Giving your puppy or kitten a great start in life depends on many things. Keeping your pet healthy and well for the long term will depend on the care they receive from you and from their healthcare team.
Developing a health and wellness plan with your veterinarian, which includes the proper puppy and kitten vaccines, is a wonderful place to begin.
Why A Series?
The veterinary community has always balanced the number of vaccines a pet needs using lifestyle as a guide – breed, age, and where and how pets are active. So why do we still recommend a series of vaccines for puppies and kittens?
Puppies and kittens have maternal antibodies that they get from their mother’s milk. These maternal antibodies are excellent at protecting young puppies and kittens from viral and bacterial infections while their immune systems are maturing. But, they also block the immune system from responding to vaccines and mounting an immune response.
The maternal antibodies decline from about 6 weeks of age until 16 weeks. As the puppy and kitten’s natural protection declines, vaccination protects them from exposure to major viral diseases. Veterinarians administer vaccines every 3-4 weeks starting at 6 to 8 weeks, until the puppy or kitten is 14 to 16 weeks of age. That way, as maternal antibodies fall, lower levels don’t leave them exposed; instead, the immune system is activated.
Puppy and Kitten Vaccines
Puppy and kitten vaccinations differ a bit. While vaccine schedules will be tailored to a puppy and kitten’s specific needs, some vaccines are considered “core”. These vaccines protect against highly infectious, deadly or zoonotic disease:
Distemper (DHPP) – Given to prevent deadly and highly infectious diseases; Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. Given beginning at 8 weeks of age, 3 to 4 weeks apart until the puppy is 16 weeks old.
Rabies – Rabies is transmissible to humans and there is no treatment. Given after 4 months of age, and a booster at one year; 3 year boosters thereafter.
Leptospirosis – This disease is picked up from the urine of wildlife and is zoonotic to humans. Can be given as early as 6 weeks with a booster 2 to 4 weeks later, then boosted annually.
Other vaccines that may be recommended are:
- Lyme disease
- Rattlesnake vaccine
- Canine influenza
In kittens, core vaccines are:
Feline distemper (FVRCP) – A combination vaccine that protects against deadly viruses including Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia, and Chlamydia Psittaci. Given as a series one every 3 weeks beginning at 6 weeks of age until the kitten is 16 weeks old, then boostered annually.
Rabies – A deadly disease, this vaccine is given at 3 months of age or older, boosted annually.
Feline Leukemia – Typically recommended for all cats who go outdoors and for those in multiple-cat households. Kittens are tested via a blood sample and given 2 vaccines, 3-4 weeks apart beginning at 9 weeks of age.
Many of the viruses we vaccinate for can be found in the environment and/or can be contracted from other cats and dogs. Please don’t bring your puppy or kitten to public places like dog parks or pet stores until they are fully vaccinated.