August is National Immunization Month, and there’s no better time to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. In this post, we’ll take a look at the core vaccines for dogs and cats. We’ll also highlight other non-core vaccines you might choose to give your pet. 

Why Is It Important to Vaccinate Your Pet?

Vaccinating your pet is one of the easiest ways to protect them against serious illness. Vaccines work by introducing modified infectious organisms into your pet’s bloodstream. This stimulates the immune system and prepares the body to fight off disease, without actually making them sick. 

Vaccines for pets are grouped into two main categories: core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are essential to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Non-core vaccines may be considered optional depending on your pet’s risk of exposure to certain diseases. 

Core Vaccines

In this section of this post, we’ll give an overview of the core vaccines that are recommended for cats and dogs. 

Core Vaccines for Cats

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Task Force recommends the following core vaccines for cats

  • Rabies. A devastating disease that infects the brain and is almost always fatal. Rabies is caused by the rabies virus. It is contagious to humans and can cause pets to suddenly become violent without warning.  
  • Feline calicivirus. A highly contagious virus that causes respiratory infection and oral disease. 
  • Feline herpesvirus-1. This highly infectious disease is a common cause of upper respiratory and eye infections. 
  • Feline panleukopenia. A viral disease caused by the feline parvovirus. It is often fatal for kittens and immuno-compromised cats, especially if they are not hospitalized. 
  • Feline leukemia virus (for cats younger than 1 year old). A common and incurable infectious disease that impairs the immune system. The decision on whether to receive the vaccine is highly dependent on environmental factors. It is often recommended for cats younger than 1 year old, outdoor cats, and cats that live with many other cats. 

Core Vaccines for Dogs

The AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force recommends the following core vaccines for dogs

  • Rabies. A devastating disease that infects the brain and is almost always fatal. Rabies is caused by the rabies virus. It is contagious to humans and can cause pets to suddenly become violent without warning.
  • Canine distemper virus. This highly contagious viral disease affects multiple organs. 
  • Canine parvovirus. A contagious virus that commonly causes gastrointestinal disease. It is often fatal for puppies and immuno-compromised dogs, especially if they are not hospitalized. 
  • Canine adenovirus- 2. An infectious virus that causes respiratory disease in dogs. 

Non-Core Vaccines

As we mentioned earlier, non-core vaccines are optional and may not be right for every pet depending on risk and exposure. The AAHA recommends that these vaccines should be considered based on factors including geographic distribution of infectious diseases and the lifestyle of an animal. 

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

  • Feline chlamydiosis. An infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila felis that can affect a cat’s eyes and respiratory system. 
  • Feline infectious peritonitis. A fatal disease caused by feline coronavirus. 
  • Bordetella. A highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. 
  • Feline leukemia virus (for cats older than 1 year).  A common and incurable infectious disease that impairs the immune system. The decision on whether to receive the vaccine is highly dependent on lifestyle. Please speak to your veterinarian for more information about risk factors and the feline leukemia vaccine. 

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs

  • Leptospirosis. An infectious disease caused by Leptospira bacteria. Leptospirosis is contagious to humans. We strongly recommend asking your veterinarian about this vaccine if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors or anywhere that wildlife frequents. 
  • Lyme disease. A bacterial illness caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that’s transmitted through tick bites. 
  • Canine influenza. A contagious respiratory disease caused by an influenza A virus. 
  • Bordetella. A highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium. This vaccine can also help prevent kennel cough! If you plan to send your dog to daycare or boarding, ask your vet about the Bordetella vaccine. 
  • Parainfluenza. A contagious virus that attacks a dog’s respiratory system. 

Are Vaccination Requirements the Same in Every State?

It’s important to note that vaccination requirements may vary from state to state or province to province. One good example of this is rabies vaccination laws, which vary throughout the US

Non-core vaccines are recommended based on risk factors. For example, since Lyme disease is prevalent in heavily wooded areas, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet receives the vaccine if you live in the Northeast. 

Unsure which vaccinations your pet should receive? Download the PetDesk app today to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and work with them to decide which vaccinations are right for your pet.