Why it's important to vaccinate your dog and cat

As pet owners, we want our furry friends to be as healthy and happy as possible. That's why it's very important to take preventative measures to protect their wellbeing, such as regular flea, tick and worm treatments, and annual vaccinations.

What are the vaccinations your dog or cat should be getting?

Just like with humans, pet vaccinations are designed to reduce the likelihood of your dog or cat from contracting an infectious illness.

Generally, veterinarians will distinguish between 'core vaccinations' and 'non-core vaccinations'.

Core vaccines are considered crucial for all dogs or cats because they protect against diseases that are widespread and/or very severe in nature.

Non-core vaccines are only given to animals if the individual animal is at genuine risk of being exposed to the infection and if the vaccination is one that should provide effective protection.

Decisions about vaccination and, in particular, whether your pet needs any non-core vaccines should be discussed with your vet and are likely to be based on the pet's age, lifestyle, specific health conditions, location, contact with other animals and any other risk factors.

What are the core or non-core vaccines?

For dogs, the main core vaccine is the C3 vaccine, which provides protection against Canine Parvovirus, distemper and infectious hepatitis.

For cats, it's the F3 vaccine, which provides protection against Feline parvovirus and the two viruses that cause feline respiratory disease (feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus).

The following non-core vaccinations are also used in Australia if the disease is prevalent or for specific requirements from facilities like boarding kennels or catteries.

Non-core vaccinations for dogs:

  • Parainfluenza virus (when combined with a C3 vaccination this is often called a C4 vaccination)
  • Bronchiseptica (when combined with a C4 vaccination this is often called a C5 vaccination).
  • The vaccination against Leptospira interrogans is another non-core vaccination for dogs which may be used where your veterinarian advises it.

Non-core vaccinations for cats:

  • F4: F3 + Chlamydia felis (when combined with a F3 vaccination this is often called a F4 vaccination)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) (this vaccination is given on a case by case basis,depending on your cat's risk of exposure to FIV)
  • Feline leukaemia virus vaccine (FeLV) is a non-core feline vaccine often used overseas but is not commonly used in Australia as the prevalence of FeLV is quite low in general. You can discuss this with your vet, however, as the risk may be higher in some areas or under certain circumstances.

When should my dog or cat be vaccinated?

Again, much like humans, puppies and kittens require a particular schedule of vaccines that are appropriate to their development stage and immunity.

While kittens and puppies are born with antibodies that they get from their mothers, these wane over the weeks following birth and then no longer provide adequate protection. That's why vets recommend that kittens and puppies are first vaccinated at 8-9 weeks of age, and again 3-4 weeks later, and finally at 14-20 weeks, before moving to a regular booster schedule as recommended by your veterinarian based on your individual pet's needs and the vaccination being used.

Remember, our pets rely on us to take care of their health, and given them the best possible care so that they can stay healthy and enjoy their lives. Always talk to your vet to make sure your dog or cat is on the right vaccination schedule, to raise any health concerns you might have for them, and make sure that they get an annual health check with their vet.