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Why is it important to vaccinate your pets? 

Just like children, dogs and cats need vaccinations against dangerous viral and bacterial diseases. Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious diseases in healthy animals.

“Without proper vaccination, your pet is left unprotected.”

What are the vaccines?

Viruses and bacteria that cause disease are known as pathogens.

Vaccines are developed by taking the infectious viruses and bacteria and modifying them to be used to help the body safely recognize them as invaders, allowing the body to build up protective antibodies without actually causing the full-blown disease. There are two basic types of vaccines. One is made by completely killing live pathogens and using them to make vaccines that are most often given by injection. Some oral and nasal vaccines are available. The killed pathogen type are referred to as inactivated type vaccines. The other type is referred to as live-attenuated vaccines. They take pathogens/disease and weaken them to the point that they are not going to cause the full-blown disease process but will cause enough of an immune reaction to produce those much-needed protective antibodies.

The immune system protects humans and pets from various pathogenic infections. However, people and pets vary in how their immune systems respond. Some pathogens are so virulent that tiny amounts can make most people and pets sick. Vaccines immunize people and pets on a more even playing ground. For example, a very small percentage of people and pets may have a natural immunity to a particular viral strain. The majority will likely not. So, vaccines given to every person and pet will help them to all acquire immunity without having to get sick. Also, as viral strains mutate, they can infect those who were immune to other strains. This is why some annual vaccines such as the ones for human influenza are continually adapted and needed each year.

The weight of scientific evidence points to the fact that vaccinations are safe and effective at preventing many potentially deadly diseases. Experts agree that

within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. There are lots of illnesses that used to be common but now are rarely seen by vets, thanks to vaccinations.

Despite this strong evidence in favour of vaccination, research shows that the anti-vax movements in humans have spread to their animals, and more and more pets are going unvaccinated.

The danger with no vaccinations being given is that we could see a lot of rare diseases making a return and harming more pets. Bacteria and viruses can remain in the environments, sometimes for years, and resurging when vaccination rates drop. If owners stop vaccinating their pets, we’ll see a lot of these rare conditions coming back.

This is especially worrying for veterinarians and the Federation of 

(FECAVA) who aim to control the disease by immunising at least 70 per cent of the population to develop “herd immunity”, whereby viruses are unlikely to spread and threaten unvaccinated animals. FECAVA now believes that the anti-vax movement, fuelled by social media, is pushing pet vaccination rates below the threshold at which small outbreaks of deadly conditions such as Parvovirus and canine typhoid fever can be naturally contained.

Paradoxically, in many ways, vaccination has become a victim of its own success. One of the reasons some people fail to recognise the importance of immunising both children and pets is because of the perceived diminished risk of disease, which is precisely thanks to historic vaccination efforts in the first place. Many people have no experience with how terrible those diseases can be.

But whatever the justification, every owner who does not vaccinate a dog contributes to endangering a great many other dogs but also humans. Low pet vaccination rates also pose a risk to humans in the form of zoonotic diseases - those that can be passed from animal to humans - such as leptospirosis and rabies. Compromising on animal health not only puts the welfare of dogs and cats at risk, but it can also leave them vulnerable to infections that can also be passed on to people.

Vaccines Specific to Dogs

Canines may require a series of rabies vaccinations under state law. Rabies can exist in the UAE, United States, as even so-called “rabies-free” areas such as Hawaii The continent of Australia is said to not have rabies.

Other common vaccinations that should begin in puppies are the combination vaccines such as DHPP that protect against distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza. In some areas, combination vaccines also add protection against bacterial leptospirosis. In areas where Lyme disease is a concern, (not the UAE) there is a vaccination that offers protection. There is also a canine influenza vaccine that may be helpful to some dogs in some areas.

Dog and cat vaccines are classed as core and non-core. Rabies is a core vaccine, and leptospirosis is considered non-core for dogs. However, every pet, their lifestyles, and the regions they live in must be taken into consideration. For example, leptospirosis is spread by rodents and other wildlife, so most people who have dogs that never leave the house may think it unnecessary. However, a field mouse that gets into the house and finds the food dish of a pet can leave behind the leptospirosis bacteria that can result in failed kidneys and death of the infected pet. Leptospirosis is also a zoonotic disease that can be passed from an infected dog to humans!

Vaccines Specific to Cats

Cats differ from dogs in the diseases they are most likely to acquire and the risks those diseases pose to their health and longevity. Core vaccinations for cats include protection for rabies, panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. Non-core vaccines for cats include protection for chlamydophila, feline leukaemia, and bordetella. The risks of acquiring the diseases and the risks of the vaccinations should be considered when choosing the vaccines a pet should have. Ask your local vet what is necessary for your country as specific vaccinations are not used required in some countries.

Booster Shots

Some vaccines do not offer any permanent protection, while others may offer what is considered to be a lifetime of protection. Vaccines that do provide long-term protection may need to be given in several doses to build up the required immunity. The multiple doses needed to build up immunity to rabies is an example. The bordetella vaccine, also known as kennel cough, is only good for six months to a year. The bordetella vaccine was once recommended only for pets placed in public kennels; however, the landscape of pet care and interaction with other pets now includes groomers, dog parks, and even doggy daycare, making the annual or semi-annual vaccination much more valuable to consider. Some kennels will not accept pets that are not vaccinated for bordetella.

The Future of Vaccines

The future of vaccines includes ones used in therapeutic treatments known as therapeutic vaccines. One currently exists as an immunotherapy technology to treat canine melanoma. All vaccines have known risks for pets, but the risk of the diseases often far outweigh the much smaller risks of having issues with the vaccines. Other therapies are also available for use as preventatives, such as heartworm medication to prevent mosquito-borne heartworm disease. Which we will cover in a later blog.

Vaccinations for Dogs

  • Canine viral hepatitis 

  • Canine parvovirus 

  • Canine parainfluenza 

  • Kennel cough 

  • Rabies

Vaccinations for Cats

Core vaccines are ones that are considered "essential for health" and are

recommended for all domestic cats, indoor or out, feral, or and owned pet.

These include:

Feline panleukopenia (FPV or FPLV, aka feline parvo or feline distemper)

Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FHV, aka herpes virus)

Feline calicivirus (FCV)

Rabies (where the disease in endemic or required by law)

Non-core vaccines are recommended only for cats at risk of a specific infection.

These include:

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Chlamydia felis

Bordetella bronchiseptica

Vaccination schedule for your puppy/dog:

The first thing to know is that there is not just one puppy vaccination schedule for all dogs. Factors such as which part of the country you live in and your dog’s individual risk factors will come into play. Some dogs do not need every vaccine. This decision is between you and your veterinarian. Always discuss puppy vaccinations at your regularly scheduled appointments.

That said, here is a generally accepted guideline of the puppy vaccination schedule for the first year.


Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This highly infectious bacterium causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, often proof of this vaccination will be a requirement.

Canine Distemper

A severe and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animalsdistemper spreads through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. It causes discharges from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. This disease used to be known as “hard pad” because it causes the footpad to thicken and harden.

There is no cure for distemper. Treatment consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections, control symptoms of vomiting, seizures and more. If the animal survives the symptoms, it is hoped that the dog’s immune system will have a chance to fight it off. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of the affected dog. This disease of the liver is caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill. There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza

One of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.

Kennel Cough

Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza, and often involves multiple infections simultaneously. Usually, the disease is mild, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing; sometimes it’s severe enough to spur retching and gagging, along with a loss of appetite. In rare cases, it can be deadly. It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels. Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Cough suppressants can make a dog more comfortable.


Unlike most diseases on this list, Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, and some dogs may show no symptoms at all. Leptospirosis can be found worldwide in soil and water. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and lethargy, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, infertility, kidney failure (with or without liver failure). Antibiotics are effective, and the sooner they are given, the better.


Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age are at the most risk to contract it. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until his immune system beats the illness.


Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require a rabies vaccination. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws in your area.

Of course, your veterinarian should weigh in and can always provide more information and guidance if needed on necessary and optional vaccinations.

Vaccination schedule for your Kitten/Cat:

Types of Vaccines for Kittens

  • Rabies is a fatal virus that can affect cats as well as humans. This is a core vaccine that is generally required by law because of how serious this disease is. All kittens and adult cats should be vaccinated against rabies.

  • FVRCP stands for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. This is a core vaccine considered essential for all kittens. Calicivirus and rhinotracheitis are common feline viruses know to cause upper respiratory infections in cats. Panleukopenia, commonly referred to as feline distemper, is a highly contagious and often fatal disease that attacks rapidly growing and dividing cells like those in the intestines, bone marrow, and the developing fetus.

For further information on any of the above, feel free to call one of our clinics and discuss with our veterinarians.

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