How Vaccines Help Animals

Vaccines fill an important gap in the way the immune system fights disease. Under normal circumstances, exposure to a disease organism causes the immune system to start making antibodies, specialized disease-fighters constructed to fight that specific germ. Unfortunately, that first exposure is still an unprotected one — a fatal downside when deadly diseases are involved. Vaccines eliminate that risk by imitating the germ we’re trying to defend against. The immune system reacts as if the actual disease was present, manufacturing the right antibodies to prevent real infections from taking hold.

Vaccine Types and Vaccination Schedules

Certain vaccines are always recommended for every dog or cat; these are referred to as core vaccines. For instance, every dog needs to be vaccinated against rabies, hepatitis, parvovirus, and canine distemper. Every cat needs to be vaccinated against rabies, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and feline distemper. Some pets may need additional vaccinations above and beyond the core routine. These non-core vaccinations protect against illnesses that only present a high risk in certain situations, such as boarding environments (including Bordetella and feline leukemia) or wooded areas where ticks roam (raising the threat of Lyme disease).

During the first critical year, puppies and kittens usually receive all their core vaccinations several times, which builds up the strength of the disease resistance. (The cat core vaccinations are combined in an FVRCP shot; the combination for dogs is sometimes referred to as DHPP.) Your adult pet will then need occasional booster shots as each vaccine starts to lose its potency, which may happen over a staggered period of time. If your pet moves into a new life situations or climate, he may need non-core vaccinations for the first time. Our veterinary team will keep you advised of which vaccinations your pet needs, and when it needs them.