Cat and Dog Vaccines: What to Know

Puppy getting vaccinated.

Just like humans, dogs and cats are vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Fortunately, we have the means to protect them from these diseases by vaccinating them regularly. But which pet vaccinations are necessary? And how often should they be given?

How Do I Know Which Vaccines My Dog or Cat Needs?

Ask your vet what vaccines are recommended for your pet.

  • Ask if the vaccine is a core vaccine or a non-core vaccine.
  • If it’s a core vaccine, ask what the risk is of not giving the vaccine.

Core vaccines are considered vital to pets based on exposure risk, disease severity, or transmissibility to humans.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that dogs and cats receive core vaccines as puppies and kittens. Core vaccines protect against highly contagious diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. The core diseases can infect a dog or cat at any time during its life. However, the risk of infection for puppies and kittens is much higher than for older animals.

Noncore vaccines are recommended based on your pet’s lifestyle and their likelihood of exposure to certain diseases.

Rabies: Core Vaccine for Dogs and Cats

Rabies is considered a core vaccine for dogs and cats.

Rabies is a viral disease that spreads through the saliva of an infected animal. It can infect mammals, birds, and some reptiles. Dogs are the most common domestic animal that gets rabies in the United States.

Rabies affects the nervous system and ultimately leads to death. There is no cure for rabies once symptoms appear.

What Are the Core Dog Vaccines?

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the following are considered core vaccines for canines:

  • Distemper. Distemper is a viral disease that can cause respiratory problems, eye inflammation, and central nervous system damage. It’s not fatal in most cases but can be severe in puppies under three months or adults over six.
  • Parvovirus (Parvo). Parvo is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration in dogs exposed to it. It can be spread through contact with an infected dog’s stool or urine or by eating contaminated food.
  • Canine Hepatitis. Canine hepatitis is a contagious viral disease that affects dogs of all ages and breeds. The virus can be spread through contact with infected dogs or indirect contact with contaminated objects.

What Vaccines Are Non-Core but Frequently Recommended for Dogs?

The following vaccines are not core dog vaccines but may be recommended based on lifestyle:

What Are the Core Cat Vaccines?

According to the ASPCA, the following are considered core vaccines for cats:

Panleukopenia (feline distemper). Panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease that affects cats. It causes vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration and even death. It can be transmitted through direct contact with infected cats and their feces, but it’s also possible to get the virus by contact with contaminated objects.

Feline calicivirus. Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory tract infections in cats. It is one of the most common causes of respiratory disease in cats worldwide. FCV is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory secretions or feces from infected cats, but it can also be spread indirectly via contaminated objects such as food bowls or litter boxes.

Feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis). Feline herpesvirus type I is one of the most common causes of upper respiratory infection in cats and can also cause conjunctivitis. It usually causes mild disease, but in some cases, it can be severe or fatal. The virus is spread through direct contact with infected cats and their secretions.

What Vaccines Are Not Essential but Frequently Recommended for Cats?

Non-core cat vaccines may be given depending on lifestyle. These include:

  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Bordetella
  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus

How Often Should a Pet Get Its Shots?

The frequency depends on how long the specific vaccine lasts.

Pet owners should discuss with their veterinarian which vaccines are appropriate for their pet and how often they need to be administered. The recommended frequency of a particular vaccination will be based on your pet’s age, health status, and risk of exposure to disease-causing organisms.

Do Vaccinations Have Side Effects?

Following a vaccination, it’s typical for pets to suffer some or all of the moderate side effects listed below, usually starting shortly after the shot is administered. Contact your veterinarian immediately if these side effects persist for more than a day or two or cause your pet significant discomfort:

  • Discomfort or swelling at the vaccination site
  • Mild fever
  • Decreased activity and appetite

After your pet has an intranasal vaccination, sneezing, moderate coughing, runny nose, or other respiratory symptoms could appear 2–5 days later.

Talk with your veterinarian today if you’re unsure whether your dog or cat has received all the necessary vaccines.

If you have any questions, please contact us at (916) 737-5670. Our team at East Sacramento Veterinary Center cares about your pet’s wellness.