Pet Vaccinations 101 – Frequently Asked Questions about Vaccinating Your Dog or Cat

vaccinate dog

One of your veterinarian’s primary goals is to prevent your pet from getting an infectious disease that is preventable by vaccination. There are vaccines available for both cats and dogs that are essential in preventing many different illnesses. A physical examination of your pet, and a discussion about your pet’s individual lifestyle will help determine the vaccine protocol best suited to your dog or cat.

Cat doctor cropWhen should my puppy or kitten be vaccinated?

When puppies or kittens are born their immune system is not yet mature. They receive immune protection from their mother by drinking her milk. The mother produces colostrum, which contains antibodies that are needed for their initial immunity until their own bodies can take over.

To give puppies and kittens the best chance of responding to vaccination, without allowing a window of vulnerability, we recommend beginning a series of a combination vaccine given intermittently (every 3-4 weeks) starting from 6 to 8 weeks old, up until they reach 16 weeks of age. Rabies vaccines can be given around 12 weeks of age.

What vaccines should my dog or cat receive?

Vaccine recommendations for each individual pet may vary depending on many different factors. Your veterinarian will help you decide which vaccines are necessary to keep your pet best protected. Some of these factors include what kind of exposure your pet has to disease, whether or not your pet travels, exposure to other pets in the household, age, stress factors, lifestyle, etc.

Dog vaccineFor dogs…

We generally recommend having them vaccinated for rabies, which is required by law, as well as DHPP—which is a combination vaccine protecting against canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis and canine parainfluenza.

Your veterinarian may also recommend vaccinating against kennel cough if your dog will be exposed to other dogs in an off leash park, daycare situation, obedience class, grooming facility or before boarding them.

Vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis may also be advised. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from the urine of infected wildlife, rodents, farm animals or raccoons.

Vaccinate kitten

For cats…

We recommend having them vaccinated for rabies, which is required by law, as well as FVCRP—which is a combination vaccine protecting against panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calici virus, and feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpes virus 1).

Depending on your cat’s lifestyle and exposure to other cats, your veterinarian may also suggest vaccinating against feline leukemia.

There are other non-core vaccinations that may be appropriate for your dog or cat depending on their particular circumstances and environment. Your veterinarian can help determine which vaccines are best.

How often should I vaccinate my pet?

Your veterinarian will determine what they feel is the best vaccination schedule for your pet. Generally, a 3-year vaccine can be given anytime after the initial 1-year vaccine for rabies. Our doctors follow this same schedule for the DHPP combination vaccine for adult dogs, and the FVRCP combination vaccine for adult cats.

The bordetella vaccine, for kennel cough prevention in dogs, is recommended every 6 months to one year depending on your dog’s individual circumstances and needs.

Dog cat snuggle

How important are vaccines to my pet’s health?

Vaccines are very important in managing the health of your dog or cat. An up to date rabies vaccination is a legal requirement in our state. Vaccines have saved many lives and play a vital role in the battle against preventable infectious disease. That being said, not every pet needs to be vaccinated against every disease. Your veterinarian will help you decide a vaccination protocol that is best for your individual pet.

Can vaccines cause a reaction in my pet?

Immunizations mildly stimulate the pet’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can cause some occasional reactions in your pet including: mild lethargy, decreased appetite and tenderness at the site of injection. Most of these symptoms will subside in a day or two.

While less common, some pets can have an allergic reaction to vaccines. Acute facial swelling, hives, itching or rubbing of face, vomiting, diarrhea or profound lethargy would warrant an immediate exam.

If your pet has ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine we will often recommend separating vaccines, and in some cases pre-treating the pet with a diphenhydramine injection to lessen the chance of a reaction.

Do not hesitate to call us at (425) 486-3251 with any concerns or questions about vaccinating your dog or cat, or any symptoms your pet may have after receiving a vaccination.


About Bothell Pet Hospital

Since 1954, Bothell Pet Hospital has been operating as an independent small animal hospital, providing primary veterinary care to cats and dogs in Bothell, Lake City, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Woodinville, Mill Creek, Kirkland, Brier, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
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