Making sure your animals are vaccinated against common diseases is an important part of owning pets

Vaccination, or immunization, is the administration of antigenic material (a vaccine) to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity. The vaccination will only be able to make the antibody, which protects our pets, when give at the right time with the correct dosage.

Puppies and kittens are born with immature immune systems, which make them highly susceptibility to contracting diseases. Fortunately, we know the first week a mother cat or dog produces colostrum, which contains antibodies that will help protect their offspring from infectious diseases until their immune systems are mature. These maternal antibodies are essential but they present some challenges.

Maternal antibodies start to decline by the time puppies or kittens are around six weeks old. This will continue to decrease until they are undetectable by around 16 weeks of age if the mother was vaccinated and have strong immunity. These antibodies may disappear much sooner if the mother was not vaccinated.

In order for kittens or puppies to be fully protected from an infection, they should start their first vaccination when they are eight weeks old, when the maternal antibodies is started to decline, and if the puppies or kittens are hand-reared, they should get their first vaccination earlier at six weeks old because the maternal antibodies may disappear sooner.

Basic Immunization Schedule
In general, for either cats or dogs, there are vaccinations we called primary, or core, vaccination and non-core vaccination (optional), or not recommended vaccine. The core vaccines for dogs are those that offer protection against Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), Canine Adenovirus (CAV ; type 1 and 2), Canine parvovirus type 2 and its variants. Rabies, in many countries, is also part of the core vaccination to safeguard the population and also as a must vaccination for any pet wanting to travel to other countries.

Non-core vaccines are needed if a pet’s lifestyle has changed and there is an increased chance of it getting infected, while not recommended vaccines are those for which there is little scientific justification (insufficient evidence base) for their use.

For cats, core vaccines are Feline Panleukopenia, Feline herpesvirus-type one, also known as Feline viral Rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus.

Feline Leukemia Virus and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) are considered non-core vaccines under the small animal veterinary association as the infection is dependent on the lifestyle of each individual cat. Cats that have an outdoor lifestyle or indooroutdoor or cats who have an unknown history should be tested for the status of infection before starting the vaccination and the vaccination is only done if the result of the test is negative.

Puppy, Kitten And 6 Or 12 Months Booster Vaccination
The recommendation for the initial core vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age, then every 2 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age or older. The number of puppy primary core vaccinations will be determined by the age at which vaccination is started and the selected interval between vaccinations.

An integral part of the core vaccination for puppies is the ‘booster’ vaccine that has traditionally been given either at 12 months of age or 12 months after the last of the primary series of puppy vaccines. The main aim of this vaccine is to ensure that a protective immune response develops in any dog that may have failed to respond to any of the vaccines in the primary core series, rather than necessarily ‘boosting’ the immune response.

Revaccination Adult Cats And Dogs
Revaccination is required annually for every adult dogs and cats and one thing we need to be aware of is that every country is different, some require revaccination every three years but here in Vietnam every single vaccine needs to repeated every year. For the rabies vaccination, it will depend on the vet’s recommendation, some only require every three years, but we should follow the government’s regulation that the rabies vaccine should be repeated every year.

Vaccination Program For Cats And Dogs In Shelter
When puppies and kittens entering a shelter the core vaccinations may be started as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age, and (where funding permits) revaccination should be every 2 weeks until the animal reaches 20 weeks of age if it remains in the shelter until that time. Recent US studies have shown that cats entering shelters may be seropositive for vaccine-preventable infectious disease agents. If unambiguous documentation of vaccination is provided for an adult animal at the time of admission to a shelter, there is no reason to revaccinate with canine core vaccines, but feline core vaccines, specifically FCV and FHV-1, may be of value in boosting immunity.