Like humans, pets require vaccinations to stay as health and disease-free as possible. Also similar to humans, pets need “booster” vaccines every 1-3 years to keep the vaccinations active and up-to-date.
At Wilkinson Animal Hospital, we can help pet owners stay on schedule with their pet’s vaccinations, while also offering vaccination recommendations customized for each pet. Pet vaccinations are divided into two main groups - core pet vaccines and non-core vaccines.
Core vaccines are advised for every pet. We recommend starting core pet vaccines around 8 weeks of age, or in some cases as young as 6 weeks of age. Non-core vaccines are recommended based on the pet’s lifestyle and health. For instance, we will suggest some non-core vaccines for dogs and cats that are solely outdoor animals, or those that are boarded frequently and attend pet daycares. Today, we will help explain the different types of pet vaccinations offered, which ones we recommend for all pets, along with the importance of vaccinating your pet.
Why It is Important to Vaccinate Your Pet
For your pet to live her healthiest life, we recommend keeping your pet’s vaccinations updated. Veterinary research shows that the extensive use of pet vaccinations within the last century has protected the lives of millions of animals from diseases. Vaccinations offer many benefits for pets and pet owners, including:
Types of Pet Vaccinations
As we mentioned earlier, there are two main categories of pet vaccinations, non-core and core vaccines. Dogs and cats require different vaccinations to protect against diseases. Below are our recommendation of core and non-core vaccines for dogs and cats.
Core Vaccines for Dogs
Core vaccinations are recommended for all dogs, as they protect from lethal, untreatable diseases. To help build effective immunity, some core vaccines will need to be re-administered multiple times during a puppy’s first year of life.
Rabies vaccination. Rabies is a viral disease in mammals that is highly lethal. Rabies is often transmitted from the bite of an animal infected with the disease. For dogs, rabies is 100% fatal, and prevention is crucial. Most states require pet owners to keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations up-to-date. Puppies require a rabies vaccination around 3 months of age, a second vaccination after 1 year, then an annual rabies booster every 3 years.
Distemper vaccination. Distemper is a contagious airborne disease in dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals. Like rabies, there is no cure for distemper, and prevention is necessary to keep dogs safe. Puppies require 3 doses of this vaccination between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. Puppies also need a booster a year after completing their first series of vaccinations, then an annual distemper booster every 3 years.
Parvovirus vaccination. Parvo is a contagious viral infection for dogs that is most common in unvaccinated puppies less than four months of age. Like rabies and distemper, there is no known cure for parvo, which can lead to death. Dogs over 16 weeks of age should be given 2 doses of this vaccine 3-4 weeks apart, along with a 1 year booster, then an annual parvovirus booster every 3 years.
Adenovirus, type-1 vaccination (canine hepatitis). Type-1 adenovirus, also known as canine hepatitis, is transmitted to dogs via urine and feces. Canine hepatitis can cause severe liver damage and death. Two doses of adenovirus vaccinations should be given to dogs over 16 weeks of age about 3-4 weeks apart, as well as a 1-year booster after the initial cycle, then an annual adenovirus booster every 3 years.
Non-core Vaccines for Dogs
As we mentioned earlier, we will recommend non-core vaccinations depending on the pet’s risk of exposure. Below are some of the most common non-core vaccines for dogs:
Parainfluenza vaccination. Parainfluenza infection is an upper respiratory infection that often occurs simultaneously with bordetella and leads to kennel cough. Since this infection is not usually lethal, we will typically recommended this vaccination for dogs who are boarded often.
Bordetella vaccination. Bordetella is similar to parainfluenza, in that it is not typically a serious illness and generally occurs in dogs who are boarded regularly.
Lyme disease vaccination. Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease that can lead to heart, kidney, joint, and neurological disorders in dogs.
Leptospirosis vaccination. Leptospirosis infections are caused by bacteria in water and soil, and it is treated through antibiotics. We will recommend leptospirosis vaccinations for dogs who live in a high-risk area with standing water and large population of rodents.
Canine influenza vaccination. Canine influenza is similar to bordetella and parainfluenza, as it is one of the many viruses than can cause kennel cough.
Lyme Disease Vaccination for Dogs in Gastonia, NC
Ticks are an incredibly common parasite in North Carolina and all across the southeast. Ticks are the most prevalent in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, and some species are even active in winter. They are external parasites, meaning they survive off the blood of a host animal by latching themselves onto the animal and sucking its blood with their mouths. This process can spread blood borne diseases, especially to our dogs. Ticks love to latch onto dogs around the head, neck, and ear area. North Carolina is home to 4 different kinds of ticks - the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, the lone star tick, the black legged tick, also known as a deer tick, and the Longhorned tick.
The Longhorned tick (Haemaphyalis longicorns) is a rare tick species which has recently been discovered in North Carolina. These ticks originated from East Asia, and they have not existed in the United States long, as they were first identified in the fall of 2017 in New Jersey. However, because they reproduce parthenogenetically (without a male), one female tick can create an entire population, and they have already spread to 4 states in the United States.
The United States Department of Agriculture has now identified the Longhorned tick on opossums in Polk County. Due to the fact that this species of tick is an aggressive biter, they can cause significant blood loss and distress when they latch onto animals. Year round tick prevention can help protect our pets and environment from this invasive species of tick.
The black-legged tick is the primary transmitter of Lyme disease. In 2018, North Carolina reported a total of 5,057 positive cases of Lyme disease. In Gaston county, 19 positive cases of Lyme disease were reported.
While the Lyme disease vaccination is technically considered a “non-core” vaccine, we recommend Lyme disease vaccinations for most dogs in our region, especially for outdoor pets who live in wooded areas. Not only will the Lyme disease vaccine help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease, but it will also stop your dog from becoming a Lyme carrier and transmitting the disease to you or your family members.
Beyond vaccinating your pet for Lyme disease, we also recommend routine physical exams every 6 to 12 months to test pets for tick-transmitted diseases, along with routinely performing physical checks for ticks and providing dogs with a year-round parasite prevention for ticks at home.
Core Vaccines for Cats
Like core vaccines for dogs, core vaccines for cats are recommended to all cats, and kittens will need boosters to help build immunity.
Rabies vaccination. Rabies is lethal for cats, and prevention through vaccinations is the only way to keep your cat safe. Kittens will require an initial rabies vaccination at around 8 weeks of age, as well as a revaccination 1 year later, along with annual rabies vaccinations every 3 years.
Feline distemper vaccination. Feline distemper is similar to canine distemper, in that it is highly contagious and can lead to death. Kittens require a distemper vaccination around 8 weeks of age, then 2 more doses about 3-4 weeks apart. Cats require revaccination after 1 year, as well as every 3 years.
Feline herpesvirus vaccination. Feline herpesvirus can lead to a contagious upper respiratory condition and other painful symptoms. Kittens require a distemper vaccination around 8 weeks of age, then 2 more doses about 3-4 weeks apart. Cats require revaccination after 1 year, then annually every 3 years.
Calicivirus vaccination. Calicivirus is a highly contagious upper respiratory condition in cats. Similar to feline herpesvirus, it can lead to painful conditions, like joint pain, oral ulcerations, fever, and even death. Kittens require a calicivirus vaccination around 8 weeks of age, then 2 more doses about 3-4 weeks apart. Cats then require another vaccination after 1 year, then every 3 years.
Non-core vaccines for Cats
Non-core vaccines are recommended to cats who live in areas that might put them at risk for certain diseases, as well as cats who are boarded frequently. The two most common non-core vaccines for cats include:
Feline leukemia vaccination. Feline leukemia is a virus that is transmitted from cat-to-cat that can lead to cancer and immunosuppression. Kittens who require a feline leukemia vaccination will need to be vaccinated around 8 weeks of age, then receive 2 more doses about 3-4 weeks apart. Adult cats will need an annual booster every 2 years, or every year for cats at a higher risk.
Determining the exact vaccines to give your pet will depend on a variety of conditions, like lifestyle, geographic area, and the pet’s health. We recommend that all cats and dogs receive all of their core vaccinations. We can help you determine which non-core vaccinations your pet might need during our routine pet wellness exams. Learn more about pet vaccinations at Wilkinson Animal Hospital today, call (704) 824-9876.