccinations are usually scheduled approximately three to four weeks apart, with the final vaccination series being administered when they are 12 to 16 weeks old.

The Importance of Routine Shots

Routine booster shots will also be necessary to keep vaccine levels high enough in your pet to protect her over time. Fortunately, pet owners appear to be keeping up with their pets’ shots; the AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook reports that 64.4% of dog owners and 63.7% of cat owners received vaccination services or products during their most recent veterinary visit.

Core vs. Non-Core Vaccinations

Vaccinations for both cats and dogs can be categorized into two groups: core and non-core. Core vaccines are recommended for cats and dogs with an unknown vaccination history. Non-core vaccines are optional vaccines that should be considered depending on your animal’s risk.

Core vaccinations for puppies and dogs include:

  • Canine distemper virus
  • Parvovirus
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
  • Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)
  • Leptospirosis
  • Giardia

Core vaccines for kittens and cats include:

  • Feline rhinotracheitis
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline panleukopenia virus
  • Rabies

Non-core vaccines include vaccines for:

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Giardia

Know the Facts

It’s important to remember that not all vaccines are 100% effective; a vaccinated pet may not develop adequate immunity and can become ill. However, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. When vaccinated, pets are protected against life-threatening diseases.

Consider getting pet insurance for your puppy or kitten. Curious youngsters can easily find trouble and are more likely to have an unexpected trip to the veterinary hospital than an adult pet. Insuring your pet while young and healthy can eliminate issues about pre-existing conditions and allow your pet to be fully insured for any problems that might come his way. Click here to get a quote today.