Vaccinations are extremely important for the overall health and well being of your dog or cat. Vaccinations can protect your pet from life-threatening diseases like distemper, parvovirus, leukemia and rabies.
We will advise you as to which vaccinations your individual cat or dog needs. Depending on your pet’s age, lifestyle, breed and other factors, our veterinarians will recommend the best vaccine schedule for him or her.
Why do kittens and puppies need so many vaccines?
Puppies and kittens are more susceptible to various diseases than older pets. After they’re born, a nursing puppy or kitten receives antibodies from his mother through her milk. Eventually, this protection fades and your puppy or kitten needs immunization to prevent it from getting sick. However, the mother’s protection can interfere with the vaccines and therefore, it’s difficult to determine when vaccines will be able to provide immunization. That is why puppies and kittens need so many vaccines. If the maternal protection interferes with earlier vaccines, you pet will still be protected by the later vaccines.
Below are typically recommended vaccine schedules for puppies and kittens.
What do these vaccines protect against?
The “D” in the DHLPP means that the vaccine protects against distemper. This extremely contagious viral infection can be deadly, especially in puppies or in dogs weakened by other illnesses, stress or old age. A dog with distemper generally looks very ill, with runny eyes and nose, coughing and a fever. They will usually also have diarrhea and vomiting. Eventually the disease affects the nervous system, causing seizures, confusion and partial paralysis.
Hepatitis is the “H” in the DHLPP vaccine. It is a very contagious virus that infects the liver and other internal organs. Often the first sign of hepatitis in a dog is when a cloudy blue layer forms over their eyes. They may show other signs of liver failure as well. The disease is difficult to treat once contracted, and is often fatal.
Leptospirosis, the “L” in DHLPP, is a disease that both pets and people can get. Unlike the other parts of the DHLPP, leptospirosis is a bacteria, not a virus. It can be transmitted through bodily fluids or through the consumption of infected food or water. The first symptoms are fever, aches and pain, but eventually kidney failure sets in, and an infected dog will be extremely thirsty.
The least deadly of all the diseases that the DHLPP vaccine protects your dog against is the first “P,” parainfluenza. While it is highly contagious, parainfluenza is not normally deadly and can be successfully treated. The symptoms of coughing, sneezing and a runny nose can make your dog very miserable for awhile, but it will eventually go away.
The final “P” in the DHLPP stands for parvovirus, more specifically, canine parvovirus, since there are many types of parvoviruses that infect most types of animals. The disease usually affects puppies, causing diarrhea, often bloody, and vomiting that can lead to serious weight loss. It can be fatal, but is treatable if caught early.
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium commonly associated with respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of the more common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of several viral and bacterial agents responsible for kennel cough syndrome. Bordetella is highly contagious, easily transmitted through the air or direct contact, and resistant to destruction in the environment.
In healthy adult dogs, Bordetella typically causes no more than a mild illness. In puppies or dogs with underlying health issues, however, it can cause severe illness or even death.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. It is transmitted by a bite or saliva from a rabid animal.
Worldwide, about one person every 10 minutes dies of rabies, mostly in Africa and Asia. Although human rabies is relatively rare in the United States, where there are typically only a few cases per year, animal bites are very common.
Dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccinating pets not only protects them but it provides a “buffer zone” between humans and rabid wild animals. Oregon law requires all dogs to be vaccinated against rabies as early as three months of age.
Oregon law requires that unvaccinated pets that may have been in contact with rabid animals to be vaccinated and quarantined for 4 months (dogs and cats) or 6 months (ferrets), or euthanized. The contact animal, such as a bat, is considered rabid unless it is tested and is negative.
Why It’s Very Important to Vaccinate Cats for Rabies: Nationally, twice as many cats as dogs are reported to have rabies each year, which is why it’s important to vaccinate your cats for rabies. Cats are natural predators and may be attracted to bats, which could be rabid. Cats come into contact with bats far more often than other pets and, if not vaccinated, may have to be euthanized after such contact.
The FVRCP vaccination is an important part of your cat’s routine. It prevents three potentially deadly airborne viruses: rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.
The R in FVRCP is Rhinotracheitis which is triggered by the common feline herpes virus. Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and drooling. Your cat’s eyes may become crusted with mucous, and he or she may sleep much more and eat much less than normal. If left untreated this disease causes dehydration, starvation, and eventually, death.
Calicivirus is the C in FVRCP and has similar symptoms, affecting the respiratory system and also causing ulcers in the mouth. It can result in pneumonia if left untreated. Kittens and senior cats are especially vulnerable.
The P in FVRCP is for Panleukopenia which is also known as distemper and is easily spread from one cat to another. Distemper is so common that nearly all cats, regardless of breed or living conditions, will be exposed to it in their lifetime. It’s especially common in kittens who have not yet been vaccinated against it, and symptoms include fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This disease progresses rapidly and requires immediate medical attention. Without intervention, a cat can die within 12 hours of contracting the disease.
These three viruses can be contracted by cats at any age. Kittens should receive their first FVRCP vaccination at 7 to 8 weeks of age, followed by two boosters give 4 weeks apart. Adult cats should receive a booster once every year after the initial kitten series. Adult cats with unknown vaccination records should receive a FVRCP vaccination, plus a booster.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is second only to trauma as the leading cause of death in cats, killing 85% of persistently infected felines within three years of diagnosis. The virus commonly causes anemia or lymphoma, but because it suppresses the immune system, it can also predispose cats to deadly infections.
Feline leukemia is a disease that only affects cats. It cannot be transmitted to people, dogs, or other animals. FeLV is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood, and to some extent, urine and feces. Grooming and fighting seem to be the most common ways for infection to spread. Kittens can contract the disease in utero or through an infected mother’s milk. Because FeLV can affect almost any organ system in the body, clinical signs can vary significantly. In fact, some cats can seem perfectly healthy, but retain the ability to transmit the disease to others.