When it comes to dog and cat vaccines one size no longer fits all. In
the early days of vaccines, when the vaccines were not as potent or as
long-lasting, it was recommended that all dogs and cats be vaccinated
for every disease for which a vaccine existed, every year.
Now, however, with the advances in vaccine technology, there is no longer
such an easy answer. The following are the latest guidelines recommended
for dogs and cats, respectively, followed by some important final considerations
for both dog and cat owners.
Gone are the days when it is recommended that dogs and cats be
vaccinated for every known disease. Now there are only 4 vaccines
for dogs and 4 for cats, discussed respectively below, that are
highly recommended for all.
The veterinary colleges in the U.S., the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical
Society), and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), have reviewed
the available evidence and come up with new recommendations for dog vaccinations.
They recommend that vaccines be divided into 3 groups: Core, Noncore
(or Optional), and Not Generally Recommended.
CORE VACCINES: These should be administered to all puppies (dogs
less than 6 months old).
For dogs, core vaccines are: Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Canine Parvo
Virus (CPV), Canine Adeno Virue-2, and Rabies virus.
Schedule: All puppies (less than or at 16 weeks of age)
should be vaccinated with core vaccines as follows:
CDV, CPV 7 Adeno-2: One (1) dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks and
12-14 weeks. Greater than 16 weeks - One (1) dose is protective. Booster
at 1 year, then every 3 years. (There is some evidence that these are
protective for up to 7 years).
Rabies (3 year vaccine): One (1) dose at 3-4 months, booster at
1 year, then every 3 years (if allowed by law). Note: This is governed
by state statute. You have to obey the law in your area.
NONCORE VACCINES: Should be used in special circumstances based
on the exposure risk of the animal.
Noncore vaccines for dogs are: Canine Parainfluenza, Leptospirosis spp.,
Bordetella bronchiseptica, and Borelia burgdorferi.
Schedule: The use of these should be discussed with your
veterinarian, or more information can be obtained from AAHA or AVMA. Because
certain diseases or certain activities may make your dog more susceptible,
they should be considered on a case-by-case basis. (Example: if you board
your dog, most kennels will require Bordetella [kennel cough] vaccine.)
NOT GENERALLY RECOMMENDED VACCINES: Are those that have little
or no indication. These are for diseases that are of little clinical significance
or readily respond to treatment.
Not generally recommended vaccines are: Giardia spp., Canine corona virus
and canine adenovirus-1.
Schedule: Not generally recommended vaccines should be
used only under very specific circumstances. Most pet owners will not
have these circumstances.
For outdoor cats, in addition to the four highly recommended vaccines,
a fifth vaccine - Feline Leukemia (FlV) -- is recommended.
For all you cat lovers, the situation is much the same. The American
Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) put out recommendations in
2000. They divided vaccines into Highly Recommended, Recommended,
and Not Recommended for Routine Use categories.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED VACCINES: Inludes those for Feline parvovirus
(FPV) (the cause of feline panleukopenia or 'distemper'), Feline herpesvirus-1
(FHV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and Rabies.
Schedule: For FPV, FHV, FCV: 1 dose at 6 -8 weeks, then
every 3 to 4 weeks until at least 12 weeks old. Booster at 1 year; then
every 3 years.
For Rabies: Also highly recommended and possibly required by law
in your area. ALL CATS THAT GO OUTSIDE SHOULD BE VACCINATED FOR RABIES.
Give 1 injection at 3-4 months. Booster at 1 year, and then every 3 years
(if using a 3 year vaccine). Note: This is governed by state statute.
You have to obey the law in your area.
RECOMMENDED VACCINES: Includes those for Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
in cats that are NOT restricted to a closed, indoor, FeLV-negative environment.
Schedule: Feline Leukemia is advised for outside cats,
or those in contact with FeLV positive or unknown status cats. Inside
cats with no exposure to other cats probably don't need this vaccine.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR ROUTINE USE: Includes Chlamydia psittaci,
Feline Infectious Peritonitis, Microsporum canis (ringworm), Bordetella
bronchiseptica, and Giardia lamblia.
Schedule: Generally only for cats in unusual circumstances.
Consult with your veterinarian if you think your cat falls into this group.
As with the dog vaccines, you should discuss your cat's individual needs
with your veterinarian.
Important Considerations for
Dog and Cat Owners
Many veterinarians still vaccinate on the old every year schedule. There
are several reasons for this: many still believe that your pet is best
protected by following the manufacturers' recommendations. Manufacturers
mostly have not changed their recommendations because to do so costs hundreds
of thousands of dollars to do the tests required by the USDA.
Also, the manufacturers are in business to sell vaccines. In the event
of a pet getting a disease for which it is vaccinated, the drug companies
will stand behind the veterinarian only if the pet is vaccinated according
to label directions. Most vets don't want to get sued.
Some vets are not up to date on the very latest research. Some feel (correctly)
that the only way to get a pet in the door for an annual exam is by pushing
the vaccines. Even without the vaccines, you should
take your pet in for yearly checkups ... you wouldn't take your child
to the doctor only once every 5-7 years, would you? That's what
a year in your pet' life is equivalent to.
Yearly dog and cat checkups can identify problems early, when they are
more likely to be treatable, instead of after your pet becomes sick and
you have to shift to crisis mode.
Vaccines can help protect your pet from disease, but they are not benign
or perfectly safe or 100% effective. You must weigh the risks of the disease
against the side effects of the vaccine.
Your pet's best chance for a healthy life is for you to be an informed
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About Dr. Kitti Wielandt, DVM:
Veterinarian and SixWise.com columnist Dr. Kitti Wielandt has been in
small animal practice since graduating in 1987 from the University of
Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
She practiced in Illinois from 1987 to 1996 and in Virginia from 1996
to the present. Her focus is on small animal medicine and surgery, Veterinary
Chiropractic, Veterinary Acupuncture and Massage therapy on people and
animals. She has a special interest in behavior and training, and in nutrition.
Dr, Wielandt is owned by Ceri, her 15 year old Tonkinese cat, and by
Pen, her 7 year old American Pit Bull Terrier, who shows in conformation,
weight pull, obedience and Rallye obedience.
Dr. Wielandt lives in the woods near a small town in the Shenandoah Valley