Vaccines are invaluable tools in our mission to keep pets healthy and safe. Here, we answer the most common questions about canine and feline vaccines. 

Are vaccines necessary for my pets?

Yes. Vaccines guard pets against highly contagious, destructive, and sometimes fatal diseases. Some vaccines also prevent diseases that affect humans, such as rabies. Most states, including New Mexico, legally require rabies vaccinations for pets. Many boarding and daycare facilities also require current vaccination records before admission.   

What vaccines are necessary?

There are sets of core vaccines each for dogs and cats, considered necessary industry-wide by veterinary medical professionals.

Canine core vaccines: 

  • Distemper (Virus that effects respiratory, central nervous, and gastrointestinal systems)
  • Adenovirus (Canine hepatitis that affects the liver)
  • Parvovirus (Infection that attacks white blood cells and gastrointestinal tract and can damage the heart)
  • +/- Parainfluenza (Respiratory virus, unrelated to canine influenza)
  • Rabies (Fatal virus that spreads to the brain via nerves and spinal cord)

Feline core vaccines: 

  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) (Feline parvovirus/distemper virus that infects and kills cells in intestines and bone marrow)
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FHV-1) (Herpesvirus that causes upper respiratory disease and inflammation of tissues surrounding eyes)
  • Feline caliciviruses (FCV) (Virus that causes upper respiratory infection, oral disease, and sometimes painful joints and lameness) 
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) for cats younger than 1 year old (Virus that causes cancer of white blood cells and possibly other diseases including other cancers, inflammation, nerve disease, eye disease, and anemia)

Some of these are included in combination vaccines, such as DHPP, DAPP, DA2PP, or FVRCP for cats. 

What are non-core vaccines?

Non-core vaccines are those not considered necessary for every pet. Non-core vaccines may be recommended or considered necessary for some pets based on unique circumstances including health status, lifestyle, and local environment and threats. 

For example, those who hike with their dogs may consider vaccinating against rattlesnake venom and Lyme disease, and those who frequent dog parks should consider vaccinating against kennel cough and influenza. Those with indoor/outdoor cats may consider non-core vaccines that protect against contagious diseases such as FIV, and those who board their cats may need Bordetella vaccines.

Canine non-core vaccines:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
  • Leptospira (leptospirosis) 
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) 
  • H3N2/H3N8 (canine influenza) 
  • Crotalus atrox (rattlesnake venom)

Feline non-core vaccines: 

  • Rabies (non-core but legally required in many states)
  • FeLV (for cats older than 1 year) 
  • Chlamydia felis
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Are vaccines safe? 

No medication has zero risk, including vaccines. The likelihood of serious reaction to vaccines is low, whereas the likelihood a non-vaccinated pet will contract a life-threatening illness is much higher. Possible reactions to vaccinations include injection-site swelling, soreness, mild fever, lethargy, and in rare cases, development of feline injection site sarcoma.    

Do indoor pets need vaccines?

Yes. It is strongly recommended (and sometimes legally required) that all pets, including those that spend most of their time indoors, receive at least the core vaccines. Situations occur that put even indoor pets at risk for disease including escapes, exposure during walks and bathroom breaks, introduction of infected pets into homes, infections that can live on surfaces carried into homes, etc.  

Vaccines protect pets from serious, often fatal diseases. Keeping current on vaccinations is vital in keeping dogs and cats as healthy and safe as possible. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines are appropriate for your pet based on their lifestyle, environmental risks, and health needs.

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