First we will cover DOG vaccines. Please scroll down for CAT vaccines.
DOGS: There are two core vaccines that are “must-haves” for all dogs unless there is a legitimate medical reason not to vaccinate, which are Rabies and Distemper (also called “DHPP” or “DAPP”). The Distemper vaccine is actually a combination vaccine that protects against multiple diseases. The diseases that the core vaccines protect against are listed below. Click on each disease to read more.
1) Rabies – A fatal disease that is transmissible to humans carried by a variety of wild animals including bats, skunks, and raccoons. Some of these creatures, like bats, can bite a pet and we are not even aware of it. Bats can also get into our homes, meaning even entirely indoor pets are potentially at risk. Rabies is not treatable once contracted, so it is very important that we protect our pets and our families by vaccinating our dogs. The first time a dog gets this vaccine (whether as a puppy or as a previously unvaccinated adult) it lasts for 1 year. Subsequent boosters last for 3 years. A Rabies Certificate and tag are given with this vaccine, since you are required by law to have your dog vaccinated for rabies and subsequently obtain a county dog license with the Certificate provided.
2) DAPP (or DHPP) vaccines are given in a series with boosters 3-4 weeks apart in puppies or previously unvaccinated adult dogs. How many boosters are required depends on the age when the vaccination process is started, but during the initial series every dog or puppy requires a minimum of two vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart with the last vaccination at the age of 16 weeks or older. (Puppies less than 16 weeks of age are not capable of mounting a sufficient immune response following vaccination to provide a full year of protection from the diseases we are vaccinating against.) The final vaccination in that initial series lasts for 1 year. Subsequent boosters last for 3 years. The components of this vaccine are listed below. All are viral diseases and do not have a specific treatment – only supportive care, like fluid therapy and control of certain symptoms, can be provided if a pet is infected.
D is for Distemper, another disease that can be carried by wild animals like raccoons as well as by other dogs. Distemper is a virus that affects multiple body systems and can be fatal. Common symptoms are thick nasal discharge and central nervous system signs such as seizures. Despite its name, distemper, and the vaccination we use to prevent it, has nothing to do with a pet’s temperament.
A or H is for Adenovirus/Hepatitis. Canine Infectious Hepatitis is caused by a virus in the Adenovirus family. Literally, “hepatitis” means “infection of the liver,” but symptoms can include upper respiratory signs, cloudiness of the eyes, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe forms (usually younger puppies) it can be fatal.
P is for Parvovirus. This is one of the most common preventable diseases that we see in puppies and causes lethargy, severe vomiting and diarrhea. While dogs can survive parvovirus it generally requires aggressive treatment including multiple days of hospitalization, IV fluids, and various medications to control symptoms like vomiting. Even with aggressive therapy Parvo can be fatal.
P is for Parainfluenza, which is a viral infection that causes upper respiratory signs, such as coughing, and is one of several organisms commonly responsible for “Kennel Cough.” Parainfluenza is not technically considered a “core” vaccine but, as it is part of the needed DAPP vaccine, we are including it in this list. It is important to note that this is a different disease from “Canine Influenza” which is described below.
Non-Core Vaccines that we carry at Happy Tails: These are not “must haves” for every dog and are only recommended if your dog’s lifestyle puts him or her at risk for infection.
3) Bordetella – This is a bacterial infection that causes Kennel Cough. Dogs that are frequently around other dogs – such as at the groomer, doggie day care, boarding, or at dog parks – have a higher incidence. Kennel Cough tends to be a mild disease but causes a loud, gagging cough that many owners confuse with thinking their pet is choking on something. Even low-risk dogs can get infected, as it is highly contagious. Simply sniffing through a fence at an infected dog can pass the disease. Immunity against bacterial agents does not last as long as that against viruses, so a booster vaccine should be given every 6-12 months. At Happy Tails we use the newer oral form of the vaccine (given by mouth rather than via injection or into the pet’s nose).
4) Leptospirosis – A bacterial infection which, following an initial series, requires a booster every year; Lepto can be given separately or as part of the distemper combination vaccine (often abbreviated DHLPP or DAPP/L4). There are multiple different “serovars” or variants of this disease. The most common 4 variants are currently used in the vaccination (hence, the “L4” name). This disease can cause liver or kidney failure and is contagious to humans. Wild animals like rodents can carry the disease which is passed through the urine of infected animals. Any dogs with exposure to standing water or other materials, such as garbage, that could be contaminated with rodent urine should be vaccinated. Antibiotics can effectively treat the disease if caught early, but cases can result in permanent organ damage or be fatal.
5) Rattlesnake – Click to read more about snake bites. Please note that, even if vaccinated, dogs that have been bitten by a rattlesnake require immediate medical care which includes wound treatment for the bite itself and potentially antivenin therapy and hospitalization, depending on severity of symptoms. Since the efficacy of the rattlesnake vaccine is questionable and its use does not preclude a visit to the hospital should a dog be bitten we do not routinely recommend this vaccine. We do stock a small number of doses for pets with high exposure to rattlesnakes and are happy to discuss further at your pet’s appointment.
6) Lyme – while Lyme disease is certainly present in California, it is significantly more common in the Northeastern US. If your pet has exposure to ticks, our number one recommendation is for good tick prevention, as there are a number of other diseases also spread by ticks that are not covered by this vaccine. There are many excellent tick preventives available – including collars, topicals, and chewables like Nexgard. Not all tick preventives are safe or effective, so please ask one of our team about what product might be best for your pet. We do stock a small amount of Lyme vaccine in the hospital for pets with high tick exposure.
Other non-core canine vaccines that we do not currently carry (due to either minimal risk in our area of the country or insufficient evidence of effectiveness of the vaccine)*:
Canine Influenza – There are actually two different strains of the Canine Influenza Virus, H3N8 and H3N2, and vaccines for each individually have been developed, as well as a newer vaccine that covers both strains. The virus generally causes mild flu-like symptoms, although it can cause more severe disease in older pets or those with concurrent diseases. To date, there have not been significant outbreaks of this illness in our area so widespread vaccination is not recommended.
*We are committed to meeting the individual needs of your pet and are happy to discuss obtaining a non-core vaccine upon request (on a case-by-case basis).
CATS: Cats also have two core or “must-have” vaccines, regardless of whether they spend time indoors, outdoors, or both. The core vaccines are Rabies and the combination vaccine FVRCP, sometimes referred to as “Feline Distemper.” All cats are at risk for these viruses and should be vaccinated accordingly. ALL kittens, and adult cats that go outdoors, should have an additional vaccination – for Feline Leukemia Virus. At Happy Tails we only use Merial’s Purevax Recombinant vaccines to prevent formation of Vaccine-Associated-Sarcomas (VAS). VAS are rare (about 1 in 10,000) tumors that can form at vaccine sites when adjuvanted vaccines are used. Purevax vaccines do not contain adjuvants.
1) Rabies – A fatal disease that is transmissible to humans carried by a variety of wild animals including bats, skunks, and raccoons. Some of these creatures – like bats – can bite a pet without our knowing it, because the wound may be very small. Bats can also get into our homes, so that even entirely indoor pets are potentially at risk. Rabies is not treatable once contracted, so it is very important that we protect our pets and our families by vaccinating our cats. We carry only the 1 year Purevax Rabies vaccine in our hospital; kittens receive their first vaccine around 16 weeks of age then every year thereafter.
2) RCP vaccines are given in a series with boosters 3-4 weeks apart in kittens. How many boosters a kitten requires depends on the age when the vaccination process is started, but during the initial series every kitten requires a minimum of two vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart with the last vaccination at the age of 16 weeks or older. (Kittens less than 16 weeks of age are not capable of mounting a sufficient immune response following vaccination to provide a full year of protection from the diseases we are vaccinating against.) The final vaccination in that initial series lasts for 1 year. Adult cats with unknown vaccine history are able to mount sufficient immunity to a single vaccine to last for 1 year and do not require a series. Subsequent boosters last for 3 years. The components of this vaccine are listed below. All are viral diseases and do not have a specific treatment – only supportive care, like fluid therapy and control of certain symptoms, can be provided if a pet is infected.
R is for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpes virus) – A common upper respiratory virus that generally causes signs such as sneezing or runny eyes in adult cats. This virus is the most common cause of eye infections in cats. Signs are generally mild in adult cats, but once they get the infection they can never fully clear it from their body so symptoms often recur throughout their lives. Young kittens tend to get much more severe upper respiratory/eye infections from the herpes virus which can result in blindness, or even death. Rhinotracheitis is contagious only to other cats and does not infect dogs or people.
C is for Calicivirus – Another common upper respiratory virus that frequently causes painful ulcers in the mouth or nose. This virus is highly contagious and can survive in the environment for up to 1 week. Indoor cats are susceptible to this virus just like outdoor cats because we owners can bring the virus into our homes on our hands, shoes, or clothing if we come in contact with contaminated materials.
P is for Panleukopenia – This disease is caused by a virus in the Parvovirus family, although it is a different virus than the one that causes Parvovirus in dogs. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy – but, as the virus attacks the white blood cells, secondary infections are common so symptoms will vary. Like the canine Parvovirus, Panleukopenia survives in the environment for long periods of time and requires a strong disinfectant, like dilute bleach, to destroy it. Indoor cats are again at risk as the virus can be tracked into the home on clothing or shoes. Treatment is supportive and aggressive therapy including hospitalization and IV fluids is necessary for a good chance at recovery. This virus can be fatal so it is very important that every cat, regardless of lifestyle, receives a series of vaccines as a kitten and boosters every 1 – 3 years throughout their lifetime. Panleukopenia is sometimes called “Feline Distemper” as symptoms can be similar to Canine Distemper, however it is important to note that the viruses that cause these two diseases are not related.
3) Feline Leukemia (FeLV) – FeLV is not considered a core vaccine for adult indoor-only cats as it requires direct exposure to an infected cat. It should be considered a core vaccine for any cat that goes outside, even if it is only in your yard, as there is potential exposure to other cats. It is also recommended that EVERY KITTEN be vaccinated as kittens can form a good, long lasting immunity to this virus when they are vaccinated as young kittens, even if they never get another booster. Even if you plan to have your kitten be a 100% indoor adult cat there is always the chance that your cat could manage to get outside or that he/she will be so insistent on getting out that the indoor-only plan changes to indoor-outdoor. The virus attacks the immune system, leaving cats susceptible to secondary infections, so symptoms can vary. However, it is not uncommon for a cat to develop cancer – usually lymphoma – following infection. A simple, quick, in hospital blood test can be done to check for FeLV and is recommended for kittens age 12 weeks or older, adult stray cats, and any cats that go outdoors that have come in close contact (bite wounds, mating) to other cats of unknown FeLV status. The vaccination does not interfere with the FeLV test, as the test looks for viral antigens rather than the antibodies produced when a pet gets exposed/infected.
Other non-core feline vaccines that we do not currently carry due to insufficient evidence of effectiveness of the vaccination, as well as potential for side-effects:
1) Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) – FIP is caused by a Corona virus. About 1/3 of cats have been exposed to/infected with Feline Enteric Coronavirus, which causes mild vomiting/diarrhea and generally resolves without treatment. In rare cases the virus mutates and causes FIP. FIP can take a couple of forms, but the most common is the “wet” form, when straw-colored fluid collects in the abdominal cavity. There is no treatment for FIP and it is usually rapidly fatal. FIP is generally seen in kittens and young adult cats. Because it is caused by a mutated virus, the FIP form of Coronavirus may not be directly contagious to other cats. So far there is no good clinical evidence to support using the vaccination.
2) Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV, Feline “AIDS”) – This is in the same family as HIV, which causes AIDS in humans, but FIV is a cat-only virus. The disease is similar to that in people, as an FIV+ cat may be asymptomatic for many years prior to developing Feline AIDS – or may never develop the disease. Transmission is generally through bite wounds, so any cat that has been bitten by a cat of unknown FIV status should be tested about 2 months afterwards. All adult strays and kittens should be tested for FeLV/FIV at 12 weeks of age or older. However, it is important to note that the test for FIV is an antibody test which means that, in a young kitten, maternal antibodies can create a “false positive” result. Cats that have been vaccinated for FIV also will test “false positive.” Thus, cats or kittens that test positive should either have the test repeated in 2-3 months or have further testing done to confirm that the positive results are accurate. Due to interference with the test, as well as lack of proof of efficacy, we neither carry nor recommend this vaccine.
3) Chlamydia – An upper respiratory infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia felis that mainly causes conjunctivitis in cats. Infections are generally mild and this disease is not a large concern for most cats. The highest susceptibility/risk comes in catteries or shelter situations when many cats are housed in closed quarters. Chlamydia can be included in the RCP vaccine (then called RCCP) but as it is against a bacterial infection the duration of immunity is shorter meaning annual vaccine boosters rather than every 3 years as is required of the RCP vaccine by itself. As the majority of cats are not at much risk for this infection, and infection is generally mild, it is not worth giving this vaccine as it basically involves over-vaccinating with RCP.
*If you have any questions about the vaccines that we do and do not carry in our hospital please contact us at email@example.com or 707-635-6170.