Recommended Pet Vaccinations

Keep your dogs and cats healthy with these pet vaccinations.
By Randy Kidd
September/October 1983
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A good vaccination program is vital to your pet's long-lasting health and well-being.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/MONKEY BUSINESS
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Back in July of 1978, MOTHER EARTH NEWS published an article by Kansas veterinarian Randy Kidd on how to restrain a farm animal. Little did we (or Randy) know that the one piece would lead to many more, yet very few issues of MOTHER since then haven't carried a feature by Dr. Kidd on some facet of livestock care. 

Well, "MOTHER's medicine man" has now decided to share some of his "vet's-eye view" on pets, the very special creatures that we humans—for centuries—have welcomed into our homes and hearts. We hope that our readers will find Dr. Kidd's columns on this subject to be as informative and enlightening as have been his commonsense articles on livestock.  

In my last column I talked about choosing the "perfect pet" and, this time around, I'd like to discuss some of the simple, commonsense steps you can take to see to it that your chosen critter stays as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

In past issues of MOTHER, I've presented a good bit of information on the basics of preventive pet care: a well-balanced diet, daily exercise, interaction with a loving and caring human family, and a relatively clean environment. However, there's one aspect of creature care that I haven't stressed a whole lot (and one which is vital to your animal's long-lasting well-being): a good program for pet vaccinations. I've always believed that seeing to it that a pet is immunized against disease is, in many ways, like building a protective wall around a castle. Because, just as moats and ramparts surrounded medieval structures to protect their inhabitants from invading armies, you need to have your pet's immunization system built up in order to guard your loved one from marauding diseases.

You may be surprised to hear this, but a proper program for pet vaccinations should—if possible—really be started with the mother of your puppy- or kitten-to-be, because if "Mom" is up on her shots, her offspring will have a much better chance of getting a healthy start in life. (Check with your favorite vet for specific recommendations, but, generally speaking, a pregnant animal will need a booster shot of some kind about 30 to 90 days prior to her due date if she's to provide her youngsters with the immunization "head start" they need.)

After her "children" arrive, the mother will pass some of her antibodies on to them through her colostrum (first milk). Therefore, there's really no need to have the young'uns vaccinated immediately, since their systems will be protected against disease (thanks to Mom's milk) for about six weeks. Furthermore, shots tend to have very little effect on extremely young lymphocytes (the white blood cells, formed in the lymphatic system, which play an important role in synthesizing antibodies), because the maternal antibodies still present in the animal interfere with the action of the vaccine.

However, after the colostrum has worn off (after six to eight weeks in the case of puppies, and eight to ten weeks for kittens), you'd best blanket up your little critter and haul it off to your veterinarian for its first shots. (See the sidebar for additional vaccine information.) These first inoculations usually need to be administered in double dosages (with the injections spaced a week or two apart) to be effective. But from then on, the vaccines will need to be given only in booster form once every six months to five years (depending on the type).

Still, in order to be sure you don't risk missing one of your pet's booster shots, you might want to keep records noting the dates of the previous inoculations and the "appointment" for the next one(s). All in all, once you've bought, found, or raised a perfect pet, you'll want to make sure that it stays around, and stays happy, for a long while. And good food, a healthy environment, lots of love, and a well-planned vaccination program should help do the trick! 


Recommended Pet Vaccination Schedule

Dog Vaccinations

Distemper
First Vaccination: 6–8 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 10–12 weeks old
Third Vaccination: 14–16 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months
 

Hepatitis
First Vaccination: 6–8 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 10–12 weeks old
Third Vaccination: 14–16 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Parvovirus
First Vaccination: 6–8 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 10–12 weeks old
Third Vaccination: 14–16 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Leptospirosis
First Vaccination: 10–12 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 14–16 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Rabies
First Vaccination: 12–16 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 52 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 or 36 months

Cat Vaccinations

Panleucopenia
First Vaccination: 8–10 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 12–14 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Rhinotracheitis
First Vaccination: 8–10 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 12–14 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Calicivirus
First Vaccination: 8–10 weeks old
Second Vaccination: 12–14 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months

Rabies
First Vaccination: 12 weeks old
Revaccinate: 12 months


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