Whether you are a first-time pet owner or a seasoned veteran, vaccinations can be a source of confusion for many. There are seemingly and endless slew of letters and numbers which seem to signify almost nothing at all. Part of why vaccinations are so confusing can be because the work that they do cannot be seen directly. When you vaccinate a dog against rabies, the dog (hopefully) never becomes infected with rabies. But the lack of rabies is not something that is clearly seen by any of us.

That is what vaccinations do. They provide your pet with a line of defense against some of the nastiest infections out there, including rabies, canine distemper, or feline leukemia. Preventative measures are often hard to take because the risk is not necessarily visible at the time. However, by vaccinating your pet at an early age, and maintaining booster vaccines throughout their lifetime can help reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of them ever becoming infected by some of these dangerous infectious agents.

For each species, there are sets of “core” vaccines, which every pet should get on a regular basis and maintain at current status. There are also “noncore” vaccines which are not necessarily required but can be recommended depending on each pet’s individual lifestyle. The following is a brief rundown of each for dogs and cats.



Rabies: Rabies is a deadly disease that once contracted, has a nearly 100% case fatality rate. That means that once rabies has been contracted, it cannot be treated. Oftentimes, the only solution to keep rabies from spreading is euthanasia. This makes protection from rabies of utmost importance. Rabies can be given at 3-4 weeks of age, is repeated a year later, then every three years after that.

Canine DHPP: This vaccine is often called the “Distemper” vaccine. However, it is a combination vaccine that takes care of four important infections that dogs are likely to contract. This includes distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. These vaccines are often done for the first time starting at about 6 weeks of age in a series and is given three times, at 3 month intervals.


There are several vaccines that are not core requirements per se but could be significantly useful in specific situations.

Bordetella: This is the kennel cough vaccine. Kennel cough is a bacterial infection that is often contracted in places where your dog is exposed to many different other pets such as boarding facilities or dog parks. It is much like a cold that human beings get that causes coughing and other symptoms. While not usually lethal, it is something that can be vaccinated against. This is a once-yearly vaccine and is often a requirement at most boarding facilities and doggy day cares.

Leptospirosis: Lepto is an infection by a bacteria that is often spread through the urine of wild animals. We usually only recommend vaccinating against leptospirosis if your pet is frequently exposed to wildlife or in an area with standing ponds or lakes. This can be given as a combination in addition to the DHPP vaccine.

Lyme: The Lyme vaccine protects against Lyme disease which is spread by ticks. Unless you are frequently in an area that is heavily infested with ticks, it is not necessarily required.



Rabies: Once again, rabies is a disease that cannot be treated after it has been contracted. Like dogs, rabies can be given at 3-4 months of age, then again a year later, and every three years after that.

FVRCP: Another combination vaccine, however, this one is specially tailored for cats. The combination shot includes vaccines against three deadly airborne disease: rhinotracheitis (also known as feline herpes), calicivirus, panleukopenia (also called feline distemper). This vaccine is done much like the canine combo vaccine, with the first set at about 6 weeks then two more times at intervals of 3 weeks. After the third booster, the vaccine is given once yearly.


Feline Leukemia: Cats are often have contact other cats should be given this vaccine against a contagious virus that is spread through saliva and bites. This vaccine is considered noncore but we recommend it. Before getting the vaccine, note that the veterinarian will likely ask that you test the kitten for leukemia as the vaccine can cause false positives down the line.


We hope this was helpful. As always, feel free to contact us with any other questions or concerns you may have regarding vaccinations.

Remember, we offer a “Puppy Package” and a “Kitten Kit” for young puppies and kittens. The packages include the office visits, vaccinations, as well as a discount on spays and neuters all at an fair upfront cost. Most of what you need for the first year will be covered by this package. We believe that making that initial investment in your young pets life will pay dividends down the line.

Contact us today for more information.