Why should I vaccinate my pet?
Vaccines, also known as shots, work by exposing your pet’s immune system to an incomplete or inactive strain of infectious agents. This helps their body build immune cells that are specifically designed to respond effectively when the real thing comes along.
The diseases they prevent are irritating at best, and potentially deadly at worst. Plus, vaccines are also relatively painless, easy, and cost-effective to administer.
What are core and non-core vaccines?
You may have heard the terms ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ used to describe vaccines. Core vaccines are those considered essential for your pet’s health, whilst non-core vaccines are optional, and may be recommended for your pet depending on their lifestyle.
During your wellness exam, our doctors will discuss which vaccines are right for your pet.
Core Dog Vaccines
Rabies: legally required in New York, and protects your dog against the fatal disease.
DHPPi: a combination vaccine that protects against Distemper, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Infectious Hepatitis.
Leptospirosis: protects against a dangerous bacterial infection. Whilst some vets do not consider this a core vaccine, at Small Door we strongly recommend it for all dogs in New York, as leptospirosis is found across all five boroughs and is even more prominent outside of the city.
Non-Core Dog Vaccines
Bordetella: prevents kennel cough, and is required by dog boarding and daycare facilities.
Lyme: protects against Lyme Disease carried by ticks and can be useful for dogs that visit areas with high tick exposure.
Canine Influenza Virus: protects against dog flu, a contagious virus that causes respiratory issues.
Cat Core Vaccines
FVRCP: a combination vaccine that protects against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia.
Rabies: legally required in New York, regardless of whether the cat goes outdoors or not.
Feline Leukemia Virus: an incurable virus transmitted through cat bites during fights. It’s recommended for kittens even if they will not be going outdoors. For older, indoor-only cats, boosters are not required.
When should I vaccinate my cat or dog?
Our vets will recommend the exact schedule for your pet, and we’ll send you reminders one month before your pet is due for a vaccine booster. Here's an example schedule.
Puppy Vaccine Schedule
8 weeks: Distemper vaccine (1 of 3), Bordetella vaccine (1 of 1), Lyme vaccine (1 of 2) & Canine Influenza Virus vaccine (1 of 2)
12 weeks: Distemper vaccine (2 of 3), Leptospirosis vaccine (1 of 2), Rabies vaccine (1 of 1), Lyme vaccine (2 of 2) & Canine Influenza Virus vaccine (2 of 2)
16 weeks: Distemper vaccine (3 of 3) & Leptospirosis vaccine (2 of 2)
Kitten Vaccine Schedule
8 weeks: FVRCP vaccine (1 of 3)
12 weeks: FVRCP vaccine (2 of 3), Leukemia vaccine (1 of 2) & Rabies vaccine (1 of 1)
16 weeks: FVRCP vaccine (3 of 3) & Leukemia vaccine (2 of 2)
Adult Dog Vaccine Schedule
Rabies: one year after the initial puppy vaccine, then every three years
Distemper: every three years
Bordetella: every year
Leptospirosis: every year
Canine influenza: every year
Lyme disease: every year
Adult Cat Vaccine Schedule
FVRCP: every three years
Rabies: every three years
Feline Leukemia Virus: one year after the initial kitten series then every other year for at-risk (outdoor) cats only
- Does my pet need all the core and non-core vaccines?While your pet needs all the core vaccines, they may not need all of the non-core vaccines. This depends on their lifestyle, and our vets can discuss and advise which non-core vaccines are appropriate for your pet.
- Why does my puppy or kitten need lots of shots?Puppies and kittens (along with old or immune-compromised pets) are especially vulnerable to diseases because they have underdeveloped immune systems. That’s why we begin vaccinating at a young age. Puppies and kittens also initially receive some immune protection from their mother, but this doesn’t last for very long. This maternal immunity can also interfere with the vaccines we administer, and make them less effective. So, to make sure they acquire a high enough level of antibodies to be effective, we have to vaccinate them multiple times – in other words, administer boosters.
- Why does my pet need booster shots? arrow-downThe immune protection afforded by vaccines doesn’t last forever. Over time, the number of antibodies in your pet decreases, so it’s important to give booster shots to keep up your pet’s level of immune protection.
- How often does my pet need boosters?Your pet needs regular boosters to stay healthy. See above for example vaccine schedules. The exact dates for your pet may vary depending on which vaccines they had already received when you got them and when they received those vaccines. Our vets will review your pet’s medical history thoroughly and prepare a personalized schedule for your pet to keep them safe, and we’ll send you reminders a month before your pet is due for a booster.
- Are vaccines harmful? arrow-downVaccines are highly tested and regulated to ensure they’re safe for your pet. In recent years, vaccines have at times been called ‘dangerous’ for a number of reasons – but there’s little to no scientific evidence to support this claim.
- Do vaccines hurt?Vaccines may cause your pet some slight discomfort in the moment (similar to getting a shot yourself), and they may be a little sore at the vaccination site for a few days, but the soreness is usually only minor. It’s good to remember that the pain you are saving them by protecting them from serious diseases is far greater than the minor pain of the vaccine itself.
- What are the risks of a reaction?The whole point of vaccinating is to stimulate the immune system and prepare the body to defend itself when exposed to the actual disease. As such, a small subset of animals can experience undesirable reactions. The majority of these are mild and will resolve quickly with time and mild supportive care. Our veterinarians will determine a vaccine schedule for your pet to try to minimize the potential for vaccination reaction by performing certain types of vaccines on different days. If your pet experiences any of the following reactions after a vaccination, please contact us: - Vomiting - Facial swelling, hives, or excessive itching - Agitation or restlessness - A lump at the vaccination site that lasts more than a couple of weeks - Excessive lethargy or a refusal to eat, especially if it lasts more than a day
- What should I expect afterwards?A mild decrease in appetite and energy after the vaccination is normal. Your pet may be a little sore at the vaccination site for a few days, or have a small lump there, but that’s normal, too.