Puppy and Kitten Vaccines

Arlington Animal Hospital is here to help you and your puppy or kitten have the best start possible to live a long and healthy life. These early months are especially important to guiding the health and behavior of your fur baby and the adult they will become. Vaccines are an important part of the health of your pet, and we’ll share some information about why they are important and how they work.

Why do puppy and kittens have to get a series of vaccines?

Vaccines are important for pets of any age. Adults, kittens, and puppies all need to be protected from infectious diseases. As adults vaccinations are given less often and are administered based on age, breed, and lifestyle.

Puppies and kittens are given a series of vaccines because of their immune system. They receive maternal antibodies from their mother’s milk and these antibodies are designed to protect against bacterial and viral infections as their immune system develops. Timing is everything because mom’s antibodies also block the immune system from responding to vaccines at the level necessary for protection.

Maternal antibodies decline over time, sometime between 6 and 16 weeks of age. Because we don’t know the exact time when this immunity wanes and they become susceptible to disease, a series of vaccines is given to make sure the puppy or kitten is protected.

We give puppy and kitten vaccines starting around 8 weeks of age, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age to be sure they are protected. Instead of being exposed to diseases, the baby’s immune system is activated through vaccination.

What vaccines are puppies and kittens given?

Dogs and cats can become sick with different diseases so we must vaccinate them differently. There are diseases that are highly contagious, zoonotic, or deadly that dogs and cats can catch. Therefore, there are vaccines that are considered “Core” that protect against those dangerous diseases.

Core vaccines for Kittens are the following:

  • Distemper (FVRCP) — The feline distemper vaccine protects against 3 life-threatening feline diseases: Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. This vaccine is given every 3 to 4 weeks, beginning at 8 weeks of age, until the kitten is 16 weeks old, and boosted every 3 years.
  • Rabies — All mammals are susceptible to rabies and, in most states, dogs and cats are required by law to be vaccinated for the disease. In kittens, it is given at 15-16 weeks of age, with a booster at one year, and then every 3 years.
  • Feline Leukemia — This vaccine is recommended for all kittens and cats who go outside, and cats in multi-cat households. Kittens are tested with a blood sample and vaccinated twice, given 2 to 4 weeks apart, beginning at 12 weeks of age.

In puppies, core vaccines are the following:

  • Distemper (DHPP) — The canine distemper vaccine prevents four different potentially deadly diseases, including Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. This vaccine is given beginning at 8 weeks of age, 3 to 4 weeks apart, until the puppy is 16 weeks old.
  • Rabies — Rabies is a deadly and preventable disease. Because it can be transmitted to humans as well, vaccination is required. This vaccine is given after 15-16 weeks of age, followed by a booster at one year; boosters are given every 3 years thereafter.

Other vaccines that your veterinarian may recommend include:
  • Lyme
  • Canine Influenza
  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
  • Leptospirosis

While not mandatory, we highly recommend the Lyme vaccine and Leptospirosis vaccine and depending on lifestyle, the Bordetella and Canine Influenza vaccines.

Lyme is an illness that affects both animals and humans and is known as a zoonotic disease. It is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. Transmitted through tick bites, the disease can be difficult to detect and can cause serious and recurring health problems. Vaccination begins at 12 weeks of age, boosted 2 to 4 weeks later, and then boosted annually.

Leptospirosis is a disease that is spread through the urine of wildlife. This disease is also zoonotic. Vaccination begins at 12 weeks of age, boosted 2 to 4 weeks later, and then boosted annually.

Canine Influenza is caused by the canine influenza virus, is highly contagious and easily spread from infected dogs to other dogs by direct contact, nasal secretions (through barking, coughing or sneezing), contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs.

Bordetella bronchiseptica, commonly known as Kennel Cough, is bacterial infection that causes inflammation of your dog’s upper respiratory system. This inflammation leads to coughing and illness and can expose your dog to secondary infections. Dogs can become exposed in boarding or social settings.

Please don’t take your puppy or kitten to public places like the dog park, pet store, or the beach until they are fully vaccinated!

If you have any questions about your pet’s health or vaccines, please give us a call. Your puppy’s and kitten’s health and well-being are important to us.