Vaccinations – Are they important for my pets?

Vaccinations! It’s all we hear about at the moment as we try to get this COVID pandemic under control. This got me thinking about this month’s blog topic…and all the questions I get about pet vaccinations. Not related to COVID of course, just pet vaccines in general!

Vaccination protocols for dogs and cats should be based on your pet’s lifestyle and risk of exposure. If you have an indoor pet or an outdoor pet, or an indoor/outdoor, there are some core vaccinations that all should have. Then there are some additional vaccines that will be dictated by your pet’s lifestyle and exposure risk. Here are a few common questions we get asked about pet vaccinations.

Vaccinations for puppies

Why Do You Vaccinate Puppies & Kittens?

Puppies and kittens are first given shots to boost their immunity; puppy and kitten shots provide these babies with protection as the immunity they received from mom starts to wane. These vaccination boosters stimulate the body to produce its own antibodies in a timely manner, so that the protection does not decrease. Boosters are done every three to four weeks from 7-8 weeks of age to 14-16 weeks of age.

Why Must Dogs Have the Rabies Vaccination?

Most states require Rabies vaccines by law due to the concern for spread of the virus to people, and the fact that Rabies can be deadly. The State of Arizona currently requires that all dogs are vaccinated for Rabies, but Arizona does not require cats to be vaccinated for Rabies. Many states do require cats to be vaccinated, and in this vet’s opinion, it should be required. Why? Because cats are usually more likely to catch a bat, or small mammal, etc. that may be infected with the disease.

What Other Vaccinations Are Needed For…?

There are core vaccines that are recommended by the AVMA and other expert groups for all cats and dogs. There are also vaccines that are ideally only given if the pet is potentially going to be exposed to the infection, or if their immune systems are not strong enough to fight them off.


Vaccinations for kittensCats should ideally be tested for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) prior to vaccinations so that disease is not spread. After the tests, the owner will also know if the pet is going to be prone to illness throughout its lifetime. Check out the links above for more details on these common infections.

Vaccinations for Feline Distemper and upper respiratory disease (FVRCP) should be done on most cats. Even indoor only cats can encounter stray or outdoor neighbor cats through screen doors or open windows during their lifetime and be exposed. Feline Leukemia vaccine is typically recommended for outdoor, or indoor/outdoor cats only as the disease is transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids.


Dog in the desertCore vaccinations for dogs are Distemper and Parvovirus vaccines. These should be given as boosters when a puppy, then every one to three years depending on what type of vaccine your vet has, as well as the dog’s potential risk of exposure.

Bordatella or Kennel Cough vaccine is usually done only if pet is exposed to other dogs in a group setting such as boarding, grooming facility, training, or puppy play groups, etc.  This is an upper respiratory disease that can be easily transmitted through the air.

Leptospirosis, Influenza, Lyme, and other vaccines are not considered core or common depending on your dog’s lifestyle and potential exposure. If your dog is mostly a homebody; i.e. they aren’t around a lot of other dogs or go camping or hiking, etc. it’s unlikely that they will need these extra vaccines.

Do You Travel or Go Camping With You Pet?

vaccinations for dogs that travelIf you travel with your pet, if you go camping/hiking, or intend on moving to another part of the country, please be aware that your pet may be exposed to new things that they are not protected against.

In these situations I would advise that you consult with your veterinarian regarding your pet’s possible risk/exposure, and work with them to make the best decision for your pet’s protection!

Vaccinations Questions? Contact Compassionate Animal Care

If you have any concerns about vaccinating your pet, please talk to your veterinarian. Call 480.774.6995 to schedule an appointment with Compassionate Animal Care today.

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