June 8, 2023
As with our human family members, our companion animals suffer several ailments, some fatal, that can
be prevented with vaccinations. Most but not all of these illnesses are specific to the kind of animal but
some can be transmitted from pet to human. These include rabies and leptospirosis, both fatal and
largely untreatable diseases.
And, as with humans, there are scientifically established vaccination schedules that offer our pets the
best coverage of these illnesses. Young animals need more frequent vaccinations than mature animals
because the infant immune system is still too immature to form long-lasting immunity. Also immunity
from vaccinations improves after each booster.
Puppies and kittens need their first distemper shot at 6- 8 weeks of age. That shot protects puppies
against distemper, a severe disease that causes seizures, parvovirus as well as several other viruses. The
kitten’s distemper shot protects against distemper and several respiratory infections. Both puppies and
kittens should then get the same shot every 3-4 weeks until they are 14 weeks old. At that time they get
their first rabies shot as well.
Puppies and kittens respond to vaccinations like infant humans do. They may be tired and not interested
in playing or eating much for about 24 hours. Otherwise, there are very few side effects of vaccines. They
are very safe and cause no long term problems (except as mentioned below).
After puppies and kittens don’t need any more vaccinations for one year, with one big exception. Any
time a pet gets a wound when you don’t know the history of what happened, they need a rabies booster
if their last rabies shot was more than 1 month ago. This is because rabies is common in many wild
animals and, should your pet have been injured by a rabid coon, fox, …., it desperately needs a new
Once your dog or cat is more than a year old, and if it had its puppy/kitten shots, the distemper shot is
good for 3 years. Also, the dog rabies shot is good for 3 years. The cat rabies shot that we use for our CVS
patients is good for only 1 year, no matter their age. This is because the affordable long-lasting rabies
shots for cats might cause a cancer to develop at the site of injection. We avoid using this vaccine for this